If it's possible to be disappointed with a 4-0 result, this would be the one to point to. Goals were scored - true - and none were let in - also true - but the manner of the win was a bit worrying. The US were owed some linesman karma from the thorough screw job they received in the last match and they got it in spades last night. El Salvador had several clear chances that were easily onside that the linesmen flat out missed.
The other major worry is that when El Salvador started to play rather than bunker in, they controlled large passages of play. Against better opposition we will be punished handily and that has to be a concern as we look to have drawn the weakest group in the tournament and have yet to be severely tested.
A few talking points:
(1) Striker troubles
The US is not firing on all cylinders up top. Though Ching, Twellman, and EJ have all scored, none has looked particularly good though Ching and Twellman were starting to get more into the flow in the late stages against El Salvador. Dempsey, Donovan, and Beasley as hybrid midfielder/forwards are all looking dangerous, but one of the pure forwards needs to step up and start banging in some goals.
(2) Michael Bradley needs to sit
The kid has potential, but he's been dwelling on the ball too long, surrendering possession far too often, and some of those flying two-footers are pure card bait, particularly in the eyes of CONCACAF officials. Those kind of errors won't get the job done in the elimination rounds. I like the formational fluidity that Bradley the Elder has instituted in attack, but I don't think that Bradley needs to be one of the interchanging five playing in front of Mastroeni and the four-man back line.
(3) Spoilt for choice
Bradley has had a look at every player in his Gold Cup arsenal and has lined up in a handful of formations, so where does he go now that we're in the elimination rounds? From here on out, you've got to field the best eleven. From what I've seen so far, I think I go with Howard in net with Spector-Bocanegra-Gooch-Simek at the back, though Gooch will be on a short hook should he pick up a card and is really only in there because I'm not convinced by either DeMerit's distribution or Parkhurst's physical limitations. I think you put Mastroeni in an anchor role in front of the back four with Feilhaber and Donovan in the middle of the park - Feilhaber playing somewhat deeper and Donovan with the freedom to make runs into the forward channels alongside Ching and picking moments to swap with Dempsey on the right. Beasley wide left rounds out my eleven.
Despite not being overly impressive in the opening round, I think the team played better with each new game. Three wins with three clean sheets is nothing to sneeze at and I think we'll get a pretty good picture of what this group of players is capable of in the knock-out stages. It'll also be interesting to see how Bradley approaches an elimination game for the first time in his young tenure as the USA boss.