Three things we learned from El Salvador 0-0 USMNT
They weren’t good.
A United States men’s national team missing its best player and resting its best defender was not a good watch in a 0-0 draw with El Salvador in San Salvador to kick off its CONCACAF World Cup qualifying run.
Christian Pulisic missed the match as he seemingly rebuilds fitness following a COVID-19 positive test-induced layoff, and the Yanks were anything but clinical in front of goal.
Heck, they barely got there.
Next up is Canada in Nashville on Sunday before a trip to Honduras.
[ STATS: World Cup qualifying on NBCSports.com ]
Three things we learned from El Salvador - USMNT
1. Welcome back to nerves, second-guessing, excitement: Look, we loved the victories at the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Nations League -- especially the latter -- but is there anything like the anticipation, anxiety, and excitement that comes from World Cup qualification, especially an away match in front of a packed house? Unfortunately, the U.S. did very little to ease that anxiety with most of its starting lineup ineffective, but it sure was nice to open a fresh run of qualifiers.
2. Youth is gonna youth: Being talented enough to get selected to start in a side’s first World Cup qualifier means there are gifts to be opened on the pitch, but also long periods of adjustment. It’s understandable that Konrad de la Fuente, Josh Sargent, and Brenden Aaronson would start, especially with Christian Pulisic injured, but we were left waiting for those gifts to arrive in San Salvador for most of the first hour. The kids needed further blooding but there’s a veteran front three out there (Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, and Sebastian Lletget in a full-health world) who delivers a halftime lead, perhaps by two.
3. Tyler Adams is very good: The youngest player to captain the United States men in a World Cup qualifier looked the part, almost always in the right position and barely putting a foot wrong when the ball found its way to him. Unfortunately, a midfield metronome isn’t a finisher.
Man of the Match: Tyler Adams
El Salvador - USMNT recap
The U.S. might’ve had it 1-0 with an unintentional chance when a low clearance bounded off Brenden Aaronson and over the bar.
Miles Robinson’s turn to put it over the frame when Gio Reyna swept a gorgeous free kick over the pack.
El Salvador forward Jairo Henriquez nodded just over the goal on one of their three corners in the first 15 minutes, but Sergino Dest bounced a shot to the home goalkeeper moments later.
The U.S. appeared anxious with the final ball in its best moments of the first half, Josh Sargent and Weston McKennie producing some magic but failing to spot a shooting opportunity and an incisive pass to Aaronson.
Alex Roldan came close to making it 1-0 for El Salvador off a corner conceded by a falling Matt Turner, as the home team’s best work came off set pieces and aggressive pressing in the U.S. half.
The best U.S. chance saw Konrad de la Fuente reclaim his blocked cross and sweep another one over the pack. McKennie nodded it to Sargent, but the Norwich City man’s side volley bid was wide of the wrong post.
[ MORE: Other World Cup qualifiers ]
De la Fuente led a terrific run early in the second half but laid off for Sargent to have a blocked shot rather than feed an open Reyna on his right.
Matt Turner had his best moment on a near-post corner in the 56th minute that saw El Salvador equal the Yanks’ single shot on goal.
Three subs arrived when ineffective De la Fuente, Sargent, and Sergino Dest were yanked in favor of
McKennie couldn’t turn a Reyna header inside the post with 18 minutes left in the 90.
Mario Gonzalez made a terrific save on McKennie late in the game, and Berhalter lifted Aaronson and DeAndre Yedlin for Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan.