Narrow, yet commanding. That’s the best way to describe the USMNT as an Antonee Robinson goal proves enogh to top El Salvador in Columbus, OH on Thursday to secure three more points in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
The United States attacked early and often, producing 63% possession and dominating the chances throughout the match. Still, the finishing was poor for most of the affair, especially in the first half, and Robinson’s goal just after the break was a needed sigh of relief for the home side.
Hugo Perez and El Salvador proved a well-structured and stubborn opponent, but the visitors provided little in the way of counter-threat in front of Matt Turner’s goal, making the proceedings comfortable for the United States despite the thin scoreline.
MORE: USA cold weather strategy is risky
The three points strengthens the United States’ grip on second place in the Octagonal, with Mexico and Canada also winning to keep pace.
Sporting News will follow the match live and provide score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
52nd min – USA – Antonee Robinson
(All times Eastern)
Gergg Berhalter mentined the positive contributions of Timothy Weah and Antonee Robinson whom he mentioned without prompting at the open of his presser. He said the attack was solid in short spells, but he wanted to run at El Salvador with more “ambition” and purpose. “We had it in spurts but overall we could have done much better.”
Berhalter stated he was happy with Pulisic’s effort, but noted that the performance wasn’t his best, saying “it’s just about finding his top form, and finding ways to get him in front of goal.”
Berhalter was asked about the first-half attacking struggles, and flatly said “I wouldn’t say this was our best game.” He didn’t mince words. “You could see that they were away from each other,” he said about the cohesion of the midfield and attacking link and pressure. He did then mention that the team created chances in the first half, so it wasn’t all bad.
Berhalter would not be drawn on injury updates, but did state that Weston McKennie – who was seen limping late after a failed header in front of net – was “fine” and that “I’ve spoken to medical and nothing came up.”
Goalscorer Antonee Robinson provided a few funny tidbits. He said he’s always been called “Jedi” ever since he fell in love with Star Wars at five years old. He even went so far as to say he prefers being called Jedi, and says it’s “weird” when someone calls him Antonee.
Robinson also said his goal celebration where he pretended to pull his hamstring is an inside joke with some friends from a moment when he was playing a friendly during his Everton days. He said he didn’t tell anyone he was going to do it, so some teammates thought he actually hurt himself doing the flip celebration right before.
El Salvador boss Hugo Perez is up first in the presser, and he is full of praise for his squad, rueing the “mistake” that ultimately led to the U.S. win, but overall declaring “I cannot complain” about the performance. Perez mentioned a few visa and passport issues that depleted his squad as contributing factors.
Hugo Perez: “We were doing well until the mistake we made and that cost us the game. But overall … I’m proud of our players because from where we were 7 months ago, to come here to the United States and get this game as close as it was today, I have to give a lot of credit”
It was comfortable in the end, despite the sputtery attack throughout. The midfield controlled the match throughout, and El Salvador produced little other than its one big first-half chance.
The United States will be happy with the three points, but there’s plenty to work on, especially up front.
92nd minute: Pushing and shoving on the near touchline. McKennie involved, and he looks to be moving better.
Mexico has scored twice in two minutes to come back against Jamaica, but the three points here for the United States are the most important thing tonight for Berhalter’s bunch.
90th minute: Chance, USA! You’d expect heading expert Weston McKennie to finish that free headed chance at the far post, but somehow he plants the header harmlessly into the ground. The chance was created by good on-ball movement by Aaronson.
McKennie now limping, which is a real worry for the United States. A grimace on his face. Four added minutes.
85th minute: Robinson again crops up at the top-left corner of the penalty area, and he fires a curler that stings the palms of Gonzalez. It’s not a well-placed shot, right at the goalkeeper, but it at least made him work. Robinson has been by far the best U.S. player in front of net, which probably isn’t great for Berhalter and Co., but they’ll take it.
Kellyn Acosta comes in for Yunus Musah, Berhalter is risking Tyler Adams on a yellow, but it hasn’t been a super chippy game so the risk is lowered in that sense.
Tyler Adams has been enormous. Again. He creates so much freedom for others. #USMNT
76th minute: El Salvador goalkeeper Gonzalez is down after crashing into his own teammate going for a ball in the box. He took a blow to the head, collected the ball, and then went down and required treatment.
72nd minute: Berhalter brings on Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes, who both get a good hand in Columbus. Ferreira and Weah make way. It’s wonderful to see Morris back on the field for the national team after the significant hurdles he has overcome.
Damn good to see Jordan Morris back on the field for a World Cup qualifier
Other than the missed tap-in Ferreira was really good.
65th minute: Antonee Robinson pops up again and forces a good save by Gonzalez, cutting in from the left and producing an off-balance shot with some pace. The Fulham man is going gangbusters in the second half.
64th minute: Berhalter makes a big call, withdrawing Pulisic for Brendan Aaronson in the USA’s first substitution. It’s the right call, Weah has been the far more effective winger tonight. Pulisic was 0-10 on duels in the first half, and it wasn’t any better after the break.
Christian Pulisic leaves in the 65th minute. Not a great night for him, you can tell the rhythm isn’t there in his game, and his recent lack of time + positional moves at Chelsea have hurt his form.
Still 1-0 USA, 66th minute.
59th minute: Word filters through social media that Mexico has gone a goal down to 10-man Jamaica. If both results hold, it would put a lot of pressure on Tata Martino, but more importantly here, it would put the United States in a position of true strength in the Octagonal.
55th minute: Chance, USA! An incredible save by Gonzalez keeps El Salvador’s deficit at just one. No clue how Yunus Musah got that shot off, it was a moment of real creativity right on the penalty spot under heavy pressure, and he put it in a very dangerous area. Gonzalez dove up and full-stretch to his left to save.
Gonzalez loses his mind, livid with his back line.
52nd minute: GOAL, USA! Finally, all the attacking possession and pressure pays off. Solid play down the right, and Weah absolutely roasts two defenders to get a shot off from a tight angle. It’s saved, and Ferreira heads across to Antonee Robinson on the opposite end who provides a much-needed finish.
The United States came out way more energetic this half, and it pays off.
ANTONEE ROBINSON WITH THE BREAKTHROUGH FOR THE USMNT 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/ybatzdZaGj
THATS MORE LIKE IT!! Stumbling, pushing, rebound. Idc.
Antonee Robinson with a strong strike to beat the El Salvador keeper!!!
46th minute: Back under way for the second half. No halftime subs. U.S. will want to get its star Pulisic more involved, as El Salvador has clearly game-planned to nullify him, as many CONCACAF opponents do.
Christian Pulisic lost possession on 15 of his 30 touches in the first half.
What a weird first half. El Salvador, again, holds the United States scoreless, but it didn’t feel all that disappointing. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Walker Zimmerman performed extremely well, Timothy Weah was bright early, and both Sergino Dest and Christian Pulisic popped up a few times in the final segment.
For all that, and with 65% possession, no shots on target. El Salvador extremely skilled at bending but not breaking.
Berhalter tells ESPN at halftime they need more speed and more threat on the El Salvador back line. He also mentions they need to play a higher line to induce turnovers. It’ll be all about tweaks in the locker room for the U.S. head man. This is a spot they’ve been before.
#USMNT is held scoreless in the first half for the 7th time in 9 qualifiers this cycle.
U.S. has outscored opponents 10-2 in the second half of the previous eight qualifiers.
Halftime thoughts on the #USMNT …
– Stop trying to do too much in the attacking third. Be quicker in getting the ball to space.
– Bring on Pepi and Aaronson ASAP, who will allow you to press higher.
– Get Musah higher. Have Weston and Tyler look for him more.
42nd minute: Chance, USA! Excellent work by Christian Pulisic under heavy pressure from Darwin Ceren through the middle works the ball wide left, and a solid cutback falls to Weah whose shot is just blocked enough to send it wide for a corner. Pulisic’s corner is wasted.
