Antonee Robinson's Goal Leads USMNT Past El Salvador in 2022 World Cup QualifyingJanuary 28, 2022
You've read this script before. For 45 minutes, the United States men's national team came out flat and uninspired, only to look like a different team come the second half.
It's been the theme of World Cup qualifying for this group, and Thursday night's 1-0 win over El Salvador was the same story, as Antonee Robinson's 52nd-minute goal served as the difference between the teams.
Jeff Carlisle @JeffreyCarlisle
FT: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/usmnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#usmnt</a> 1-0 El Salvador: Not pretty - games against ES seldom are. I thought the U.S. could have managed the game better after Antonee Robinson's goal, but it was enough to get three massive points. On to Canada.
The result left the United States on 18 points, one ahead of Mexico and four points clear of Panama, which has a game in hand. Canada beat Honduras 2-0, which pushed it to 19 points.
With five matches to play, the Stars and Stripes find themselves in excellent position. In CONCACAF, however, there's never a safe moment to let down your guard.
The first half was a reminder of that, as the USMNT didn't deliver many chances outside of a stunning miss from Jesus Ferreira, who was a controversial selection as the No. 9.
That almost cost the United States dearly, as Alex Roldan came close to giving El Salvador the lead later in the half.
But the United States, as has become its calling card, looked a more vibrant side early in the second half, leading to Robinson's goal.
A number of players, including Ferreira, justified their selection. And some of the usual suspects came up large yet again:
Thursday night wasn't without its concerns. The slow starts remain an issue. More clinical teams than El Salvador will make the USMNT pay for sluggish openings. Manager Gregg Berhalter's halftime adjustments have been good throughout qualifying, but his opening tactics have been questionable.
A second goal in the second half to put the game away would have been nice from the USMNT's perspective too.
But most pressing was the poor form from captain Christian Pulisic. He did not put his best foot forward against El Salvador:
Pulisic has had a frustrating season with Chelsea, which was perhaps reflected in his play Thursday. But the USMNT needs the best version of its best player going forward.
He'll get his next chance Sunday in a massive matchup against Canada (3:05 p.m. ET). El Salvador will face Honduras that same day at 7:05 p.m. ET.