The USA entered the penultimate round of World Cup qualifiers with hopes of getting nine out of nine points no matter the weather conditions or number of players on the roster that haven’t played in three months. They took the first necessary steps in that quest against El Salvador on a 32 degree night in Columbus. While the Americans were dominant and El Salvador couldn’t do much more than hope to slow the home side down, a second half goal by Antonee Robinson would be the difference in a 1-0 victory.
The lineup somehow did not include Brooks Lennon as the USA set up in its now familiar 4-3-3 with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Sergino Dest playing together for the first time ever.
Hugo Perez set his team up in a 4-3-3 that shifted to a 4-4-2 when defending.
In the end, the USA once again made the necessary adjustments at the half after going into the break tied at 0-0. Still, the first half saw the Americans create two very good chances that striker Jesus Ferreira should have done better with. El Salvador wasn’t any kind of a pushover, but they still only managed six shots and had none on goal while most of their night was spent trying to contain the American attack and committing petty fouls to try to disrupt the game.
GIFs of guys being cold
Perhaps because they were trying to stay warm, both teams started the game with a lot of energy. El Salvador even had the USA pushed back in their defensive third for a few moments in the early going. That didn’t really last long.
After about a quarter of an hour, the best early chance for the USA came when a switch found Antonee Robinson just inside the 18 yard box, he played the ball to Jesus Ferreira and the striker took a shot off of the volley that went over the bar.
He would have another chance when Tim Weah headed a ball into the path of the American striker who flubbed what should have been the first goal of the game.
As they were in the first matchup in qualification, El Salvador was unintimidated by the Americans. They took their chances going forward and stayed organized defensively, their courage was nearly rewarded before the half-hour mark on a counter that came close to being a goal.
El Salvador also committed a lot of fouls, Pulisic even fell down in the box just before the half, but their overall approach was effective at keeping the USA off of the scoresheet for the first 45 minutes.
The second half began with the USA searching for the goal once again after a scoreless first 45. It would come just after five minutes into the half when Jedi found himself uncovered in the left side of the penalty area as a ball landed for him and he made no mistake with his shot to put the Stars and Stripes ahead 1-0.
In the 64th minute Christian Pulisic made way for Brenden Aaronson. The American no. 10 was decent if not lacking in impact during his time on the pitch. Seven minutes later, Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris came on for Ferreira and Weah.
Luckily, the team managed to score that goal because aside from a pair of excellent shots by potential new striker Antonee Robinson, the team didn’t trouble El Salvador keeper Mario Gonzalez. In the 89th minute, Kellyn Acosta came on for Yunus Musah. After a brief breathless moment when Weston McKennie seemed to land funny just before injury time, the USA saw the game out and took all three points.