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USMNT steamrolls El Salvador to close out 2020 with six-goal romp


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It may not be New Year’s Eve yet, but the U.S. Men’s National Team just ended the year with quite the party.

The USMNT capped 2020 in emphatic fashion on Wednesday night, scoring a whopping five goals in an 11-minute span in the first half of a commanding 6-0 win over El Salvador in the friendly at Inter Miami CF Stadium

Chris Mueller led the way for the Americans in his USMNT debut, delivering two goals and an assist, while fellow newcomer Ayo Akinola also scored in his debut.

Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Brenden Aaronson also found the back of the net in a match that saw the USMNT improve its record vs. El Salvador to 17-1-5.

One of three USMNT starters making their debuts, Mueller opened his international account by bagging a brace with finishes in the 20th and 25th minutes. The Orlando City attacker’s first came off low strike from the top of the penalty area, and the second came off an impressive diving header at the back post.

Mueller also set up the first and fifth goals in the match, though he was only credited with an assist on the latter. The youngster cut a deflected ball back to Arriola for a cross-body finish that opened the scoring after 17 minutes, and teed up Akinola’s first international goal 10 minutes later.

Sandwiched in between those tallies and Mueller’s double was a classy 23rd-minute chip from Lletget, who got on the end of a through ball down the middle from Aaronson before lofting the ball over El Salvador goalkeeper Henry Hernandez.

Lletget and Aaronson combined again for a goal in the 50th minute, but this time it was the veteran who was the provider. Pulling off a filthy shimmy down the left to free himself of his mark, Lletget fed Aaronson in the middle for an open shot that ricocheted its way into the back of the net.

Playing in a 4-3-3 formation throughout the game, the Americans exploited wide areas create a number of their chances. They regularly hit diagonal passes or through balls into the spaces behind, a tactic that El Salvador struggled to find an answer for. The USMNT outshot the Salvadorans by a 22-3 margin.

The Central American nation, which was out-possessed by a 61-39 percent margin, had the game’s first look when Jose Diaz tested USMNT goalkeeper Bill Hamid with a shot from distance. That effort was not a sign of things to come, however, as the USMNT bossed much of the rest of the opening stanza on the way to posting the rout.


  1. This game didn’t really provide any significant insight into our player pool or how Berhaulter is going to use the player pool. While you can only play whos in front of you, El Salvador was just too weak of an opponent. There was no challenge or pressure of any kind.
    Next year there are going to be multiple competitions that will force us to rotate the players. However until we know what the Club & Competition schedules are going to be it’s hard to map out which players will go to which competitions.
    WCQ are the most important….so we need to insure the best players available are used.
    Gold Cup – Historically played during the summer. European season has ended but MLS is still playing. If this stays true to form than the bulk of the squad should come from Europe…but maybe give some of the known starters or those with injury history the time off (Brooks, Pulisic, Adams, etc…).
    Nations League – Doesn’t matter. Us the MLS players, fringe euro players (Green, Horvath), and U-23 players.
    Olympics – MLS & Liga MX age eligible players.

    • Berhalter has said NL will have first choice roster so that those players can then have the rest of the Summer to recover before league and WCQ start in Fall. Then Olympics (although clubs do not have to release) and then GC as third priority. All that might change as dates continue to get rearranged but that is how US Soccer is prioritizing.

  2. it is interesting this was a blowout and it makes you wonder whether some of the january camp 0-0 type games for a few recent years reflected diminished talent more than the supposed lack of chemistry from noobs. to me these sort of games are inherently grain of salt affairs. you scoop up the standout players and see if they can do it again a second or third time. if you fade into the background or look bad in this kind of game you should disappear from the pool. this was so lopsided several players produced and maybe one (Araujo) made gaffes. so maybe one player played themselves onto U23 this cycle. the rest i doubt his opinion changed much. if we’re playing again in january i am not sure what the point to the exercise was. i think many of these players deserved their looks in the january camps the last two years. i think rest was better advised. i am willing to indulge that he did finally run out several i have been asking for, but i think he could have done it next month with a more first choice MLS squad and a more serious opponent.

  3. Next Summer: NL Semis/Finals, Gold Cup, U20 EC, and Olympics. These two camps and the proposed camp in January are to build the depth needed for those events. Mission accomplished so far. Anyone not feel confident that last nights group + players from the 4 MLS semifinals couldn’t compete in the GC against anybody outside of Mexico’s Ateam which is unlikely to be brought to the GC?

