Qualifying for the World Cup out of CONCACAF is a journey fraught with unique obstacles, but there’s only one word needed to describe the United States men’s national team’s next three tests in North America.
Strike that. Maybe two words.
[ MORE: USMNT team news, El Salvador stream info ]
Temperatures will be around 15 degrees Fahrenheit for Wednesday’s match versus El Salvador in Columbus, slightly cooler than Sunday’s visit to Hamilton to face Canada. and Wednesday’s match with Honduras in Saint Paul.
It’s worth noting that that’s the temperature before windchill and that the winds whip up pretty good in the north, whether that’s Ohio and Minnesota or Ontario.
What did the USMNT do last time versus these foes?
The United States drew El Salvador away and Canada at home to start World Cup qualifying in truly underwhelming fashion before clobbering Honduras 4-1 in San Pedro Sula to secure five points from the first three ties.
That’s arguably the reason the U.S. is in second to Canada heading into Thursday’s match with El Salvador, though the Canadians defeat of Mexico north of the U.S. border was a big, big one.
- at El Salvador — Sept. 2 — Draw 0-0 | Player ratings | Three things we learned
- vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1 | Player ratings | Three things we learned
- at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1 | Player ratings | Three things we learned
How much different will the USMNT look in the three return fixtures? In some ways, it will be the same pieces trying to do different things (or similar in the case of the second 45 minutes in Honduras/
How will the USMNT line up versus El Salvador?
The nil-nil in El Salvador was dreadful and anyone defending the team basically stumbled upon tired — no, bedraggled — excuses like, “CONCACAF qualifying away fixtures are really hard, you don’t even realize it” and “a lot of these players are young.”
Hugo Perez’s Cuzcatlecos are a well-run ship who can hang with the U.S.A for long stretches but to shut the Yanks out is beyond the pale given the firepower on hand for Gregg Berhalter and his staff.
Matt Turner played all three matches between the sticks in the aforementioned window and is on track to do so again after Zack Steffen suffered a back injury flare-up and did not make the trip abroad. Sean Johnson would be in line for a start if Berhalter switches it up, as 17-year-old Gabriel Slonina is the third keeper.
Berhalter seems likely to stick with only two of his back four from the trip to San Salvador, and one should be flipping sides of the pitch. Sergino Dest will head to his preferred right back from the left to allow in-form Antonee Robinson his place, while Miles Robinson will be joined by Walker Zimmerman instead of Tim Ream. DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Richards, and Mark McKenzie are other possibilities.
The midfield of the 4-3-3 will change as well as Yunus Musah seems likely to join Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in the heart of the team, thought Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta might slide into the fray.
The front three is tricky with Christian Pulisic a certainty atop the field of Ricardo Pepi, Brenden Aaronson, Timothy Weah, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, and Jesus Ferreira.
Ultimately we think Berhalter opts to run El Salvador out of the gym, so to speak, allowing early substitutions and rest for Canada as Aaronson, Morris, and Lletget get minutes in the second half.
Dest — Zimmerman — M. Robinson — A. Robinson
Musah — McKennie
Weah — Pepi — Pulisic