Argentina Wins the Match, but not Fans
Roberto Pereyra of Argentina and Darwin Ceren of El Salvador battle for the ball. Argentina defeated El Salvador 2-0 in a Friendly Match at FedEx Field in Landover, MD on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Alan P. Santos/DC Sports Box
LANDOVER, MD - Will he or won’t he play? That’s the question that hung over FedEx Field. The one that everyone came to see, Lionel Messi, was doubtful to play after a minor injury to his right foot earlier this week.
Then he came on the field with the substitutes, gave a thumbs up, and rode the bench for the first half.

And then the chants for the superstar rang around the stadium. Time and time again they called on him to take part; even just a trot on the pitch would have been enough. But he would not get off the bench for the entire 90 minutes.

And with that, Messi rode off into the sunset without a word. All the fans, especially where every Argentinian jersey bore Messi’s name and the number 10, shuffled out into the surrounding asphalt pit grumbling about a waste of time the 2-0 Argentina victory was. No Messi? No fun.

The decision to keep him out of the contest was made during the practice on Friday, as the pain in Messi’s foot was too great to participate in what amounted to a meaningless match.

“We don’t want to risk anything,” said Argentina Head Coach Gerardo Martino. “He’s probably one of the big reasons why everyone [was] here. However, we definitely have to take care of him as well.”

Lionel Messi of Argentina is forced to sit on the bench due to foot injury, disappointing many fans in attendance. Argentina defeated El Salvador 2-0 in a Friendly Match at FedEx Field in Landover, MD on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Alan P. Santos/DC Sports Box
Away from the gaze on the Argentina bench, La Albiceleste took care of business. Though El Salvador’s defense hung tough, withstanding a near relentless assault and creating a couple of chances on the other side of the field, everyone knew Argentina would eventually find the back of the net.

Less than 10 minutes into the second half, the breakthrough finally came. Ever Banega had a window from 30 yards out and took a crack at it. The shot took a deflection from an El Salvadorian defender that the keeper couldn’t recover for and Argentina did not look back.

They kept the pressure going, and El Salvador could not stay out of their defensive end. Argentina found the back of the net again less than five minutes from full time. Federico Mancuello, in his first cap for Argentina, lifted his free kick over everyone’s heads and into the far top corner from the right side of net for the best first international score in quite some time.

“Argentina is a team that is above us at this moment,” said El Salvador Head Coach Albert Roca.

Despite that being the case, Roca was proud that his men kept last year’s World Cup runner-up off the board for so long. That can be chalked up to Derby Carrillo’s outstanding performance between the sticks. He notched four saves on the day, with most of them requiring quite the acrobatics.