HOUSTON -- The youngest team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup will have to play beyond its years at BBVA Compass Stadium, when it faces Haiti on Monday in the last Group B game for each.
El Salvador, which boasts of an average age of 24, sits in third place in with a 0-1-1 record and one point. The Cuscatlecos know that anything less than a win against Haiti (1-1-0, 3 points) could end their quarterfinal dreams.
Head coach Agustin Castillo has put the last-minute disappointment of losing to Honduras behind his team. It is clearly ready for the next challenge.
"Tomorrow is a must win for us against Haiti," he said. "There is no other way to look at this game. We have played good football in this tournament, but the luck has not been with us. Haiti is a very fast team which likes to take a lot of shots at goal and we have to be prepared for them and play every minute as it is our last."
Castillo said that he does not foresee any major changes to the team, however, he is contemplating adding another striker to the mix. Castillo admitted that he would have liked one more skilled player in the midfield. Arturo Alvarez would have fit the bill, but he was not available.
When asked about the lack of seasoned players on his team, Castillo replied: "We are looking to grow our players and give them exposure. Experience can't be bought so this is a great time to build up our team.
"I have been given the task of growing these young men and getting them that experience. The Gold Cup is an excellent way to start.”
After an opening day loss to Honduras, the Haitians have rebounded well and are in prime position to advance to the next round.
"It's a do or die kind of game," Haiti coach Israel Blake Cantero said. "We feel we have an edge because of the positioning of the group, but there is still 90 minutes of football to be played."
A confident Haitian captain Jean-Marc Alexandre and his teammates are ready for the game.
"There is no guarantee that we can give our fans, but whenever we wear the national jersey we will give of our best as we always do," said the Orlando City star.
Cantero added that playing against Spain recently and Honduras has left him with a better understanding of what to expect from El Salvador.
"Spain practice a style of play similar to the Central Americans, so it was a great help in playing them before this competition and our opening game with Honduras was along the same tactics," he said. "There is no particular player on El Salvador we see as a threat, but rather the entire team is capable. We must, however, pay special attention to their two forwards and keep them out of the game."