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U.S. Men’s Soccer Team Wins World Cup Qualifier Over El Salvador

Sports

It was 29-degrees when the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) faced off against El Salvador in a World Cup Qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, on the night of January 27. 

The cold had both teams struggling to take advantage. The U.S. had to work hard to get through a tough El Salvador defense and were scoreless in the first half. Eventually, the U.S. broke through and secured the win thanks to a 52nd-minute goal from Antonee Robinson. 

Robinson scored following a long pass from Weston McKennie to Tim Weah down the right side of the field. Weah faked as if he would play the ball but instead let it bounce as he ran past two Salvadoran defenders. He then had a one-on-one opportunity with Salvadoran goalkeeper Mario González who made a sliding block on the shot attempt of Weah. 

The ball rebounded in the air right to FC Dallas’ Jesús Ferreira, who headed the ball across the goal to Robinson, who smashed in the score with his left foot from about eight yards out. 

“We’re definitely one step closer,” Robinson said postgame as the win keeps the USMNT on track to make the World Cup. “It wasn’t the prettiest game.”

After the goal, the 24-year-old Robinson showed his athletic prowess by celebrating with a forward flip into a backward spring. 

“It’s just one of those muscle-memory things. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,” he said.

Robinson’s goal is just his second for the U.S. He also scored the opening goal within the September, 2021 4-1 World Cup Qualifier win over Honduras. 

The U.S. has 18 points with five games remaining in World Cup Qualifying. They are second in the standings to Canada (19), just one point ahead of Mexico (17), and four points ahead of fourth-place Panama (14). 

The top three finishers automatically qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place finisher will enter into a two-game series, likely against New Zealand, for a spot in the competition. 

El Salvador now has almost no path to qualifying for the World Cup. They sit in second-to-last place in the standings with six points. 

The U.S. possessed the ball for 62% of the game and had 17 shot attempts compared to El Salvador’s six attempts. Still, the offense looked paltry in the first half, as has been the theme for all qualifying games thus far. Eleven of the USMNT’s 13 total goals scored in qualifying have come after halftime. 

 

“We lacked connection in our pressing,” USMNT head manager Gregg Berhalter said. “The ambition to play forward and get behind them was missing for the 90 minutes. We had it in spurts.”

The U.S. has now won 15 consecutive games over El Salvador played in the States. 

Upon arrival to Columbus, the El Salvadoran soccer team visited a sporting goods store to purchase winter gear since winter apparel is not needed in El Salvador. Snow flurries were falling during the pregame warmups. 

The U.S. will not get a chance to play in any warmer weather in their next two games to end this cycle of World Cup Qualifiers.

First, they will travel to Hamilton, Ontario, to take on first-place Canada on January 30. Then, they will host Honduras in St. Paul on February 2. 

The last cycle of World Cup Qualifiers will be in March. The U.S. will visit Mexico then host Panama in Orlando before the final qualifying game in Costa Rica. 

Canada won 2-0 in Honduras, and Costa Rica won 1-0 in a home game against Panama in other regional World Cup Qualifying action. Meanwhile, Mexico had to rally for a 2-1 win on the road in Jamaica. The Jamaicans took the lead in the 50th minute and held it until Mexico’s Henry Martín scored in the 81st. Alexis Vega quickly followed for Mexico’s tiebreaking goal in the 83rd minute to complete the comeback win.

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