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USMNT defeats El Salvador to reach Concacaf Nations League Finals


The U.S. men’s national team was ineffective in front of goal for the opening 60 minutes of Monday’s Concacaf Nations League showdown with El Salvador, but a key substitute off the bench would play the hero for the Americans.

Ricardo Pepi came off the bench and delivered the winning goal in a 1-0 triumph over Hugo Perez’s squad at Exploria Stadium. Monday’s victory guaranteed the Americans a spot into June’s CNL semifinal around and clinched top spot in Group D of League A.

The USMNT were put under early pressure from La Selecta in the opening minute as Jairo Hernandez’s shot deflected just wide of the right post.

Gio Reyna tested his luck from long-range in the 29th minute but Mario Gonzalez dove to his right to deny the Borussia Dortmund attacker. Reyna’s shot was the Americans first true offensive opportunity after being held in check for most of the first half.

Weston McKennie was left wide open at the back post in first-half stoppage time, but sent his free header wide of Gonzalez’s right post.

The USMNT came out with added pressure to start the second half as Reyna’s shot in the 47th minute hit the left post.

Ricardo Pepi came on in the 60th minute for Daryl Dike and needed only one minute to make an instant impact. Weston McKennie’s through ball pass allowed Pepi to get behind the El Salvador backline before the in-form forward chipped Gonzalez for a 1-0 lead.

It marked Pepi’s third goal in the March window for the USMNT.

The Americans tried to ice the victory but were unable to beat Gonzalez for a second time. Pepi and Brenden Aaronson both missed offensive chances before Gonzalez sprawled to repel Pepi’s close-range volley in the 85th minute.

Anthony Hudson’s squad would hang on to claim a second-consecutive victory in competitive action this year.

The USMNT will be back in action this April as it faces rivals Mexico in the Continental Classic in Glendale, Arizona.


  1. A possible April Roster
    Celantano, Johnson
    Jones, Tolkin, Moore, Wiley
    Glad, Zimmerman, MRob, Gressell
    T.Tillman, Bassett, Williamson, AMorris, Acosta, Ledezma, APerea, Zendajas, Morris, Vazquez, Ferreira, Ebobisse, Giaocchini

    • i like tolkin, nico, vazquez, ledezma, tillman, williamson, jones, and celentano.

      give the just-achilles-ed miles a window off. is there any doubt at all where he fits? ferreira and moore are known as well. you keep mentioning “floors” but i would think someone who coached these same guys in previous years already has a pretty definite opinion how they rate. do they really need to call them to remind themselves to know how to compare. how about looking at someone else.

      i don’t get how yedlin (29) and arriola/morris (28) are seen as ready for pasture on age — which i buy — but johnson (33) and gressel/zimmermann (29) are ok. the idea especially in a B game is ID people we can use in 3 years. i don’t care so much about chasing a game “next week” by using people i can’t in the world cup in 3 years. (same thought on ream.)

      i don’t get how NT performance doesn’t seem to matter (ebobisse, zimmermann, and AMorris).

      is it something cowell did?

      you gonna mention the geniuses set us up to play mexico twice in a row, maybe 3 times in a few months by when GC is over? i mean we might factor in we see them again in a couple months in a tournament and might want to sandbag and evaluate as opposed to telegraph everything. but then we have to beat mexico at all costs.

      • I’d have no problem if MRob was left at home, but I watch a lot of MLS just not a lot of guys ready for NT, my guess was is Long would replace him. With it being a fly In Sunday and out Thursday am I don’t think it serves anyone to bring all untested players. As for JBo, and Aiden they’ve had very limited opportunities so too early to cut bait on, and JBo was used as a wing not a striker. Cowell is good at running he’s mediocre at soccer, but I’d guess he’ll be there. I don’t think they’ll be much carryover between US/Mexico matches, they’ll be pretty different rosters for all 3 for both sides. Likely different managers for US and maybe Mexico given their poor performance last week.

  2. I think you will see some young players from MLS for that Mexico game next month.

    Won’t be surprised to see Noel Buck, Caleb Wiley, and some other u20’s called in for that game.

