USMNT plays El Salvador to scoreless draw in World Cup qualifying opener
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – The U.S. Men’s National Team kicked off its World Cup qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022 with a hard-fought 0-0 draw against El Salvador in front of a sellout crowd of 29,000 at Estadio Cuscatlán.
Tying a modern-era record, 12 players made their World Cup qualifying debut for the USA and got an introduction to the rigors of Concacaf qualifying, facing a very physical El Salvador team in a match where both sides struggled to establish rhythm on a choppy and spongy playing surface.
The USMNT has two more World Cup qualifying matches over the next six days, playing its first home game when it faces Canada on Sunday, Sept. 5 in Nashville (8 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas, Universo). The USA closes out the September international window vs. Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday, Sept. 8 (10:05 p.m. ET; Paramount+, Universo).
Playing with nine starters that helped the U.S. lift a trophy during its two summer tournament finals, the USMNT got off to a promising start in front of the raucous Cuscatlán crowd by creating several threatening opportunities in the early going. The USA’s best chance of the first half came on free kick served by forward Gio Reyna in the ninth minute as defender Miles Robinson found space in the penalty box but sailed his header attempt over the crossbar.
El Salvador’s best scoring chance of the opening 45 minutes also came from a center back as defender Ronald Rodriguez’s header attempt off a corner kick also flew over the goal. Buoyed by the home crowd, Los Cusatlecos grew into the game as the half wore on, playing tough defense that made it difficult for the USMNT to connect passes and create dangerous moments in transition. The USA rallied to close out the half with a strong shift in the last 15 minutes as forward Konrad de la Fuente was able to find space on the left wing and forward Josh Sargent fired off a few shots.
It continued to be a back-and-forth affair after the break. While the U.S. picked up where it left off with de la Fuente and Sargent combining for a few chances, El Salvador continued to threaten on the break and forced goalkeeper Matt Turner into his first action of the night in the 57th.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter made a triple substitution in the 64th minute, bringing on midfielder Kellyn Acosta, forward Jordan Pefok and defender Antonee Robinson to spark the attack. The move made an immediate impact as the trio of fresh legs catalyzed some solid offensive opportunities.
Midfielder Weston McKennie played a key role in the USA’s best chances of the second half in the 72nd and 75th minutes. The best chance came after some nice moves from Reyna in the left side of the penalty area before he sent a cross to McKennie in the middle of the box. McKennie jumped to meet the ball at the six-yard line, but his header attempt went just wide.
A few minutes later, Pefok sprung McKennie down the right flank and the Juventus midfielder played a ball to Acosta at the six but his header which seemed to be sailing into the goal just inside the left post forced goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez to make a diving save. The U.S. had a few last-gasp forays into El Salvador territory, including a scrappy run from midfielder Cristian Roldan against his brother, Salvadoran midfielder Alex Roldan, but the USA wasn’t able to create a game-winner in the closing minutes.
KEY SAVES AND DEFENSIVE STOPS
USA – Matt Turner, 57th minute: El Salvador held a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks on the evening and created its first shot-on-goal with one such opportunity in the second half. Defender Eriq Zavaleta, a former U.S. youth international, got a step on his marking defender near the penalty spot and sent a header low to the right post. Turner swallowed the attempt to keep things scoreless. SLV 0, USA 0
SLV – Mario Gonzalez and Ronald Rodriguez, 75th minute: After Jordan Pefok maintained possession in traffic at the half line, he played to Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson on the right wing. McKennie drove down the flank and sent a cross in for Kellyn Acosta, who just beat his marking defender and sent a leaping header to the left post. Gonzalez made a diving save to deflect the effort and Rodriguez cleared it out of bounds. SLV 0, USA 0
- The USA is now 18-1-6 all-time against El Salvador and is an undefeated 5-0-4 against Los Cusatlecos in World Cup qualifying.
- Head coach Gregg Berhalter is now 26-4-6 in his first 36 games since taking over the USMNT in January 2019.
- Kellyn Acosta made his 15th straight appearance for the USMNT, becoming the first player since DaMarcus Beasley (2003-04) to appear in that many consecutive matches.
