By Official Florida FC
The United States men’s national team kicked off its FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a scoreless draw against El Salvador in San Salvador on Thursday night.
Miami native Konrad de la Fuente was in the starting XI for the USMNT on the left wing of a 4-3-3 system. de la Fuente played 64 minutes and created a handful of chances either through winning set pieces or direct running, but the Americans could not conjure a goal.
The USMNT (0-0-1, 1 point) is tied for second following the first round of matches in the CONCACAF Octagonal. The Americans host Canada on Sunday and travel to Honduras on Sept. 8.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
The Olympique Marseille winger was fouled twice but only completed 63% of his passes. He earned a free kick in the seventh minute that created arguably the USMNT’s best chance of the game.
Gio Reyna’s corresponding free kick was headed over the bar by Miles Robinson. Konrad and Reyna switched wings to start the second half and the latter was more effective on the left than he did in the first half.
For a 20-year-old who was playing in his first competitive international match, it was a solid shift for the only Floridian in the squad.
Tyler Adams captained the USMNT in his first start for the Americans since November 2020. He was joined in midfield by Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson. Adams was the most withdrawn of the three.
Too often there were gaps of 10 to 15 yards between the two No. 8’s and Adams. El Salvador exploited those gaps to control possession in the middle of the field. El Salvador wound up with 51 percent possession on the night; but, the hosts appeared the more likely team for an hour-long stretch starting in the 15th minute.
That El Salvador didn’t turn its possession into chances to truly trouble USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner was a testament to Adams harrying anyone with the ball on the edge of the final third and McKennie’s tireless running in the middle of the pitch.
Who is going to score?
Josh Sargent started the match at center forward for the USMNT. The 21-year-old had two as-good-as-it-gets-on-the-road-in-CONCACAF chances and didn’t put either away.
Sargent had a side volley from 16 yards away in the 45th minute and couldn’t keep the shot on frame. In the 50th minute, McKennie’s driving run into the teeth of the El Salvador defense created a space for Sargent to shoot. His effort was parried away by El Salvador goalie Mario Gonzalez for a corner kick.
Per Tru Media Sports’ Paul Carr, the USMNT had a 1.68 xG in Thursday’s match. Meanwhile, El Salvador managed 0.29 expected goals. The USMNT may be unbeaten in its last 11 competitive matches; but that streak will not last much longer if its center forwards do not start finishing the chances they have.
Jordan Pefok came on in the 64th minute for Sargent. Either Pefok should get a chance to lead the line for the first time in his USMNT career in Sunday’s qualifier against Canada, or manager Gregg Berhalter should give 18-year-old dynamo Ricardo Pepi a chance to do what he’s done at every level: score goals.