USMNT host El Salvador on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio (live, 7pm ET) as Gregg Berhalter’s side are huge favorites to move one step closer to qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
A big win is expected for the USMNT as they aim to set themselves up for a key qualifier at Canada. Anything less and there will be big questions asked of this young, talented squad.
[ MORE: Full USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]
The USMNT sit in second place in the table heading into the final six games of qualifying, as they have three games over the next week which will have a huge say in whether or not the finish in the top three of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and qualify automatically for the World Cup in Qatar in December.
With games against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras in this window, a nine point haul could be enough to seal their spot at their first World Cup since 2014. Anything less than that and it could be tough as they have Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica to play in their final three qualifiers in March. The USMNT have lost just once in 25 games (18-1-6) against El Salvador and have never lost in World Cup qualifying to La Selecta. Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Jordan Morris are all back in the mix in this MLS-heavy roster and Berhalter has so many options in midfield and attack. Perhaps he will rest a few stars ahead of the game at Canada? That could be risky as the U.S. drew 0-0 at El Salvador in the reverse game…
“There’s a great focus in the team and I don’t know exactly the math, but even with three wins I don’t think it is guaranteed we are going to qualify,” Christian Pulisic told ProSoccerTalk before the opening game of this penultimate cycle of games.
“We just need to take it game by game, win game by game and put ourselves in a great position next camp to be able to get a couple good results and get us to where we need to be. That is qualifying for the World Cup.”
Focusing on El Salvador, they currently sit second from bottom in the table but they held the USMNT to a draw in San Salvador right at the start of qualifying and they’ve been so close to causing plenty of other upsets too as they aren’t afraid to take chances and get on the ball. Seattle Sounders defender Alex Roldan (his brother Christian is on the USMNT roster) is a player to watch out for and El Salvador head coach Hugo Perez is well known to USMNT fans. Perez played 73 times for the Stars and Stripes from 1984 to 1994 and featured for the USMNT at the 1994 World Cup. He helped the USA qualify for the 1990 World Cup and was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2008. Simply put, Perez was a superb central midfielder but now he’s focused on trying to keep his home country in with a chance of qualifying for the World Cup and upsetting the USMNT. Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren, former Toronto center back Eriq Zavaleta and striker Nelson Bonilla are three other players to keep an eye on.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of USMNT vs El Salvador.
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USMNT team news, injuries, lineup options
Matt Turner is set to start in goal for the USMNT as Zack Steffen has suffered a back injury and is yet to travel to Columbus for this qualifier. The back four is Dest, Zimmerman, Chris Richards, and Antonee Robinson. Midfield will likely see Adams, McKennie and Musah link up in a three, while Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, and Jesus Ferreira will start in attack.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) January 27, 2022
El Salvador team news, injuries, lineup options
Hugo Perez will try to use very similar tactics to the home game against the USMNT, as El Salvador will do their best to keep the ball and frustrate the U.S. And if it is level with 30 minutes to go, we will surely see El Salvador take plenty more risks in the final third which will open up counter attacking opportunities for the USMNT. El Salvador need to win all three games in this cycle to give themselves a chance of finishing fourth and securing a playoff spot. They have only conceded 10 goals across their eight games so far, so La Selecta will be tough to break down and the USMNT have to be patient and wait for the right moments to press.