Herrera’s heroics point El Salvador in right direction

El Salvador's Irvin Herrera (blue jersey) scores against Nicaragua in a Copa Centroamericana match on January 22, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

PANAMA CITY, Panama – When the chance came, Irvin Herrera accepted the responsibility enthusiastically.

On the final day of play at the Copa Centroamericana on Sunday, El Salvador needed to defeat Nicaragua in order to earn direct berth in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Nicaraguans needed only a draw to secure that spot.

The trepidation of a scoreless first half gave to jubilation in the 54th minute.

Andres Flores sent a feed from the left wing into the left side of the box on a give-and-go with a sprinting Herrera. Without hesitation, the 25-year-old forward struck from eight-yards out, netting the game’s only and propelling El Salvador into a sixth straight Gold Cup.

Herrera, a half-time substitute, celebrated his first-ever Copa goal with two backflips.

“Here is the reward,” said the Saint Louis FC standout. “The opportunity was given to me to be able to come in. The only chance I had in the match I was able to score and now direct passage to the Gold Cup, which is what we were looking for.”

El Salvador has never advanced past the Gold Cup quarterfinals in nine all-time attempts. There is belief in the squad, however, that it’s heading in the right direction after the appointment of Eduardo Lara as head coach last month.

“The group looks very united, it’s been a while that it hasn’t looked like that,” Herrera finished. “On and off the field, we know each other very well. We’re very united. We get along one hundred percent. On the field, we know each other. A while ago, we came in playing and now here is the prize of all the work we have been doing in such little time.”