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U.S. blitzes El Salvador to reach Gold Cup semis

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to raise the bar for his team by implementing an attack-first mentality and eventually bridge the gap between the United States and the traditional powers of international soccer.

In this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Americans have made major strides toward that goal.

Clarence Goodson and Joe Corona scored eight minutes apart in the first half, leading the United States to a 5-1 victory over El Salvador in the Gold Cup quarterfinals Sunday at a soldout M&T Bank Stadium.

Eddie Johnson added an insurance goal in the second half just 14 seconds after entering the game for Chris Wondolowski. Landon Donovan provided the fourth goal in the 78th minute, and Mix Diskerud added another five minutes later.

The victory extended the Americans' winning streak to nine games in full international contests -- the longest in the 100-year history of the U.S. program. The U.S. has scored 16 goals in the tournament and allowed just three.

The U.S. plays Honduras in the semifinals Wednesday in Arlington, Texas, after Los Catrachos beat Costa Rica 1-0 in Sunday's final quarterfinal match at M&T Stadium. Mexico and Panama meet in the other semifinal at Cowboys Stadium.

"I think we're getting better and better every game," said Donovan, the Americans' all-time leading scorer who is trying to regain his spot on the United States' "A" team after a self-imposed sabbatical. "I think we're getting a little more comfortable with the role we're in. They were a good team that defended well. The difference today was scoring early goals. Even though they got a questionable goal back, we still kept going and our effort was really good. Obviously to score five goals is a bonus."

The Americans withstood several early chances by El Salvador on quick counter-attacks. The U.S. took control about midway through the first half when Goodson provided the lead by tapping in a short cross from Donovan in the 21st minute.

Playing in Baltimore for the first time since 1997 before a blue-clad, pro-El Salvador crowd, the Americans continued to aggressively attack, and Corona provided a two-goal lead in the 29th minute on a low shot from the top of the penalty area.

"Every game we're playing like it's the finals," Corona said. "This team, we got together three weeks ago, and it seems like we've been playing with each other for a while. We move the ball well, we know each other well, where we're going to move. I think we're looking good right now. We've got to keep our feet on the ground and be humble. We respect all the teams we play."

Goalie Dagoberto Portillo kept the El Salvador in the game with several diving saves, including one on a shot by Corona from point-blank range.

"We are trying to catch up with the big teams in the world," Klinsmann said. "It's all about speed. I'm not talking about physical speed. I'm talking about mental speed, passing speed with every player going both ways. That's what we're working to. This is a process, and I think that process is coming along."

El Salvador cut the margin to 2-1 when Rodolfo Zelaya converted a penalty kick after he was fouled inside the box by DaMarcus Beasley in the 39th minute.

Each team had three shots on goal in the first half, but the U.S. held a 4-1 advantage on corner kicks.

The U.S. had trouble with Zelaya, and he narrowly missed tying the game on two shots in the opening seven minutes of the second half.

The Americans then increased the lead to 3-1 in the 60th minute when Johnson scored on a header from Donovan on his first touch of the game.

Donovan put the game out of reach with 12 minutes remaining when he dribbled around Portillo and slotted the ball into the empty net. Donovan has 54 goals and 54 assists, and he became the only U.S. player to score in six Gold Cup tournaments.

"It was a tough game," El Salvador coach Agustin Castillo said. "It was a game that had a lot of ups and downs for us. The U.S. was a very good team; they were very consistent. When we had our good moments, we were not able to find the back of the net. That's what made the difference."

Honduras 1, Costa Rica 0

BALTIMORE -- Andy Najar scored early in the second half, and Honduras earned a berth in the Gold Cup semifinals against the United States.

After a scoreless first half that was marred by several hard fouls by both teams, Najar scored on a header off a cross from Alexander Lopez in the 49th minute.

Costa Rica struggled to put together an effective attack and did not manage a shot on goal until Alvaro Saborio was stopped from close range by goalie Donis Escober in the 62nd minute.

Honduras also defeated Costa Rica in all three of the teams' previous meetings in the Gold Cup.

NOTES: Honduras defeated the United States 2-1 in San Pedro Sula on Feb. 6 in the opening game of the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying. The U.S. won the rematch 1-0 in Sandy, Utah, on June 18 thanks to a Jozy Altidore goal. ... The United States improved to 18-1-7 all-time against El Salvador. ... Attendance for the two games in Baltimore was 70,540, the third-largest figure in Gold Cup history.
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