    • response: why weren’t they called up in 19 or most of 20? he’s already had a gold cup where they could have played. he went weird and sent many of the kids to U23. like i am supposed to throw him a parade for at the last minute waking up? and before i organize the parade i want to see how he shuffles out his cards, whether he basically brings back most of the GC/NL 19 team when it’s first choice, or whether he learned from these 3 games. let’s revisit this when we know where he puts zardes roldan bradley guzan jozy back in this deck. if he as i have hoped iteratively freshens his team with the new superior talent, great. if this was a set of glorified U23 tryouts with senior bench mixed in, you may find his regression/reverting frustrating. this dynamism in a fair world should send a list of veteran players home as passe and superseded. the deal is, none of these games were first choice. you won’t know if he has extracted his head from the ground until you see if he integrates many players up, or if we instead see this was a bunch of olympians.

      • Get real! I get that you do not like GB. None of the new players were standouts in MLS in 2019. Mueller had a pretty pedestrian 2019, Akinola was scarcely lighting it up in 2019, Maybe McKenzie did well enough in 2019 and Aaronson was showing glimpses of what he could become, but to say they should have definitely been called in in early 2020 is Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst.

    • i also think it will be very important whether players end up sent to GC or olympics. the a team will likely be rested for GC. at least the leading players. due to fixture congestion in quali. the knock on some of the youth is experience. few caps. GC is several caps ready made with the senior team. he can choose to hand the caps to veteran players who lost the last GC or he can integrate young ones who are then more ready to participate in qualifying. i know a lot of people want to chase the olympics but if weah soto etc. go olympics then he basically renders them “useless” as senior players this cycle. if roldan gets another GC so weah can play Olympics, well, is that also the rank order when you need a depth player for the first choice 23? i think it slows down the roster churn process. personally i favor sending a true B team to GC and if there are a bunch of U23s on it, so be it. the olympics should only get the players not ready to help the senior team ie not b team level. in this busy year if you are b team worthy you graduate to senior soccer.

      • Imperative, I think thou doth protest too much and protest about many things that aren’t important. There are 2 competitions that really count next year. WC qualifying is absolutely vital, Olympic qualifying is nice. However GB arranges all the different teams, as long as we qualify for the WC, that’s really all that matters. Qualifying for the Olympics should happen, but not making the Olympics won’t be the calamity that not qualifying for the WC would be. Who plays in the GC really doesn’t matter. How GB divides up the players among the various teams is not really important outside of WC qualifying. Also, please try to limit your run on sentences so your posts are more easily read.

    • I think the GC will be a B level tournament this year because anyone in the NL semis and the Ocho will need to rest players. This means the Olympics will actually be better competition and because Americans outside of the soccer world actually care about the Olympics it will be more pressure to perform as well.
      I don’t think it’s particularly fair to say Player A played this way at the end of 2020 so they would have played the same 18 months earlier in 2019 GC. When you saw McKenzie at U20 WC did you think let’s fly him to the GC? Most of the young guys on the roster last night have made big improvements in the last 9-12 months. Berhalter had clearly planned on having all of 2020 to sort out his roster, so if you want to criticize him for not predicting the largest global pandemic in 80 years ok fair enough.

  4. it’s interesting where i spent 2019 arguing he should play the kids instead of his roldan mihailovic lovitz trapp weirdness and got grief about it. but we should play to win, etc. now everyone is like gaga over them after these three games. and we didn’t have to lose games to try them. the margins increased and we looked better.

    welcome to the bandwagon.

  5. I think it was a good team effort and a good result. I just don’t see any of these players contributing for this cycle. Long and Zimmerman maybe but there was a definite lack of skill showed in almost every position compared to the last games. Brendon played good but whose spot would he take if yusah choses the US or who’s spot does Mueller take if everyone is healthy. It’s a good sign for depth in case its needed, which it will probably be needed. I wish there could be a camp just between the last 2 camps of players to see where they are at.

    • I hear what you’re saying, but a lot of these players are very young. 2 years is a long time to improve and find a role in the team. Perhaps none really break into the starting 11, but they could still have a very impactful role off the bench or in the odd start during qualification. I have a distinct memory of Conor Casey scoring some important qualifying goals for us despite never really being a contender to even make the final 23 man squad.

    • You need to remember we roster 23 people and not just the best 5 or the starting 11. You also need to remember you are dealing with Berhalter who has a skewed idea of talent. Soto had a brace in the Panama game in 10 minutes and was a sub again. I would pay more attention to who started this game (and the others) as that reflects his favorites he gives the lion’s share of minutes. So I see Long starting, Hamid and Arriola as bench options, yesterday’s midfielders as bench options, and Mueller fighting for forward time. I don’t think Berhalter is that bright so I would not assume that the stronger looking game players from last month are actually treated as superior. I think he decides a lot of this in his head and if he likes Yueill or Aaronson or Ream I don’t think it matters how the games went. I think you see who he likes from who he starts. I think they would have to string several bad games and be a subject of open press discussion a la Bradley before he’d even wake up that he was being silly.
      I also think re Mueller people need to realize the sheer depth at these positions. We just scored all these goals and Sargent Pulisic Morris didn’t even kick a game ball.