Pulisic has been shut down throughout this first half, but his skill was on full display there. The United States, somehow, for all its dominance, does not have a shot on target yet, which is worrying.
Oh Weah! Right-footed shot might go in but a great effort on the block by El Salvador. #USMNT
38th minute: Dest takes a wild swing at the ball near the top of the box and his shot is blocked. Home side looking dangerous but doesn’t have the final product just yet.
The United States has a real urgency to it, while also looking calm on the ball. In all honesty, the U.S. has dominated this match, in about as much as one can dominate a hard-fought CONCACAF battle. Midfield has been spectacular moving the ball up the field.
The buildup play has been really good by the #USMNT , the final ball just isn’t there yet
31st minute: Pulisic leaves a corner very short, wasted. That’s not the first time a cross from the U.S. has been short tonight. You have to wonder if the cold is affecting the ball’s constitution.
29th minute: Chance, El Salvador! U.S. loses possession down the right and it produces an opportunity for Alex Roldan who rifles his shot just wide of the far post. Turner at full stretch had it mostly covered and made Roldan’s window very small, but there was a window for him to hit. That’s a big opportunity for Richards.
U.S. with a few bad turnovers the last couple minutes.
El Salvador come close 👀 pic.twitter.com/E9TvWVdfVv
Watching the #USMNT is my easily my favorite way to induce crippling anxiety
Watching the #USMNT is my easily my favorite way to induce crippling anxiety
26th minute: On a long throw from McKennie, Ferreira tries a bike and it goes very poorly. That ain’t it, kid. For what it’s worth, other than his finishing, Ferreira has been very bright. He’s been heavily involved but hasn’t yet cashed in.
19th minute: Chance, USA! Oh Ferreira, the first one was tough, but this one had to be in the back of the net. Dest with speed down the right, cross perfectly to the head of Weah, who flicks on to Ferreira at the far post. It’s over. He flubbed it awkwardly, trying to use his right foot with his body facing the goal, instead of using the left which would have been more natural. That’s a big miss.
Left foot needed is right. Use the left and it’s 1-0. All things considered, even that he needing to stretch for it, that’s a sitter missed by Jesus Ferreira. #USMNT
18th minute: The refereeing in this match has been extremely poor so far. Near-side assistant referee has missed a few throw-in decisions, and now the official calls a foul on Zimmerman and talks to him, when he made no contact winning the ball in midfield. Got there first. Officiating from this Guatemala crew needs to improve.
The assistant referee on the US attacking end is like 1-of-3 in significant decisions, which would be great if he were a shortstop. #USAvSLV
16th minute: Chance, USA! Jesus Ferreira combines extremely well with Antonee Robinson on the left, and the young striker blasts a difficult volley high. He probably could have gone down and won a penalty, but he stays up and looks to finish the chance. Promising for the home side.
13th minute: Tyler Adams makes a critical intervention in the penalty area on an overlapping El Salvador run, and then Pulisic has a shot blocked on the other end after good buildup down the left. Both teams look up for scoring in this match. High energy start. El Salvador has gotten in the U.S. penalty area a few too many times, it’s somewhat worrying.
Christian Duenas of El Salvador comes to the sideline to remove his thermal underwear top, which is a hardo move. Ref makes him wait to re-enter the field.
9th minute: Timothy Weah has been bright early down the right. Crowd thought he won a corner on a good burst, but it’s a goal kick. Weah looks valuable down the flank, his pace is dangerous, and he could link up with Dest down the right.
He gets free again and does indeed win a corner this time. Corner is right to Walker Zimmerman all alone near the far post, but he heads it right into the ground disappointingly. That’s a half-chance for the U.S. gone begging.
This right-sided trio of Sergiño Deat, Yunus Musah and Tim Weah can bring so, so much joy
5th minute: As expected, El Salvador pressing very high. U.S dealing with it fine for now, although there’s a laughable moment where Antonee Robinson absolutely cleans out teammate Christian Pulisic trying to break pressure down the left. Pulisic looked in some pain, but the two laugh it off.
