Their opponent, however, was still uncertain.
Bruce Arena, ever the cagey verbal fencer, succeeded in parrying efforts to entice him into crowning his USA team as the favorites at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, conceding only that the U.S.is among the eight favorites in a competition with eight teams surviving.
The U.S. advanced to the semifinals for the 13th time in 14 tournaments, since it was revamped in 1991, and will face Costa Rica at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday. If they beat El Salvador as expected, they could have a big test in front of them if Costa Rica beats Group B runner-up Panama.
El Salvador has played quite well so far.
The U.S. back line had some issues in closing out the match, including on a 63rd-minute header from Pineda that was sent over the bar, but ultimately held on for the shutout victory that sent the Americans through to the next round. "And it's on us to make sure we're coming in and make sure we get ourselves into the group in the right ways immediately". Chances had come, and yet the scoreboard remained empty.
Despite attacking subs, the US didn't generate much after halftime. Dempsey did well to set up Lichaj's goal, but all told, finding the forwards more frequently will be a point of emphasis in the days leading up to the semifinal.
United States of America named a completely different XI following their final Group B game against Nicaragua - a 3-0 win last week.
The rest of the Nicaraguan squad, however, were reeling.
CONCACAF Quarterfinal Tickets Lincoln Financial Field: Costa Rica vs. Panama and USA vs. El Salvador
A awful pass by centerback Matt Hedges provided El Salvador with another chance it failed to put away, and when Howard flailed at a deflected shot he should have collected the danger wasn't thwarted until Hedges blasted the ball high into the stands.
Just one more goal needed.
Then, another penalty. This time a hand ball.
And USA put the result beyond doubt in the second minute of additional time after Lichaj combined with Dempsey - looking more like a forward than a full-back as he doubled the lead. But it was Lorente again winning the all-important duel. Howard is a household name for American fans, defending the US goal in three World Cups and notching 115 caps. And with just five minutes to go, defender Matt Miazga capitalized on the advantage, heading home the all-important third goal for the U.S.
The first 10 minutes seemed to be mostly El Salvador as they had multiple chances on goal and quite honestly should've converted at least a couple chances.
Assuming that the USA beats El Salvador, a semifinal match on Saturday night (9, FS1) vs. Costa Rica would be very entertaining and anytime you can possibly see Mexico in a final (July 26), it's a great thing for soccer fans.