  6. – El Salvador lived up to expectations. There was a time we needed the first team to ensure a win. Not anymore.
    – I favored putting Akinola on the wing when Soto came on. Can he develop into a speedy winger? Worth a shot.
    – It was good to see the quick passing in tight spaces. That is what GB is looking for.
    – Despite his one defensive blunder, Arujo looked good. I liked the transitioning to offense, another trait GB favors.

  7. There are no positives about this game. Total waste of time for everybody. We learned NOTHING and would have been better off playing some U19 club team or even splitting the team in half and just scrimmaged. I guess GB gets one in the win column but it was a terrible, terrible game

    • LOL. A waste of time like you posting. You are no different than the game.

      Don’t worry. I understand…u r giving the smart, critical, professional review.

      I’m sure some pro somewhere will read this, seek. u out get u hired, your obvious genius will shine through and u will be running thing ssoon. Classic internet fool.

  8. Can’t agree more! Thank you! IMO, the ball handling and quality of play showed signs of drop-off after the hour mark when the subs started to come on in the 2nd half. For the benefit of doubt, maybe the USMNT have eased off on the gas paddle having led by 6-0, but I doubted because the subs also wanted to impress.

    • The score flatters us. They had a couple defenders not doing their job, we reamed that for 5 goals in 10 minutes, they subbed them, gave up 1 goal the rest of the game that was deflected. This is actually a pattern. Panama the first three were within about 8 minutes at about the same part of the first half and then nothing for 57 minutes, then another flurry after subs.

      • In the 7-0 Cuba game they had 4 goals in 13 minutes, couple more in a flurry late first half, one goal the second half. You reach for the record books and then they stall out. At least one explanation is the goal flurries are exploits we scout off tape and if the other team adjusts we don’t have as easy of answers anymore. Cuba they went after the left back. This time it was a right back and one of the marking backs. Cuba adjusted, ES subbed. You might get one goal off a good team from scouting before they fix it. There need to be plans B and C.

  9. In such a lopside3d win with an outmatched opponent, it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions. I’ll make some anyway. Despite a lot of doubt by fans, Arriola justified his selection and start. Mueller looks like a player who should get a shot at tougher competition. I thought Akinola was unimpressive. Jackson Yuell may be one of the best long passers from deep I’ve ever seen for the US. The first 30 minutes was some of the best passing and team play for the US that I can remember seeing from a group of MLS based US players. Admittedly El Salvador wasn’t much of a test, but I can remember in the past when the US couldn’t handle pressing from teams like El Salvador. Those days are over, thank God.

    • What does Arriola showing well prove? That he and Konrad are fighting for backup to Pulisic? I could have told you that before the game. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t seen Arriola’s NT stats. At best it showed he’s back from the knee, that he’s not a “Holden” or “O’Brien” problem. Otherwise he is a forgotten former graduate of the YNT pipeline who produces for the team and basically gets grief because he played in Tijuana and MLS instead of Europe. I thought we learned more from Mueller, Yueill, Aaronson, newer players. I will say that the degree to which we tailed off in the second half raises some questions — and I mean before the subs. Eg I liked first half Araujo but thought second half Araujo was the ES offense. The fact we rolled them for a period but couldn’t hurt them much after the backline subs makes me wonder. But then the whole idea on these kinds of games is identify a few standouts and then feed them back into the first team and see where they fit and if they can repeat it again. The game was so lopsided the only player who hurt himself was Araujo.

      • I don’t think we “learned” anything new about Mueller, Yuell or Aaronson. All 3 were exciting young players who were influential on their respective MLS teams. That they showed well against El Salvadore was hardly a surprise. Of the 3, I thought Aaronson was the least effective, mostly because he did not seem to find good spots as consistently as he did for the Union. Still they all showed the skill and competitiveness they have demonstrated all year.

        I think, in a game like this, nothing is learned about the defenders, save for which might be subject to “turning off” or making poor passes. So Araujo showed he was young and made a bad, unpressured pass; but he is young so time will tell on that front. I suspect even he will get another chance in January, but whether he will start then is questionable.

      • Regarding Arriola I was referring to his return from injury and the fact that he had hardly played at all in 2020. I thought he would be a lot more rusty than he showed. I also thought he looked better than before his injury, but that’s hard to judge for sure.

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