Editorial Note: Please welcome Scott Miller to the Waking the Red team. Miller is a Newcastle United and Toronto FC supporter, so, as he says, bad luck comes naturally to him. We hope he doesn't bring similar bad omens to the site.
El Salvador, for those that don't know, is a country in Central America on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It borders Guatemala and Canada's all too familiar soccer rivals, Honduras. It is home to beautiful beaches and landscape but still deals with high crime rates and poverty.
Like most Central American countries, El Salvador is in love with the beautiful game. So in love that there was once a war, an actual military conflict, between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 dubbed "the Football War". Granted, there were a lot of political issues which were the main causes of the conflict, but the final straw was repeated fan violence between the two countries in World Cup 1970 qualifying matches.
Although lately one could argue that El Salvador are one of the weaker sides in CONCACAF, they do have two World Cup appearances in 1970 and 1982. They also have a third place finish at the 1977 CONCACAF Championship, followed by a second place finish in the 1981 edition of the tournament.
They have produced several notable players including all-time leading scorer Mágico González who spent time in Spain with CF Cadiz and Valladolid, American-born Arturo Alvarez, Mauricio Cienfuegos and current Orlando City SC midfielder Darwin Ceren.
Unfortunately, El Salvador's international soccer reputation has taken a hit in recent years. In 2013, the national team was rocked by match-fixing accusations that lead to 14 players being handed lifetime bans from football, while another 9 were given bans ranging from one month to 5 years.
Fast forward to 2015. El Salvador is placed in a fourth round World Cup qualifying group with powerhouse Mexico, Honduras and Canada, after beating Curacao 2-0 on aggregate. The odds don't look great for El Salvador being the second lowest ranked team in the group, but as any soccer fan in the CONCACAF region knows, anything is possible when teams are playing in Central America.
La Selecta weren't looking bad coming into the fourth round of qualifying after not conceding any goals to a dangerous Curacao side who is managed by the legendary Patrick Kluivert. This was followed by a 3-1 loss to a strong Haiti side in Houston and a draw in California with Guatemala.
Then things fell apart when the side that was called up to face Mexico and Canada walked out on new manager Ramón Maradiaga. The players on strike are reportedly striking for the same thing the average working person would: better pay and working conditions.
After this, the former Honduran international Maradiaga was forced to name a new squad to line up in the upcoming qualifiers. Out are veteran players such as the aforementioned Ceren, Alexander Larin and captain Alvarez. In are young Tigres UNAL forward Dennis Pineda, FC Edmonton midfielder Dustin Corea, defenders Giovanni Zavaleta and Roberto Dominguez among others. The "new" squad was thrust into action against Mexico at the Azteca in Mexico City on November 13. Unsurprisingly, they lost 3-0.
The Canucks will be looking to take advantage of a mostly inexperienced squad in San Salvador on Tuesday. With that said, they will have to look out for the dangerous Rafael Burgos and Nelson Bonilla and will also be looking to shut down Jaime Alas and Dustin Corea in midfield.
A positive result in San Salvador would go a long way for the Canucks and they should be high on confidence, but like I said, anything can happen on a hot Tuesday night in Central America.