Gold Cup Glance: El Salvador
Rodolfo Zelaya (#11) is El Salvador’s all-time leading scorer in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with eight goals. (Photo: Mexsport)

With the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup launch slightly more than one week away, is taking a look at one of the 12 participants each day until July 7, when the competition kicks off at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.  Today, in the series’ fourth installment, we feature El Salvador.

Gold Cup Glance: El Salvador

Head Coach: Eduardo Lara (Colombia)
Qualification Method: 3rd place, 2017 Copa Centroamericana
Previous Appearances: 9 (1996, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011 2013, 2015)
Best Finish: Quarterfinals-4 (2002, 2003, 2011, 2013, 2015)
Record: 7W 6D 15L 24GF 49GA
Current GC All-Time Ranking: 9 out of 24
Biggest Win: 6-1 v Cuba (June 12, 2011)
All-Time Leading GC Scorer: Rodolfo Zelaya (8 goals)

El Salvador will feature for a 10th time in the CONCACAF Gold Cup after capturing third place in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana, the squad’s first international tournament under head coach Eduardo Lara, who replaced Ramon Maradiaga in December 2016.

The Copa Centroamericana could prove to be a milestone in El Salvador’s football evolution.  The Cuscatlecos opened with a scoreless draw against two-time defending champion Costa Rica and then were edged 2-1 by Honduras.  From that point, wins over Belize (3-1) and Nicaragua (1-0) sandwiched a narrow 1-0 loss to runner-up/host Panama.

Defeating Nicaragua in the last match was essential to avoiding a two-game playoff against Haiti for the final Gold Cup berth, since the Pinoleros needed only a draw to qualify.  A 54th-minute goal by Irvin Herrera, though, was enough to see El Salvador seal a sixth straight trip to CONCACAF’s premier biennial event.

Interestingly, each of the Salvadorans’ five Copa goals were notched by players who had never scored in the competition previously.  In addition to Herrera, Rodolfo Zelaya, Gerson Mayen, Juan Barahona and Henry Romero found the back of the net.  Zelaya is El Salvador’s all-time leading Gold Cup scorer with eight goals.

If El Salvador is going to experience success in the 2017 Gold Cup, its defense will need to show improvement on its record in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.  The Salvadorans were eliminated from the competition after the completion of that stage, going winless in six games (0W-2D-4L) and conceding two goals or more in five of those outings.

Lara, though, appears to have his back line heading in the right direction.  At the Copa, it allowed four goals in five matches.  Youthful defenders Roberto Dominguez (20-years-old), Alexander Larin (25) and Bryan Tamacas (22) are the core of what could be a formidable unit for years to come.

Offensively, forwards Herrera, Zelaya and Nelson Bonilla (team-best five goals in 2018 WCQ) should offer sufficient firepower, but the midfield – led by Darwin Ceren – must ready to step up its performances against high-level opposition.