The U.S. men’s national team went into Thursday’s World Cup qualifying opener with the ambitious goal of taking nine points from the three September qualifiers, and the Americans were reminded that Concacaf qualifying is always a challenge.
The USMNT settled for a 0-0 draw in San Salvador on a night with few clear chances for either side.
Kellyn Acosta had one of the chances, but saw his goal-bound header kept out by a strong save from El Salvador goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez.
On a night when the USMNT started nine players making their World Cup qualifying debut, Gregg Berhalter’s team stood up well to El Salvador’s physical play in the first half, but couldn’t generate much of an attacking threat.
The second half saw more chances for the Americans, but they managed just two shots on goal on a night when they outshot El Salvador 12-7.
The U.S. defense held up well, with Matt Turner only being called on to make one save on the night, as Tim Ream and Miles Robinson formed a solid partnership in central defense to help Turner post his seventh shutout in eight USMNT matches, though Thursday was the first time he failed to win.
Ream started in place of a healthy John Brooks, who was presumably being saved for Sunday’s important clash with Canada, a team that boasts a far more potent collection of forwards than El Salvador.
It was a forgettable night for the attack, with Josh Sargent going another match without a goal, Brenden Aaronson struggling to make his mark and Konrad De La Fuente delivering a quiet performance.
The Americans return to the United States to take on a Canada side that opened its World Cup qualifying final-round campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Honduras.