In any soccer match, there is always one telling moment, one instant when things go wrong for one team and correspondingly well for the other.
On Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl, in front of 12,906, that moment came 58 minutes into the game between El Salvador and Guatemala.
Guatemalan defender Alvaro Jimenez thought he was doing the right thing, kicking the ball out of the penalty area and hopefully out of bounds altogether. Trouble was, he didn't kick it hard enough.
The ball fell to Salvadoran midfielder Santos Cabrera, and his angled shot from about 15 yards flew into the lower left corner of the net past Guatemalan goalkeeper Dany Ortiz. Having scored, the Salvadorans' confidence soared and they had little trouble shutting out their Central American neighbors for the final 30 minutes. Their 1-0 victory put them into the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, with a shot at beating the United States on Sunday.
"This is an historic victory," said El Salvador's coach, Carlos Humberto Recinos, who pointed out that it was the first time his nation had reached the quarterfinals in the 11-year history of the biennial tournament.
Guatemala's coach, Julio Cesar Cortes, didn't think it was historic at all.
Having been beaten, 3-1, by Mexico on Monday and now losing to El Salvador, he was in no mood to talk and boycotted the news conference.
That left time for Recinos to comment on the match against the Americans. He was asked what El Salvador would have to do to win that game.
"You'll see Sunday," was his curt reply. El Salvador should not present an insurmountable obstacle for the U.S., despite the latter's scoring difficulties of late. But the Salvadorans' defense should not be taken lightly. It allowed Mexico only one goal and shut out Guatemala.
A tie was all Recinos' team had in mind on a cold Wednesday night that saw most players wearing gloves. Because of its better goal difference, El Salvador didn't have to win, while Guatemala did.
It took both teams time to settle down, with the players seemingly more intent on fouling each other than creating scoring opportunities.
Referee Rogger Zambrano of Ecuador cautioned El Salvador's Victor Velasquez in the 20th minute and Guillermo Ramirez 12 minutes later.
It took 30 minutes before either goalkeeper had to make a save. The second half started more brightly, as Guatemala showed more initiative.
Claudio Albizuris, who came on as a replacement for Carlos Ruiz, sent a shot wide left and a sharp header from Ramirez flew straight at goalkeeper Santos Rivera.
Meanwhile, there was always the danger of Guatemala falling victim to a counterattack, and that threat became reality when the luckless Jimenez failed to clear the ball.
Wednesday night's second game between South Korea and Cuba ended in a 0-0 tie, with South Korea advancing, on goal differential, to play Mexico in the quarterfinals at noon on Sunday.
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The schedule for the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup:
Saturday at Miami: Costa Rica vs. Haiti, noon; Canada vs. Martinique, 2:30 p.m.
Sunday at Rose Bowl: Mexico vs. South Korea, noon; United States vs. El Salvador, 2:30 p.m.