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Pair of first-half goals sends United States to Gold Cup semis

Pair of first-half goals sends United States to Gold Cup semis

Omar Gonzalez grabbed another goal off a set piece and Darlington Nagbe was the starting point for most of the American's risky attacking moves. That caused El Salvador to steal the ball and have a 1v1 chance on Howard but Howard bailed Lichaj out.

After the Salvadorans dominated for the first 15 minutes, Nagbe came alive and created some USA attacks.

He delivered the free kick that Gonzalez headed home but, as one of the veteran reinforcements called in for the knockout stage, did not inspire.

Both goals came in the final moments of the first half as Omar Gonzalez headed the Americans ahead before Eric Lichaj bagged his first worldwide goal to the delight of a strong crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Some may question the value of another Gold Cup run when measured against an opportunity to develop additional players for a potential trip to Russian Federation next summer, but Arena felt there was an important balance to strike between planning for the future and building on the program's championship foundation.

Then the USMNT rode the wave of the Gonzalez goal by scoring again about five minutes later.

Boosted by the reinforcements of Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, as well as captain Michael Bradley, it was Gonzalez and Lichaj who scored quick-fire goals to sink a spirited El Salvador outfit.

Altidore's team-mate Tim Howard is expecting some kind of a sanction for Romero, but also curiously endorsed at least part of the defender's antics.

Union midfielder Chris Pontius got an extremely warm reception when he made a three-minute cameo in front of his hometown fans for his fifth cap and third in four Gold Cup games.

"We've got to be better putting our stamp on these games", said Altidore. Altidore fell to the ground before getting up to angrily confront Romero. Romero, sensing contact, went down incredibly easy in a ploy to get Altidore sent off and it didn't work. While marking Jozy Altidore on a corner, Romero bit and twisted the nipple of the United States forward.

In both instances, referee Drew Fischer didn't do anything.

He clutched his shoulder before saying after the game: 'I was a bit shocked'. "She's like 'Only I can bite you, only I can grab your nipples'". Gonzalez said. When asked who that player was, Gonzalez said he didn't know who bit him.

Arena added five starters to his lineup for the knockout round after cruising through group play unbeaten and the USA, playing before an announced crowd of 31,615, struggled for cohesion for most of the first half.