    • They’ll arrive Sunday and play Wednesday. I don’t think you’ll see too many first timers and certainly not many teenage first timers. That’s just a terrible situation to put a 17 yr old in, two days training then into a rivalry game in front of 45,000 screaming pro-Mexican fans. Might see a couple come to train so Varas can work with them but not see the field if they’re on the bubble. The guys going to U20 WC also have a very busy May so might also want to rest them.

    • if they have a brain they leave the U20s be since they have their own imminent summer tournament that is a schedule conflict for the A team Nations League. you could adore them vs mexico and you can’t play them NT this summer.
      the U20 path to the NT is usually to get their chance in the fall once (a) we see who plays well at U20 and (b) they get rest.

      exception to me is we have figured out someone is the next pulisic/reyna/donovan/beasley/mckennie. some players we just graduate out of U20 to senior even though they are age eligible. but if you wanted to do that they should already have been capped this year to evaluate whether they are that good.

  3. Had to figure hit was coming. Hugo and El Salvador did what they always seem to against us. He’s a very adept manager, knows our style of play and players intimately and knows exactly how to counter our strengths and take advantage of our weaknesses. Big however as I see it. If the end goal was to slow us down- frustrate us- mission accomplished. If the end goal was for El Salvador was to advance… not sure how that was likely to happen. Kicking grabbing, time wasting with little threat looked like playing for a tie when they needed a win. We scored and nothing changed. Makes no sense. Even very late they did the same. At some point- you’ve got to play for more than a moral victory. I’d be pissed if I was an El Salvador fan. As a US fan, was lackluster, pretty frustrating to watch but being honest- I can’t say I was particularly nervous at any point we weren’t going to get at least a tie- advance.

    • he showed some glimpses, but I don’t think he’s quite ready to be a consistent contributor. He seemed off the pace in both games and his crossing(outside of the chance to Pepi late in the ES game)left a lot to be desired, but I know he’ll get there. He is still behind CP, Weah, Aaronson and Zendejas for me, but should definitely be a consistent call up

    • sorry but how is a winger whacking crosses in the stands any better than lynden gooch who hasn’t been seen again. he also dithered on a 2v1 that fizzled out. i’d rather see musah tried wide, or zendejas, or ledezma who can hit some service. the final product is all-important.

      personally i think we will in retrospect, if adams is out for a while, regret not auditioning him to play centrally while we had a chance. which is where his best work this year is.

      • You’re reading to much into the abbreviation on the match lists. He either plays as a W when they run the 4-2-3-1 (like US used this window) or as the RM in the 4-4-2 Diamond. I don’t know why transfermkt lists that as a CM and not a RM but if you look at his heat maps for those matches of where he actually was he’s in the channel or wider and definitely not deep like our dual 6s were sitting. He’s really played all over the midfield and even as a RB so he could be successful in those spots but in his first camp play him where he plays for his club in the same formation and is comfortable.

  4. I thought the USA looked like a pick-up team. A talented one, but one wherein only a few knew how to play together. I think that will be a recurring theme until a coach is named who imposes a bit more order, without quashing the creativity. It looked like Zendajas, Pulisic, Aaronson wanted to combine but it just was not yet natural. Robinson, should know how to play with Pulisic (and did better with him than with Reyna, but it still needs work). Similarly a lot of the combination play broke down because teammates did not anticipate each other. (The notable exception was the McKinnie to Pepi pass, but that is one of those plays that happen from time-to-time even in pickup games, but it was a great pass.)
    My pet peeve with McKinnie is that he makes too many unforced bad passes, he really needs to clean that up.

    • i generally agree mckennie gives the ball away too much but as someone who once hit about a 70 yard version of that pass for a similar assist, it’s not an accident or kickaround stuff. he’s not just threading it vertically, that pass has a little swerve. hitting a player far downfield with a swerving lead pass is not amateur stuff.

      personally i think weston needs some sort of athletic counter scheme where we don’t obsess about possession but instead look to defend then hit home runs like that (where we indulge the bad passes) — or he becomes a bench player or someone who should play higher upfield in a possession scheme. cause most of the time he’s a box poacher who hits the odd pretty pass. that’s not really an AM if you want to possess. but then i think half GB’s problem is trying possession soccer without possession players. he has his baby pep ideas over here and then his all star team called for form streaks over there. the two rarely meet up.