El Salvador gets the ball into a dangerous area in the U.S. penalty area, but Walker Zimmerman pounces on the lateral ball to clear it. Sergiño Dest makes another vital defensive move moments later. The interventions were critical.
Chippy start for both teams. #USMNT doing well with one-touch passes but still growing into the game.
2nd minute: Yikes, nervy moment early for El Salvador goalkeeper Marvin Gonzalez, who blasted a clearance up against Jesus Ferreira, but the ball luckily comes right back to his feet.
Interesting stat given by Taylor Twellman on the ESPN broadcast: El Salvador has actually led for more minutes than the United States throughout World Cup qualifying so far despite their very opposite table positions.
1st minute: Under way! Three points or bust for the United States. Same for El Salvador.
Keep in mind: We have VAR tonight, for the first time in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
6:45 p.m.: Sam Borden reports on ESPN that El Salvador didn’t bring appropriate cold-weather gear, and had to go buy more at a sporting goods store once they arrived. He reports that they actually turned the temperature down in the locker room to get used to the cold! They certainly don’t experience this weather that often.
It looks so cold!
missed you, @yedlinny 👋 pic.twitter.com/S7YvuS76ij
6:32 p.m.: No pressure, boys.
The @USMNT kicks off the 1st leg of a 3-match stretch during this Octagonal window with a home meeting tonight with El Salvador (7 ET on ESPN2).
The U.S. has defeated El Salvador in 14 straight home games, the longest streak of its kind against a single opponent in team history.
6:25 p.m.: Field looks pristine, as our Michael DeCourcy is on site for the match.
The people in Columbus have been so nice it feels a little rough to have talked so much about the weather. But it is cold out there! And maybe you can make out the snow ❄️ #USAvSLV pic.twitter.com/mrqUmHi7mV
Just stopped snowing, still chilly, but a beautiful night for soccer. USMNT out warming up ahead of WC Qualifier against El Salvador tonight in Columbus. #usmnt pic.twitter.com/FnUXk4KIL4
6:13 p.m.: Gregg Berhalter says that he chose Jesus Ferreira at striker because he has better hold-up play than Pepi, which will be important today in the tactical setup they’ve chosen. We’ll see how it works out for them.
Berhalter to @SamBorden :
“In this game we’re expecting to play into our forward a lot, use him as a point to draw their defenders out, and Jesús does a good job of that. Ricardo Pepi’s been good for us and I’m sure we’re going to see him in this window. Today we chose for Jesús”
6:00 p.m.: Lineups are in, and it wouldn’t be a USMNT match without some key surprises. First and foremost, Ricardo Pepi misses out up front, with FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira earning the start up top. Chris Richards starts at the back in place of Miles Robinson.
El Salvador has a surprise appearance by Brayan Landaverde in midfield, as the 26-year-old earns just his fifth national team cap at the all-important defensive midfield spot.
Full rundown of lineups & team news below.
Tonight in Columbus:
Full Squad Notes » https://t.co/PEqC0Nb3jy #USAvSLV x @VW pic.twitter.com/Uafkd3QIKC
5:35 p.m.: Gyasi Zardes is ready for the winter weather, of which there is some currently in Columbus.
Game Day vs El Salvador. Let’s keep it going! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/816SzbsREW
Heading to the stadium in Columbus. Currently 31 degrees and light snow.
5:25 p.m.: Hype video!
Columbus is sacred ground.
It’s Match Day. pic.twitter.com/rn5tUKPZJK
5:05 p.m.: A number of USMNT players are in transfer limbo while on national team duty this January, but one has had his future sealed. Goalkeeper Matt Turner, who is likely to start tonight with Zack Steffen still in Manchester dealing with a back injury, has sealed a summer move to Arsenal, according to a host of reports earlier today. Congrats to Matt, a former undrafted free agent, on a massive step up.
