El Salvador

Peraltaoribe_isi_usmntbs081011277_treated Brad Smith/isiphotos.com
El Salvador always seems to be just on the cusp of CONCACAF soccer success. Behind perennial powers Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, and Honduras, El Salvador is one of the teams always looking to sneak in to a final match or qualify for the World Cup. The latter is something it won’t be doing until 2018 at the earliest, having been eliminated from the current process in the semifinal round. Between that elimination and the fact that the Central American side has only won one in its last seven matches, la azul y blanco will look to rebound by winning its first round Gold Cup group.

Most of the squad is based in El Salvador, with a few playing in the U.S. or other North and Central American sides. A couple play in Europe. A large number of the current squad play or have played for C.D. FAS, El Salvador’s all-time most successful club with 17 national titles, including all-time caps leader Alfredo Pacheco, the club’s captain before an ill-advised move to MLS. He and his FAS teammates will be trying to replicate their club success on the international level this summer.







The Coach

Agustin Castillo has had a long career in South and Central American soccer. He has been involved professionally, whether playing or coaching, since 1973, and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The 50-year Peruvian played in Peru (club and country), Ecuador, El Salvador, and Costa Rica before hanging up his boots in 1997. He began his coaching career that same year and again began a grand tour of the Americas, coaching in Peru, El Salvador, and Guatemala before being appointed manager of El Salvador in December 2012. His most successful stint was at FAS, where he won five titles.

Despite leading El Salvador to a surprising third place finish in the Copa Centroamericana, which qualified the team for the Gold Cup, Castillo has not had a very successful start to his tenure. Due to the strange format of the Copa Centroamericana, the team finished in third place with a loss, two draws, and a win. He has a lot to prove, and it’s quite possible that his job could be on the line as his team takes the field for the Gold Cup.

The Tactics

In its last few games, El Salvador has experimented with different formations. In a friendly with Venezuela, the team played a 4-4-2 with wings pushed up high, while in another friendly against Ecuador, it played a more traditional 4-4-2 with a flat backline and midfield. Against Paraguay, EL Salvador lined up in a 4-5-1 with three central midfielders, two wings, and a lone striker. Experiments, experiments. The best result of those three came against Venezuela, so it’s possible that El Salvador might deploy two wingers for its Gold Cup games, which would work well with the speedy outside midfielders on the squad.

The History

El Salvador finished runner-up twice in the CONCACAF Championship, 1963 and 1981. In that era, it also had a third-place finish and two fourth place finishes. In the modern Gold Cup era, its best result has been reaching the quarterfinals, achieved three times: 2002, 2003, and 2011.

CONCACAF Gold Cup Results
1991: DNQ
1993: DNQ
1996: Eliminated in first round
1998: Eliminated in first round
2000: DNQ
2002: Eliminated in quarterfinals
2003: Eliminated in quarterfinals
2005: DNQ
2007: Eliminated in first round
2009: Eliminated in first round
2011: Eliminated in quarterfinals

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