  5. i thought we needed the most work in the back and hudson’s selection and usage didn’t really kick that process much down the field. he used ream for the tougher game which meant we don’t know if trusty hacks it. likewise scally played grenada and watched tonight. can scally hack serious? the net effect is to protect tonight’s starters and channel trusty, scally, and anyone else towards the bench. miles gets his job back, but this does not shock. the only question is if i have to watch 35 year old ream ahead of richards this summer to prove some point i do not get.

    if you think the default wingbacks are shaky or we need to move past ream the orthodoxy wasn’t challenged. we will see fresh faces in the april mexico camp and gold cup but not likely with the first choice NL tournament team. i think scally and trusty might make the team as subs but i am curious if this dingbat will prefer ream over richards. ream who hit a few passes right to white, fwiw.

    i’d expect this coach to go 10 with two 6s which helps reyna and hurts musah, assuming adams is healthy. if i was musah i’d see the danger and be reminding the coach i can play wing. aaronson hasn’t been very effective.

    • Richards will take care of itself when he is consistently playing, and no offense, but if he’s not playing matches for CP he’s only a bench option for me, and should be relegated to friendlies. Ream, given his age, will be rested in my opinion this summer for the GC, but will be on the roster for the NL semifinal. I too would love to see Robinson and Trusty paired together, as I think that could be a awesome future pairing, throw Richards into that fray as well!

      • you’re too concerned with club form. richards is a better defender, period. ream starts getting exposed in precisely the sort of games you are eager to put him in, and worse, this whole exercise is useless for 2026. the idea right now is not to just win tourneys for the heck of it with people we can’t use in a year or 3. the idea is to be building the team we will use in 2026. to that end ream is a waste and i expect whoever gets hired in september to pasture him, as they have no self-interest in sitting the people they will need to rely on in 2026. vs. hudson has an interest in squeezing out wins now to try and stay employed. even if we can’t use the people he focuses on.

        standard US soccer practice is pasture the old farts — bradley got it to start last cycle before being brought back. the exceptions like sticking with jermaine jones or beckermann another cycle generally blow up in our face. and what happens then is you’re halfway into a cycle and haven’t tried the replacements much. and then you have no midfield and you don’t qualify. the thinking approach is evaluate who the CB pair of the future is, now.

        last, ream gave the ball away a bunch last night, and has been exposed by good teams like switzerland. he had a solid world cup but i think people are pushing a myth. as recently as 2015 or so i would have said he was part of fulham’s problems and he was shoved aside on the NT.

      • It’s a waste of time to be building a team for 2026 now. You should at best be building the team for Copa America 2024. Guys improve, guys get hurt, new players emerge, players make bad moves and lose form from not playing.

  6. i don’t know if it was from flipping the CM triangle to a 10 and two 6s but i liked that we were playing more throughballs between the backs instead of whacking crosses from the flags. i thought that mckennie pass was glorious and the sort of thing i am talking about when i prefer a well taken 3 pass goal to what i see as cutesy 25 pass toying builds from the keeper up. the US needs directness and i think asking who can create such quick strike goals is clarifying about which attackers are worthwhile or not. to me the keepaway crap we do — as we saw at the end of the game — is best at killing clock at the end of a result as opposed to a 90′ game concept.

    and when we get weah back he can get around the flank.

    i thought 1-0 on ES at home was underwhelming and hope this ends the hudson whispers and berhalter ball comes to a close in september.

  7. This has been a grueling season for many of our players when you think about some of the match congestion for club, the WC, and the injuries we’ve had to key players. It can be difficult to get hyped for this type of game/opponent. Reyna, Booth, Miles, & Pepi were up for it as they are trying to either change the WC Narrative (Reyna); Prove a point that they’re back (Miles); Prove that they should have been at the WC (Pepi), or trying to show they belong in the pool (Booth).
    In general I’ve been pleased with the wide attackers this camp. They’ve all done well creating opportunities and were engaged. The midfield has been a little stagnant. Not sure if it’s due to Adams being absent or that they’re just warn out from the season. The defense has looked pretty good, but I credit most of that to the opponents we played, more than the players.
    I hope we’ll see most of these guys as part of the Gold Cup squad, as I truly think we need as many games with our core players as possible. Add Weah, Adams, Richards…drop Senora, Mihailovic, & Ream (give grandpa the summer off). No reason to waste any more time with Roldan, Arriola, and Morris…..Or any of the other guys we’ll see against Mexico in a month.

