PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – There was no grand plan based on performances during the group stage that helped Bruce Arena decide which players would join the United States’ Gold Cup squad if it advanced into the knockout stage.
Those selections were made in advance of the competition, certainly long before the United States learned it would face El Salvador in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I thought the group stage would be a great opportunity to look at some new players. If we advanced in the tournament, it would make sense to bring in some more experienced players,” Arena said in a pre-match press conference Tuesday. “I think giving those players who came in a little bit of a break and not having had to have the previous three-and-a-half weeks with the team would be good for them. That was simply the plan.”
Two of those players – Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore – have formed quite an attacking partnership in their time with the national team. Arena said that’s not a coincidence.
“They’ve been around a long time. They’re good players. They understand each other,” remarked Arena. “I think their skills complement each other. Their mentality complements each other. They’re two obviously very accomplished players and their numbers show that at both the club and international level.”
The United States is a perfect 5-0-0 against El Salvador in Gold Cup play, including a 5-1 win in the 2013 quarterfinals.
Despite that record, Arena is wary of this Cuscatlecos squad, which finished third in Group C and had a respectable performance in a 3-1 loss to Mexico.
“They’ve impressed me in the tournament,” the 65-year-old finished. “They move the ball very well. They keep it on the ground. They’re one of the better Salvadorian teams I’ve seen in a number of years.”