US Men’s National Team Earns CONCACAF Nations League Finals Spot with 1-0 Victory Over El Salvador
The US Men’s National Team has secured a place in the CONCACAF Nations League finals after a hard-fought 1-0 win against El Salvador. In a match where the US was expected to dominate, El Salvador proved worthy opponents, giving the home side all they could handle. But it was Ricardo Pepi’s goal just moments after coming on as a substitute that proved the difference in the end. Despite the US gradually taking control of the match, they struggled to find the breakthrough against a resolute Salvadoran defense. However, Pepi’s goal and a strong defensive display were enough to see the US claim the top spot in Group D and progress to the CNL finals in June.
USMNT Wears Down Tough El Salvador Side
Although the US had most of its World Cup squad available and was playing a competitive fixture at home for the first time since the World Cup, El Salvador proved to be a tough opponent. The visitors almost went ahead just two minutes into the match, and the US struggled to break their defense. The service from wide areas wasn’t accurate enough to take advantage of the imposing size of Dike, and attempts to play quick combinations too often ran into El Salvador’s back line. However, substitutions from interim US manager Anthony Hudson, including the introduction of Pepi, tilted the match in the US’s favor. Pepi immediately made an impact, latching onto a through ball from Weston McKennie and delivering a delicate chip over the Salvadoran goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez. Pepi’s goal ultimately secured a hard-earned victory for the US side.
Pepi Bails Out Sputtering US Attack
Giovanni Reyna played a central role in the match but was mostly quiet for long periods, and the US attack struggled for much of the match. Pepi, who has overcome disappointment, scored 10 goals for Dutch side Groningen and moved up on the US depth chart after his goal against El Salvador. Although Folarin Balogun may opt to represent the US over England, Pepi has done his prospects little harm.
Credit to Hugo Perez’s Work with El Salvador
El Salvador has gone through a transformation under manager Hugo Perez, who has led the national team to the final round of qualifying during the 2022 cycle. With Perez’s hyper-organized defense and an attack that is more willing to take risks, El Salvador has pushed the US to the limit, tying the US twice and losing the other two by 1-0 scores. The challenge now for Perez is to raise his side to the next level and qualify for the 48-team 2026 World Cup. This would be a remarkable achievement for Perez and the country of his birth.
Best and Worst Performers
Pepi won the window for the player who helped his stock the most, and his deft finish against El Salvador helped subdue a stubborn opponent. Eriq Zavaleta and Miles Robinson were the standout defenders in the match, while Alejandro Zendejas had a frustrating night for the US, and Roberto Dominguez had a momentary lapse in concentration, allowing Pepi to get away and score the game’s lone goal. Antonee Robinson struggled to connect on crosses and failed to combine well with Christian Pulisic.
Pepi’s goal against El Salvador made him the third-youngest player to reach six goals with the USMNT. Of those six goals, Pepi’s goal against El Salvador was his first as a substitute.
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