The United States has struggled to a friendly win over El Salvador that achieved little but prove that the team struggles without its Europe-based stars.
Brian Ching scored a diving header in the 75th minute and Sacha Kljestan got the go-ahead goal in the second minute of stoppage time Wednesday night in a 2-1 friendly victory over 71st-ranked El Salvador.
Ching, a second half sub, scored from seven yards after a long cross from Heath Pearce that goalkeeper Miguel Montes mishandled, cancelling out Rudis Corrales' 59th-minute goal for Los Cuscatlecos.
Kljestan intercepted an errant pass, exchanged passes with Ching and scored from six yards to secure a victory that was far more hard-fought than what American fans would have hoped for.
Ching, Kljestan and Pearce were among only a handful of U.S. players on the team sheet who appear to have a decent chance of being selected for the World Cup roster. Ching was on the 2006 team but play. All but one of the U.S. players was from Major League Soccer, which appears to be on the verge of its first strike. The Americans again badly missed their Europe-based starters, who also weren't used in the 3-1 loss to Honduras on January 23.
For next Wednesday's friendly against the third-ranked Netherlands in Amsterdam, the world No.14 U.S. line-up should more closely resemble the team that helped qualify for their sixth straight World Cup. That is the last match before U.S. coach Bob Bradley selects his 23-man World Cup roster.
Players will gather in mid-May and have preparation games against the Czech Republic (May 25) and Turkey (May 29 at Philadelphia) before leaving for South Africa. Coming off first-round elimination at the 2006 World Cup, they open the tournament June 12 against England, play Slovenia six days later and close the first round June 23 against Algeria.
Pearce started at left back and Brad Evans at right back, with Jonathan Bornstein and Clarence Goodson - the lone Europe-based player - in the centre. Ching came on at the start of the second half in place of Conor Casey. Nick Rimando was a surprise starter in goal in place of Troy Perkins.
Corrales had put El Salvador ahead after Evans made an errant header deep in the U.S. half that appeared intended for Rimando. The U.S. had five shots on goal to one for El Salvador in the first half, with Montes making diving saves from Kljestan and Robbie Rogers.