U.S. to shuffle deck at El Salvador
Last August, the U.S. began the semifinal round of CONCACAF 2010 World Cup qualifying by winning in Guatemala for the first time. Its first away test in the Hexagonal comes Saturday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2, TeleFutura) in San Salvador, a city in which it has won and tied in two previous qualifying visits, so a victory won't be as historic. But it will be no less important, especially should Mexico, which lost 2-0 to the U.S. in Columbus, Ohio, last month, fail to beat Costa Rica in Azteca Stadium.
Costa Rica is tied for first place atop the Hexagonal with the same record (1-0-0) and goal difference (plus-2) as the U.S. after beating Honduras 2-0 on Feb. 11. The Salvadorans are rated the weakest of the six Hexagonal teams, and needed a late two-goal rally to pull out a 2-2 tie against Trinidad and Tobago in San Salvador on the first day of play.
They may be outmanned with slim hopes of advancing, but the Salvadorans will also be desperate. They restored some confidence after conceding two goals in the first half, and midfielder
This being the first of four double-dates on the '09 FIFA calendar, U.S. coach
Hahnemann recently recovered from a torn calf muscle that sidelined him for nearly three months. He has played three first-team games for Reading since his return.
Who to play in goal isn't nearly so important as whether midfielder
Bradley also has forwards
Longer absences due to injury have kept defenders
"The games against El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago represent a big opportunity to solidify our place in the group," Bradley said. "We had a fantastic team effort against Mexico, and if we put in the same type of performance we are confident of being able to get results."
The heaviest portion of the '09 schedule follows these two games. The U.S. has two more qualifiers in early June, followed by the Confederations Cup in the middle of the month and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. What happens Saturday and Wednesday will shape some of the choices Bradley makes for June and July.