Antonee Robinson's Goal Leads USMNT Past El Salvador in 2022 World Cup Qualifying

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 28, 2022

United States' Antonee Robinson (5) celebrates his goal with Weston McKennie (8) and Chris Richards (15) during the second half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match against El Salvador, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

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. 


ANTONEE ROBINSON WITH THE BREAKTHROUGH FOR THE USMNT 🇺🇸 <a href="https://t.co/ybatzdZaGj">pic.twitter.com/ybatzdZaGj</a>

Jeff Carlisle @JeffreyCarlisle

FT: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/usmnt?src=hash&amp;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.

Nancy Armour @nrarmour

Not the prettiest win for the USMNT but a big one nonetheless. Next up: Canada.

Brian Sciaretta @BrianSciaretta

3 points is 3 points. The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USMNT</a> remains in strong position in World Cup qualifying.

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. 


Jesus Ferreira misses a golden chance 😯 <a href="https://t.co/T2OflF56fs">pic.twitter.com/T2OflF56fs</a>

That almost cost the United States dearly, as Alex Roldan came close to giving El Salvador the lead later in the half. 


El Salvador come close 👀 <a href="https://t.co/E9TvWVdfVv">pic.twitter.com/E9TvWVdfVv</a>

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:

Maximiliano Bretos @MaxBretosSports

Jesus Ferreira moved closer into the USMNT inner circle tonight. Has to take his chances, but was excellent first 15/20 of 2nd half.

Leander Schaerlaeckens @LeanderAlphabet

Tyler Adams has been enormous. Again. He creates so much freedom for others. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USMNT</a>

Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves

GOAL <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USMNT</a> !!! And it's Antonee Robinson!!!!<br><br>Told y'all he was going to have a big window, and he delivers a BIG goal to open the scoring.<br><br>1-0 USA, 53rd minute.

Kim McCauley @lgbtqfc

the USMNT spent so many years looking very poor in defensive transition, but they look so secure with Adams-Musah-McKennie. Apologies if this tweet leads directly to them conceding on the counter.

Alexi Lalas @AlexiLalas

Weston McKennie. Best player on the field. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USAvSLV?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USAvSLV</a> 🇺🇸⚽️

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:

Stu Holden @stuholden

Look at Pulisic avg position here. Too far inside, makes it predictable and is where El Salvador have numbers- especially when USMNT aren’t playing quickly. <a href="https://t.co/dw7F4wuJRH">https://t.co/dw7F4wuJRH</a>

Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves

Christian Pulisic leaves in the 65th minute. Not a great night for him, you can tell the rhythm isn't there in his game, and his recent lack of time + positional moves at Chelsea have hurt his form.<br><br>Still 1-0 USA, 66th minute.

Men in Blazers @MenInBlazers

Honest truth with Pulisic is that he is suffering with his club, and has returned to his international team and felt the need to force it. Huge test for Berhalter and his man management over the course of the 3-game window

Will Parchman @WillParchman

Ferreira is the 10th different striker Pulisic has played with in 42 caps. He has to take ownership of his play but if he looks routinely uncomfortable with his forwards I think there’s a deeper strategic reason why.

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.