Within the last hour, the parties have agreed to terms on a summer transfer of @headdturnerr to @Arsenal . Documents remain to be filed. What a moment for @NERevolution and especially Matt Turner. Undrafted to THIS!!!
Now he must deliver for the @USMNT tonight.
5:00 p.m.: The USMNT will wear its broken glass home kit tonight, with the purple goalkeeper getup. I think this year’s kit is wildly underrated — a really fun, energetic design that’s not too busy as to be painful. I enjoy this one a lot.
Business attire. 💼 #USAvSLV x @VW pic.twitter.com/IPi63qpv7z
The only missing name on the U.S. roster for this international break is winger Gio Reyna , who has been unable to shake off a frustrating hamstring injury. DeAndre Yedlin is a spectator not in uniform after arriving late from Turkey due to an ice storm. Otherwise, the roster is full of top-tier U.S. talent with the likes of Christian Pulisic , Weston McKennie , Tyler Adams and Sergino Dest all available and ready to go. Pulisic, Adams, and McKennie all start in a match for the first time since 2019.
MORE: USMNT roster for January qualification matches
Matt Turner , who earlier today completed a switch to Arsenal, starts in goal with Zack Steffen still in England dealing with a reported back problem. Walker Zimmerman starts at center back, partnered with Bayern Munich youngster Chris Richards , with Miles Robinson saved for other matches.
Yunus Musah , having scored for Valencia against Atletico Madrid in his last match, will be the one to join Adams and McKennie in a three-man midfield. Ricardo Pepi was expected to lead the U.S. attack, but his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira makes his first World Cup qualifying start up top instead. He’s supported by Pulisic Timothy Weah who is preferred to Brenden Aaronson.
USMNT starting lineup (4-3-3, right to left): Turner (GK) — Dest, Zimmerman, Richards, A. Robinson — Adams, McKennie, Musah — Pulisic, Ferreira, Weah.
USMNT subs (9) : Johnson (GK), Arriola, Zardes, Aaronson, M. Robinson, Morris, Roldan, McKenzie, de la Torre, Pepi, Cannon, Acosta.
In the 0-0 draw between these two teams in the reverse fixture, El Salvador manager Hugo Perez opted to clog the midfield and make life difficult for the Americans, who only held 49 percent possession despite the talent gap. Perez is likely to do that again, using either a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1, but it could face issues along its back line.
Center back Ronald Rodriguez , who recently signed with USL Championship side FC Tulsa and was excellent the last time these teams met, has not been able to secure a visa and Eriq Zavaleta reportedly has a toe infection, although he makes the bench. Eduardo Vigil and Roberto Dominguez are next in line to replace them.
There were options in midfield, and its Darwin Ceren and Brayan Landaverde in a rotation of the squad from last time out. A positive COVID-19 test keeps Christian Martinez out.
On the wing, 20-year-old Enrico Duenas , who hails from Dutch club Vitesse, has seen time in every World Cup qualifier, and Alex Roldan — brother of U.S. player Christian Roldan — plays on the opposite flank. Joaquín Rivas is a consistent presence up top, but has failed to score in World Cup qualifying after a three-goal performance in last summer’s Gold Cup.
El Salvador starting lineup (4-4-2, left to right): Gonzalez (GK) — Larin, Vigil, Dominguez, Tamacas — Duenas, Landaverde, Ceren, Roldan — J. Henriquez, Rivas.
El Salvador subs (9): Alguera, Carabantes, Villalobos, Zavaleta, Flores, Bonilla, Calvillo, Rivas, K. Reyes, Portillo, W. Martinez.
The United States vs. El Salvador match from Lower.Com Field in Columbus, Ohio, as part of CONCACAF World Cup qualification is avaliable on TV across the United States on ESPN 2, or streaming on ESPN+. The match is also available to stream via FuboTV , which is accessable by a free trial for new users .
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Pick: USA win & under 2.5 goals (+140)
Prediction: USA 2-0 El Salvador