- He’s only the third player in the 2000s to appear in 15 straight matches, following Beasley, Landon Dononvan (2002-03) and Jeff Agoos (2001-02).
- Twelve starters made their World Cup qualifying debut tonight, tying a modern-era record set in the opening game of 1998 World Cup qualifying on Nov. 3, 1996, vs. Guatemala in Washington, D.C.
- The 12 players to make their debut tonight were Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, Konrad de la Fuente, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie, Jordan Pefok, Gio Reyna, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Cristian Roldan, Josh Sargent and Matt Turner.
- De la Fuente earned his second USMNT cap and first in official competition.
- Tonight’s Starting XI had an average age of 23 years, 282 days. It is the USMNT’s fourth youngest WCQ lineup in the modern era and third youngest in matches where the team had not already qualified or advanced to the next round:
- Oct. 12, 2005, vs. Panama (23 years, 191 days; already qualified)
- April 16, 1989, at Costa Rica (23 years, 216 days)
- April 30, 1989, vs. Costa Rica (23 years, 266 days)
- At 18 years, 293 days, Gio Reyna became the second youngest USMNT player to start a World Cup Qualifying match. He follows only Christian Pulisic, who started his first qualifier at 17 years, 353 days on Sept. 6, 2016, against Trinidad and Tobago in Jacksonville, Fla.
- Captaining the side for the second time tonight, Tyler Adams (22 years, 200 days) became the youngest player to captain the USMNT in a World Cup Qualifier during the modern era. The mark was previously held by Landon Donovan who was 22 years, 219 days when he wore the armband, coincidentally in the USMNT’s 2-0 win at El Salvador Oct. 9, 2004.
-U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT-
Match: United States Men’s National Team vs. El Salvador
Date: September 2, 2021
Competition: Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
Venue: Cuscatlán Stadium; San Salvador, El Salvador
Attendance: 29,000 (Sell-Out)
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. local
Weather: 72 degrees; mostly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
SLV 0 0 0
USA: 1-Matt Turner; 22-Deandre Yedlin (17-Sebastian Lletget, 79), 12-Miles Robinson, 13-Tim Ream, 2-Sergiño Dest (5-Antonee Robinson, 64); 4-Tyler Adams (Capt.), 8-Weston McKennie, 11-Brenden Aaronson (10-Cristian Roldan, 78); 7-Gio Reyna, 9-Josh Sargent (19-Jordan Pefok, 64), 20-Konrad de la Fuente (23-Kellyn Acosta, 65)
Substitutes not used: 16-Ethan Horvath, 3-Walker Zimmerman, 6-John Brooks, 14-Ricardo Pepi, 15-Mark McKenzie, 18-James Sands, 21-George Bello
Head coach: Gregg Berhalter
SLV: 1-Mario Gonzalez; 21-Bryan Tamacas, 4-Eriq Zavaleta, 5-Ronald Rodriguez, 13-Alexander Larin (19-Denis Pineda, 74); 7-Darwin Ceren (23-Melvin Cartagena, 59), 6-Narciso Orellana, 15-Alex Roldan; 12-Marvin Monterroza (Capt.) (20-Enrico Dueñas, 59); 11-Joaquin Rivas (9-Walmer Martinez, 81), 17-Jairo Henriquez (8-Joshua Perez, 74)
Substitutes not used: 18-Yonathan Guardado, 22-Kevin Carabantes, 2-Lizandro Claros, 3-Roberto Dominguez, 10-Amando Moreno, 14-Erick Rivera, 16-Juan Barahona
Head coach: Hugo Perez
Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots: 13 / 7
Shots on Goal: 2 / 1
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 5
Fouls: 19 / 11
Offside: 0 / 0
SLV — Marvin Monterroza (Caution) 40th minute
USA — Weston McKennie (Caution) 67
USA — Deandre Yedlin (Caution) 68
Referee: Juan Gabriel Calderon (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: William Adrian Arrieta (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Carlos Esteban Fernandez (CRC)
4th Official: Benjamin Pineda (CRC)
Man of the Match: Tyler Adams
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