    • i think it would have been more useful to see musah wide, konrad, ledezma, aaronson, and zendejas if you want. arriola and morris are ageing out. pulisic, reyna, and weah to me are too obvious. musah may be bench for this summer under this coach when adams comes back. i thought the coach bet heavily on zendejas and and booth and the latter is not ready and the former didn’t play so well tonight he should have basically been handed his role. to me one of the flaws of GB and his staff is they seem to like to pick winners off paper rather than pit candidates against each other and let their play decide it. he handed dike the marquee game and he sucked and revived pepi. zendejas reverted.

      the A team is only going to play 2 or 3 summer games so that is poorly designed for position competition.

      • not happening bro, the U-20’s have a WC to worry about in a few months time. The Mexico friendly will be primarily MLSers, as it should be

      • Just lost to England and France U20s with the Euro based guys and tied Serbia. They aren’t going to compete MLS based U20s vs North American based El Tri.

  8. A bit disappointed again with the continued lack of fans not filling these stadiums. I get it it’s a Monday night, but the USMNT should be able to fill a 25000 seat stadium.

    Players have stated before that it’s kind of energy sapping seeing a stadium not filled to capacity with home fans. First half you could tell that the players and the stadium was low energy.

    • i thought the low energy had more to do with the mileage on the starters’ legs and tentative berhalter ball. they looked a little tired and leggy. i generally do not believe the correct couva lesson has been learned.

      i was more cranky about the site choice because you’re playing a tropical team in a hot tropical site. i wouldn’t have sent them to minneapolis again but i would have chilled them a little which would be comfortable for our europe based.

      i assume the site was driven by travel time but i would have called more people and made at least grenada if not both more of a tryout. that way you can rest most or all of the ES unit where flights are less a concern.

      • He did start 7 new guys although the 3 should be the guys running the offense. I think he was hoping for another early goal and then ES has to really open up and then we can crush them with 2 or 3 in the first half, take out the stars and move on.

      • There really wasn’t any reason to bring in hi mileage players at all. These games were practically meaningless and there are plenty of players that couls have provided enough energy and have enough skill to beat Grenada and probably do as good a job against El Salavador. I am just happy nobody got hurt, although Weston was holding his groin so we will see if he suits up for Leeds or if any other players don’t dress this coming weekend.

      • JR: most of the productive engine of the team was on their second straight start and the guys who came off the bench grenada all started or subbed again tonight. like the goal scorer is coming off the bench from starter minutes the other night.

        i thought he weakened his chances tonight and then we didn’t even get to see mihailovic play. again. and a few of his favorites i either didn’t see what he saw either game or just in the stilted grenada contest.

        re booth i am curious how close he read the game logs because booth was productive centrally. he played wide recently but hasn’t done much which has to be considered in an eredivisie context where goals grow on trees. LDLT got bullied by grenada — though he killed the game well tonight — and johnny underwhelmed. so why not play booth at a natural slot.

    • Tickets to live sporting events are expensive. TV isn’t free but if you paid for FUBO already then the added cost is zero. Given that the USA is qualified for the world cup it might be difficult filling stadiums in the foreseeable future because most mean very little to nothing.

      • I kind of understand that but I really don’t like that. It’s our national team. You may never get to see the national team live for years.

  9. Good: Reyna, Pepi, Booth, Miles
    Hmm: Zendajas, Musah
    Bad: no one
    -I really liked Booth’s energy. His passing was much better this time (less nervous).
    -Zendajas I think is a much better candidate to backup Pulisic on the left than Weah on right. Looked much smoother when he was cutting in on his right instead of his left.
    -Musah looked like a guy weighed down by the relagation battle. Didn’t seem to have the joy he normally plays with. Also noticed training offering him banana in the first half so maybe was working through something. More active in the 2nd half.

