After collecting four points and finishing third in Group B, Silverbacks midfielder Richie Menjivar and El Salvador are through to the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals, where they have a date with the U.S. this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“La Selecta” was able to secure a spot in the knockout stage after defeating Haiti, 1-0, on Monday night, with Menjivar anchoring the team’s midfield. Menjivar logged another good performance, earning his third consecutive start and turning in his third 90-minute shift of the tournament. He will look to keep his string of starts going against the U.S. this Sunday in what will be a huge game for El Salvador, who have never advanced to a Gold Cup semifinal.
“The U.S. is a good team. They play well together and have a lot of players with strong technical abilities,” Menjivar said. “We have very good players too, though. It’s going to be a tactical game, and I think the team that executes their game plan better will win.”
What a test it will be for Menjivar and El Salvador, who have the odds stacked against them, to put it mildly. The U.S. has never lost to El Salvador in any international competition. There will be some drama to this game; the U.S. and their fans surely can’t forget that the last time these two sides faced each other in competitive play, El Salvador scored in the 94thminute to tie the game and eliminate the U.S. from 2012 Olympic Qualifying.
The U.S.’s absence in London was a shock to many, and it’s something that is likely still fresh in the players’ minds. Menjivar was an integral part of the El Salvador squad that stunned the U.S., playing the full 90 minutes of the 3-3 draw.
Despite being born and raised in the U.S., Menjivar identifies more with his parents’ home country, ultimately deciding to suit up for La Selecta. The game this Sunday against the United States will be the midfielder’s second, and he has absolutely no reservations about attempting to eliminate them from the Gold Cup as well.
“El Salvador is my country and who I chose to represent. Just because I was born and raised here doesn’t mean I’m going to show any mercy against the U.S,” Menjivar said. “In fact, I was a part of the El Salvador team that knocked them out of Olympic Qualifying, and I’m not going to lie - it was a great feeling.”
For a brief moment, it appeared as if La Selecta were headed for a matchup against Mexico at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, but after Trinidad and Tobago defeated Honduras, 2-0, to qualify for the knockout round themselves, El Salvador was pitted against the U.S. in Baltimore. Former Trinidad and Tobago international and current Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes was looking forward to watching his player on the international stage in-person, but even though Menjivar won’t be playing in Atlanta, he’s still looking forward to Sunday’s game.
“It’s heartbreaking and at the same time very exciting,” said Haynes. “I’m excited to see my home country come here to Atlanta, but I wanted to see Richie as well. Richie is part of our club and right now, our club means more to me than my country because that’s what I’m focused on at the moment.”
Haynes is looking forward to getting Menjivar back for the start of the NASL Fall Season, where the Silverbacks will try to capture their second title of the year. The Silverbacks clinched the NASL Spring Season Championship on July 4 to secure their place as hosts of November’s Soccer Bowl.
“I’m happy for him either way. He gets to play against the U.S. and it’s in a city that has a lot of Salvadoran support,” said Haynes. “It’s going to be good exposure for both him and the Silverbacks as a club. He has been playing well and I hope he continues to do so. Hopefully they'll upset the U.S."
Kickoff for Sunday's game between the U.S. and El Salvador is set for 4 p.m. ET, and you can watch the game live on FOX and Univision.
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