Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
BALTIMORE — The U.S. Men’s National Team’s impressive rout of El Salvador on Sunday did not just serve as a way for the Americans to punch their tickets to Gold Cup semifinals.
It was also a source of redemption and a way to finally turn the page on one of the most grim moments in recent U.S. Soccer history.
The United States’ 5-1 quarterfinals victory over El Salvador at M&T Bank Stadium served as a payback of sorts for several Americans who were acutely aware of the fact that El Salvador’s Under-23 team had knocked out the U.S. from Olympic qualifying in March 2012 with a 94th-minute goal from Jaime Alas.
No, the two teams that played on Sunday afternoon were not anywhere near identical to the ones that tied, 3-3, in Nashville 16 months ago. Far from it actually. But there were starters from both those youth sides on the field for their respective full national teams, and others on the bench, in Baltimore, and that was enough to make the win over El Salvador just a little sweeter for the Americans.
“It means a lot,” said midfielder Mix Diskerud, who started in that U-23 game and scored the final goal on Sunday. “We were talking about it yesterday and the day before that and we wanted our revenge and we got it, so it feels a little extra good.”
Two other U.S. players (midfielders Joe Corona and Brek Shea) that saw time on Sunday took part in that forgettable U-23 game and two more were on the bench (goalkeepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson). But it was more than just those up-and-coming players that felt the U.S. needed to exact some revenge for that fateful night in the Music City.
“One of the motivations for us going into the game was they knocked our Olympic team out of Olympic qualifiers,” said veteran forward Eddie Johnson, who scored the Americans’ third goal 14 seconds after stepping onto the field as a second-half substitute. “We kind of wanted to use that motivation as far as revenge and go out there and really put them on our terms and really take the game to them.”
“We actually did talk about the U-23 game, because a lot of those players played against the U-23s and we wanted to send a message out to them,” said DaMarcus Beasley. “They got one on us that day but today was a different story. We wanted to implement our game from the start, make sure that they knew they’re going to be in a game, a real quarterfinal match.”
The U.S. did that early on during Sunday’s humid match thanks in part to Corona and Diskerud. The two youngsters helped the American midfield dominate possession and create a number of dangerous scoring chances before Corona netted the U.S.’s second with a solid strike in the 29th minute.
Shea then came off the bench to deliver a strong second-half cameo and Diskerud tallied his goal in the 84th minute, heading home a Landon Donovan cross to put an exclamation point on a dominant outing that in many ways makes up for that shocking 3-3 draw in Nashville that left the U.S. out of the Olympics.
“(Alas) plays for my team in Rosenborg and he reminds me every single week on YouTube, he shows me the goal” said Diskerud. “Maybe this time, he’ll not do it as much.”
Even if he does, Diskerud can always point to Sunday’s 5-1 victory.