    • i thought pepi, miles, and scally were the best of the “non-qataris,” none of those is a shock, and dingbat sat scally all night. johnny didn’t really leave any impression which was disappointing as i thought he had the mentality and tools to make a 6 case. i thought booth and dike looked out of their depth and zendejas, while hustling, looked tentative and more like his first window — when he had more serious opposition like tonight.

      i don’t know how on earth you thought that went well for booth. you would hand him the ball in acres of space with one man to pass around and he’d find a way to help their guy defend both of them. you would hand him the ball and he’d cross it in the stands. but i assume he will get a chance in one of the summer events though maybe with the B unit if he’s been evaluated accurately.

      reyna played better tonight — maybe he just didn’t care the other night — which will solidify his situation through the summer. the coach also seems to be flipping the triangle to have a 10 with dual 6s instead of two 8s and adams, and to be willing to use reyna (and zendejas) centrally.

      aaronson hustled around on a couple defensive plays but to me has been muted since before the world cup. not as much of a creative force.

      musah kind of disappeared both games, i think because in hudson’s concept he gets turned into a 6 instead of an 8.

      they got their wins to dual-qualify for the summer but i thought it was largely a waste in terms of identifying new help, effectively a conservative exercise. we learned miles should start, wow. we learned pepi should be in the striker pool, wow. having ream around didn’t help identify an appropriate age CB pool. when the starters lost in the round of 16 and can only beat ES 1-0 is not a comfortable time to be standing pat and doing limited trials.

      • I think you’ve got to establish the floor. We know there is no one out there that’s going to swing that pendulum at this point. If there is someone that can move through the Netherlands they’re doing in their club, sorry it’s just the way it is. If you can dice them up your not a part time starter at Furth or the bottom of the Championship. Did we identify some guys that are better than the 2022 floor (Roldan, Arriola, Morris, Long)? I think tentatively but Tyler Boyd and Gianluca Busio looked to be raising the floor last cycle. I think Trusty, Zendajas, Luca showed their better than those guys I listed above. Booth tonight I thought was a lot better on the ball, did he lose it some, yes but he often won it back and he had a couple balls into the box that almost ended in something. After awhile I started to think it was the plan to hit the corners long because both Booth and Pulisic constantly hit them well over but no one was ever there to head it back across. Booth was just from injury so I’ll cut him slack for rust. I think we can both agree Jedi has no idea how to leave space for his Wings to operate. I don’t have a problem with Ream if Richards back is bothering him still as was reported. CCV apparently has a slight knee injury he was resting and EPB is just not all that good. Look at the top Euro teams most played nearly full strength rosters against teams like Luxembourg and Estonia. Selfishly the guy I would have liked to see would have been Tessmann. I can watch Johnny in Brazil I can’t find SerieB anywhere.

  10. I’m not happy about the fact that the game was 35 to 40 mi8nutes old before the US begin to get close to playing with the same intensity and effort that El Salvador was showing. This was not a friendly. My other favorite spectator sport is college basketball. And I’ve been watching the NCAA tournament and the college players show much greater effort and desire than our professional soccer players. More specifically, very few of our crosses or our corner kicks were even halfway decent. At times they would make good passes or do a good job of taking the ball away and then make an unforced error on a simple pass. This team really needs to step up their game to meet their potential.

    • I wonder if some of that is trying to defend in a midblock we were confused as to when and where to pressure. Somewhere I read a quote from Hudson and he said something along the lines of Perez always changes something so perhaps we weren’t ready for how they were set up and had to adjust. Might also be they had to win so they have to be more aggressive. Hugo gets that group organized and gets them to follow the plan. The two younger Gil brothers were dangerous they could be a handful as they develop in Colombia.

      • Yea I think that’s it, looked like Hugo had us read pretty well and set his team up nicely.. Frustrated us but knew eventually we’d break them down and then just cross your fingers…
        The double sub was at a perfect time I thought zendejas and dike didn’t work… This game fit Papi so much better.
        I’m glad he gave dike the start in otown but I think pepi would have been able to also drop into space and combine with gio and the wings and we coulda broken them down earlier

      • If you look hard enough, you can always find excuses for anything. For me, there is no excuse for lack of effort.

