By Michael Lewis
BALTIMORE – After his youthful side was defeated Sunday by the United States 5-1 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals, El Salvador head coach Agustin Castillo was realistic in assessing the game and its larger meaning.
"There were a lot of lessons that somebody can learn from this game," noted the 50-year-old Peruvian during a post-match press conference. "We're a young team. We have a lot of young players. There is a lot to be developed, not only from the player point of view, but as a team, as a national team."
Then, Castillo gave his opponent its due.
"One also has to recognize the level of the United States because we hadn't seen this type of level in any of the other games," he said.
Castillo was pleased with the opportunities his Central American side created, but was disappointed in that it could not finish more goals.
"It was a tough game," he continued. "It was a game that had a lot of ups and downs for us. The U.S. was a very good. They were very consistent. When we had our good moments, we were unable to find the back of the net and that's what made the difference.
"In a game like this, everybody needed to sacrifice.”
Striker Rodolfo Zelaya enjoyed an outstanding tournament, scoring each of El Salvador's four goals. He converted a 39th minute penalty kick that earned himself on Sunday. His cup performance could have potential suitors form a line for the 25-year-old, who most recently played for Alania Vladikavkaz (Russia) while on loan from Alianza in his native country.
"I’m happy with the tournament I’m playing personally, and I still have six months left in my contract,” Zelaya said. “We will see what happens after the Gold Cup, the goal of every Salvadoran player is to play abroad and I hope there is a chance.”
Castillo admitted he was pleasantly surprised by the support of the tens of thousands of Salvadoran fans from the sellout crowd of 70,540 who journeyed from Washington, D.C. and the Virginia suburbs and other cities along the east coast to watch their heroes perform.
"Absolutely," said the former FAS head coach. "Not only surprised but very thankful to the fans who showed up today. When we had the good moments on the field, you could feel the crowd really getting behind them really nicely.
”I am looking forward to continue developing this team and perhaps playing another Gold Cup with what this crowd that has given to this national team."