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No Goals, but Signs of Progress

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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 31, 2008

El Salvador forward Rudis Corrales sprinted toward the through ball that had just sailed over his head, a step ahead of the nearest Guatemalan defender. Seven minutes into the second half last night, it appeared as though, finally, someone would capitalize on a scoring opportunity.

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Corrales reached the ball near the end line and controlled it with his back to the goal. Guatemala defender Wilson Lalín caught up and waited for the striker to make his next move. Corrales made one juke, another, then hesitated for a fraction of a second. Lalín moved forward and stuck out his foot, knocking the ball from Corrales and out of play.

The 38,759 in attendance at RFK Stadium roared to life, maybe because the majority favored El Salvador and wanted a foul called, maybe because they were frustrated at what they sensed was coming: a 0-0 draw. Corrales, for one, saw the result as a sign of improvement.

"Tactically, we played a good game; we just weren't able to put one in the goal," Corrales said through an interpreter. "We had a lot of opportunities. We just weren't able to make them count."

The international friendly was meant as a tuneup for both squads, which are in the midst of attempting to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

For El Salvador, the match provided many of the country's young players a first chance to gain experience while its more proven players stayed at home to play for their club teams.

For Guatemala, the contest continued the squad's second chance at accomplishing a goal of which it fell just short three years ago.

During qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, Ramón Maradiaga coached the Guatemalan squad to the brink of a berth into soccer's grandest international tournament. A single point kept Guatemala out of a playoff against Bahrain for a spot in the 2006 field.

Maradiaga returned this March to lead the Guatemalan national team once again and reemploy the aggressive offensive attack for which his squads are known. But during a match last night in which both squads shared possession equally, Guatemala's strikes were off the mark.

Indeed, the strikers of El Salvador were the ones piecing together organized runs, sifting through the Guatemalan defense to find promising scoring chances. During a two-minute span midway through the first half, El Salvador managed three corner kicks.

"Every time we play Guatemala, they are well, even matches," El Salvador Coach Carlos de los Cobos said through an interpreter. "Tonight, we were missing a lot of players who have been under my tutelage and know my style of play. On the other hand, I'm satisfied with the young players who played tonight."

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