      • There are apparently some rumblings that he’s on the hot seat. The last manager they were in NL B Groups so they ran up a lot of blow out wins against minnows. Hugo took over and now instead of the St. Kitts they’re playing the USA. Team has looked good but not a consistent offensive force that can push them over the line. I think there’s probably a little he’s not really Salvadoran because he lived so long in US. I believe there was some grumblings about Roldan and Zavaleta and they were out of the squad for awhile because of their federation.

    • i thought they simply looked tired. berhalter rotated the unit well between cuba and canada last NL group but other than that, this regime has generally imitated arena’s couva mistake in terms of putting miles on legs before a key final fixture. i thought the team perked up when the subs went on though they were lower quality.

      • How come El Salvador had more energy? Didn’t they play against Honduras on the West Coast? They probably had farther to travel than the US did from Grenada to Orlando. Also, the US started 7 different players from the last game. And we have nothing but younger players, except for Ream, who should be in the best shape of their lives. As I wrote elsewhere, I also follow college basketball. In college conference tournaments, many teams play 3 games in 3 days, some even 4 games in 4 days. By the third game, play suffers, but most teams can handle two games in two days okay.

      • Gary you recognize a basketball court is smaller than the 18 yard box right? And 40 minutes is less than half of 90. Average distance run in an NBA game is 2 miles average in pro soccer 5 miles. Your right though the energy level to start wasn’t good enough no matter the reason.

    • “I’m not happy about the fact that the game was 35 to 40 mi8nutes old before the US begin to get close to playing with the same intensity and effort that El Salvador was showing. ”

      Then it’s a good thing the games are 90 minutes isn’t it? Did El Salvador score when they were more intense than the US? No. they did not.

      Their intensity and effort was wasted. They couldn’t even get one point. They have far more to be unhappy about than you.

      Your country just got six points out of two Nations League games and was never seriously threatened.

      For games like this where the other team does not belong on the same field with your team, full points is the best you can hope for.

      You want this team to meet it’s potential? Then winning every game it plays in this tournament, however they do that, means it gets to play more tournament games.

      However slightly, that increases the possibility that the team will meet its potential. You can’t do that by getting knocked out of a tournament and not playing.

  11. Both the Nations League & Gold Cup this summer..nice work gents

    – Really good to see Miles Robinson back on the pitch. You cannot underestimate the speed and athleticism he brings to the game. Both him and Trusty showed a lot of promise in these games.
    – What a difference with Reyna’s game when handed good field conditions.
    – Booth has earned another callup this summer. This 2nd game was an improvement and he’s still young.
    – It’ll definitely be an interesting transfer market this summer.

    • I wasn’t sure how good the Field conditions were after the first half. Had trouble just receiving the ball numerous times.
      The only thing that worried me about Gio today was the one interaction when Gio wanted Jedi to play the ball ahead to him on the wing but Jedi crossed it. You could tell that there was an exchange between the two. You could only see Robinson but Jedi didn’t look happy about it. Probably nothing. I thought Gio was much more involved getting on the ball and connecting with teammates.

      • i’ve made my dollar waiting on a dime argument before, that one of my beefs with berhalter’s wingback obsession is it comes at the expense of feeding the attacking wings more and letting them isolate in space. i want the specialist wings getting most of these balls and the wingbacks picking and choosing when the overlap is on.

        as a defender i would have preferred reyna make a wider chalk run where the pass is more diagonal and away from their back. but i also thought it was selfish to not use the 2v1 to play reyna behind their line once he’d effectively cut off where jedi meant to go.

        to me that whole sequence should be more scripted but based on the first 135′ of the weekend i don’t know if reyna didn’t practice more in the middle. i thought he swapped zendejas and reyna second half.

        i do not see our wing play as optimized AT ALL. it says something when pulisic just taking his man on is what passes for offense and creativity. the positive to me was we were making more attacking passes between their wingbacks, direct play, instead of so many whacked crosses.

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