Six years after his last appearance with the U.S. men’s national team, Eric Lichaj finally opened up his international scoring account in a 2-0 win over El Salvador in Wednesday night’s Gold Cup quarterfinals match (see story).
Lichaj earned his first international appearance under previous USMNT coach Bob Bradley, only to fall out of favor with Jurgen Klinsmann during his tenure. Now with Bruce Arena at the helm, Lichaj has been given an opportunity to prove himself throughout the Gold Cup.
Despite getting off to a rocky start Wednesday night, the defender found himself streaking up the field into the opposing third, getting his foot on the receiving end of a Clint Dempsey assist.
“I wasn’t having the best of times in the first half. I think I ended up going forward and having a good run. It was a good play down the left and Clint ended up turning and slotting me in and it was just a good goal, and I needed it because my performance in the first half is something I don’t want to repeat ever again,” Lichaj said.
A full body slide celebration soon followed, along with congratulations and hugs from teammates.
“I’m delighted for him,” roommate and Union midfielder Chris Pontius said. “I told him he’d get one this tournament, he ventured forward a couple times in the first half. I don’t know how he ended up the left side as a right back, but it was a great finish though.”
A finish his family was able to enjoy with him, as Lichaj had 10 family members in the stands on Wednesday night. His wife and two daughters have traveled across the country the last couple weeks, attending every game this tournament.
The Lichajs will once again be packing their bags as they follow their favorite defender and the USMNT to Dallas this weekend. Up next for the Red, White, and Blue is a semifinal match against Costa Rica on July 22. It’s a showdown that will certainly bring up some past emotions, for players and coaches alike.
"Certainly they're a good team, we know that," Arena said of Costa Rica. "They beat the U.S. by four goals in November, right? Hopefully, we can remember that."