U.S. vs. El Salvador news and notes

M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore sold out of tickets this afternoon for the CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader Sunday. When all is said and done, more than 71,000 will pass through the gates.

“Once again,” CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb said, “people will be united by our great sport.”

Without the pairings known, Baltimore ticket sales were slow for months, then picked up steam this week when El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and the United States booked their places.

Here is what the stadium looks like with natural grass instead of artificial turf and acres of green instead of yard lines, numbers and logos:

M&T Bank Stadium, fit for soccer. (By Steven Goff -- The Washington Post)
M&T Bank Stadium, fit for soccer. (By Steven Goff — The Washington Post)

Organizers are advising ticket holders to arrive early. Other events are taking place in Baltimore this weekend, and the interstate ramps and downtown area will become congested. Parking and public transportation information is available here.

As a reminder, the USA vs. El Salvador match kicks off at 4 p.m., the Honduras vs. Costa Rica game at 7. The longer buffer between games is in case of extra time and penalty kicks. Fox’s main network channel will carry the U.S. match, Fox Soccer the second game. Univision will show both.

Weather outlook: 90 degrees, 40 percent chance of thunderstorms.

The Gold Cup knockout stage will begin Saturday at Georgia Dome in Atlanta with Panama facing Cuba and Mexico playing Trinidad and Tobago. (Fox Soccer and Univision will have both matches, starting at 3:30 p.m.)

After a travel day and an off-day, the Americans resumed workouts this afternoon at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Among the attendees was longtime UMBC coach Pete Caringi, whom local fans may remember guiding the Maryland Bays to the 1990 APSL championship. (After the NASL and before MLS, there was the ASL and APSL.) His son, Pete, is a rising senior for the Retrievers after scoring 14 goals last fall.

The only U.S. absence was defender Omar Gonzalez, who was summoned for the knockout rounds but will not report unless the Americans advance to Wednesday’s semifinals in Dallas.

All four teams will practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday — closed to the public.

Matt Besler, another late call-up, might start Sunday. The other options for two central slots are Michael Orozco Fiscal (three Gold Cup starts) and Clarence Goodson. Oguchi Onyewu was dropped with an injury.

“It might be a little bit of a challenge; these guys have set the tone for this tournament,” said Besler, who started in last month’s three World Cup qualifiers. I’ve got to catch up a little bit, but it’s shouldn’t be an issue.”

Besler watched the U.S. group matches on TV but, he said with a grin, fell asleep during the second half of the late-night game against Belize. (He caught up by watching a taped version.)

His observations?

“It seems like the first three games, even the Guatemalan [friendly], our challenge is how to break teams down. All four of the games, teams sat back a little bit. We need to be sharp with the ball and move it quickly — that’s when we found success.”

Captain DaMarcus Beasley said he does not see any issues with new players joining a squad in rhythm at this late stage.

“It’s going to add a little more power to our team,” he said. “I am excited to see the guys again.”

As for the opponent, “They are going to come at us and try to implement their game on us. I think they are going to be confident. They want to win. This is a quarterfinal game. This is not a game where you can sit back like in the group phase. We are going to keep pushing to get a goal, but they are going to do the same thing. I don’t expect them to sit back as much as teams in the group phase.”

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · July 19, 2013