The USMNT showed potential but was unable to finish in its pandemic-delayed World Cup qualifying opener, drawing 0-0 at El Salvador on Thursday night.
Both teams created hardly any chances before an overexcited yet polite sell-out crowd of about 30,000 that started filling Monumental Estadio Cuscatlán, Central America’s largest, about eight and a half hours before kickoff.
The USMNT, trying to bounce back from their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, failed to win their sixth straight road qualifier since 2016 (two losses, four draws).
Qualifiers were delayed a year by the pandemic. A tight schedule has teams in the final round of North and Central America and the Caribbean playing 14 matches in seven months. The USMNT will host Canada on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, and play at Honduras on 8 September.
Three out of the eight nations in regional finals qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar. The fourth-place advances to a playoff. But they’re hardly ever are easy games for the US in Central America.
Riot police with helmets and shields were in front of the stands.
Fireworks were let off during El Salvador’s national anthem. The dazzling display kept going for the first five minutes.
Miles Robinson had the most excellent chance in the first half for the USMNT, putting an open header over the crossbar in the ninth minute from a Gio Reyna free-kick.
Eriq Zavaleta’s header from Marvin Monterroza’s corner kick was blocked by diving USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner in the 57th minute. Weston McKennie couldn’t get his head firmly on Reyna’s cross in the 73rd. He then crossed to Kellyn Acosta for a header that was punched away by diving Mario González in the 76th.
Gregg Berhalter, coaching his first qualifier, didn’t have star attacker Christian Pulisic (regaining fitness after testing positive for Covid-19) and goalkeeper Zack Steffen (back spasms), who stayed back in Nashville.
The USMNT Team For The Game
The USMNT lineup included nine players making their qualifying debuts, all but Yedlin and central defender Tim Ream, who was on the bench in Couva.
They were joined by Robinson in central defense, left-back Sergiño Dest, Adams, McKennie, Brenden Aaronson, Reyna, and Konrad de La Fuente in midfield, and Josh Sargent heading the attack.
El Salvador was guided by Coach Hugo Pérez, who had 73 appearances for the US from 1984-94 and scored in a 1-0 qualifying win over El Salvador in 1989. He recruited his nephew Joshua Pérez, a teammate of Pulisic and Adams at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup, who had three goals in the first two rounds of qualifying.
The USMNT is ranked 10th, their highest since 2006, since their win in the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup, and El Salvador is 64th.