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USMNT preparing for “intense” Nations League group stage finale vs. El Salvador


The U.S. men’s national team has never lost to El Salvador in its previous 26 head-to-head meetings, and with the top spot of Group D in Concacaf Nations League play on the line Monday night, Anthony Hudson’s squad are preparing for anything in the newest showdown.

Exploria Stadium will play host to the final group stage match for both the USMNT and El Salvador with only two points separating the Concacaf squads. The Americans rolled past Grenada 7-1 on Friday night to leapfrog El Salvador into first place while La Selecta fell 1-0 to Honduras last week in friendly action.

Hugo Perez’s squad have taken points in two of their last three head-to-head meetings with the USMNT, including last June’s 1-1 draw at Estadio Cuscatlán. El Salvador might have the odds against them coming into Monday’s meeting in Orlando, but Hudson has praised the continued improvement of his latest opponents.

“I think the coach has done a great job with them,” Hudson said about Hugo Perez and El Salvador. “He is someone that when you watch his teams play against other teams, and then when you watch the games against us, he is someone that has a very, very clear plan.. and he’s not afraid to change things.

“We’ve gone into games where we are fully expecting for him to play a certain way, and he changes it,” Hudson added. “So he is a very, very good coach. I think that’s the starting point. And then I think they’re a team that they have a really good mentality in terms of just an honest, aggressive team, work really hard, clearly believe in what the coach has asked them to do.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

The Americans had to overcome a first-half deficit against El Salvador in their first Nations League showdown last summer, using a 91st minute equalizer from Jordan Morris to leave with a 1-1 draw. Both Paul Arriola and Ronald Gomez were sent off in that match, while only nine American players who were in the squad that night in San Salvador are currently part of this March roster.

Yunus Musah, Christian Pulisic, Antonee Robinson, and Brenden Aaronson all started in that rain-filled affair last June and gained valuable experience from it to take in their international careers. El Salvador has lost each of its last 15 road matches on United States soil in all competitions, but their aggressive style of play will not change knowing a first-ever victory could see them top Group D.

“The game is going to be a really intense battle,” Musah said. “El Salvador is going to com here for a win, they haven’t won against us in a few matches, so we’re going to have to match their intensity, physicality, our attitude has to be spot on. We have to get the job done if we want to get to the semifinals.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

The USMNT used 16 players in its trip to Grenada on Friday with six players playing the full 90 minutes including Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, Joe Scally, and Bryan Reynolds. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Ricardo Pepi were among the standout stars for the Americans, who were able to get a rest with the result in the bag by the second half.

Hudson did not release any names of who will be starting in Monday’s match, but several lineup changes are expected with an important summer of the horizon.

“There’s going to be a few changes,” Hudson said. “Coming into camp we had an eye on pre-planned changes, and I think it’s one of the best things to have is good depth, it’s a luxury to have. To be able to rotate, not making wholesale changes, but to rotate in a way that we can at least get to the second game of a window and have freshness in players and not lose quality is good to have.”


  1. Perez for USMNT coach! Done an amazing job w/El Salvador and (obviously) has ties to the program. Esprit de corps is what we need, not some euro coach

  2. Hugo Perez should be a coach MLS teams should be looking at when his contract is up with El Salvador.

    Future USMNT coach as well.

    • meh. ES finished 7th in ocho quali this last time. that ES has made the hex before means they have actually finished higher than that before, by definition. history teaches in 1994 quali ES won their semi group and finished 3rd in the final round when 2 advanced (and the US was already in). in 1990, 1998, and 2010 quali they finished 5th when the proverbial 3.5 got in. this argument basically boils down to the same sort of fanboys who tout GB’s ideas being happy ES plays a smoother 433 and does slightly less lumberjack work. but as with the 3rd-qualifying US, does a sandpapered, prettier ES do better? not really IMO. and to be blunt ES has tied us before. i remember a 2000s era desperate away comeback from down 2-0 where we tossed on jozy late for header goals and a tie.

      also, the people touting perez ignore he hasn’t had to “win” to gain their praise. he had 2 wins in 14 ocho games. it’s aesthetic affection. ok, now go win games in MLS week in week out.

      the rubber will hit the road on this one in the 2026 cycle. the big 3 are through automatically. as i understand it the next 3 will make it by winning the equivalent of a semi round robin group — 3 groups of 4. then top 2 second place make global playoffs. ES has often been in the 5-7th range but can they actually consistently win as group-topping qualification requires. i kind of think the fanboys patting ES on the back are either being aesthetes or condescending them.

      • It’s like saying 2021 Steve Cherundolo was a terrible manager 19% winning percentage in Las Vegas, but 2022 Steve Cherundolo was an amazing manager 63% winning % and MLS Cup. Did Steve get better? Maybe but mostly he had better players compared to their competition. I don’t know what Hugo’s winning percentage when he coached the US U15s but I bet it was quite a bit better than it is with El Salvador. Every night he’s playing teams with better talent. His best players are MLS journeyman like Alex Roldan, Erik Zavaleta or Darwin Ceren. Christian Roldan would be by far their best player if he could play for them. Should he be the US manager maybe not, but to get that group of players to compete against top 8 teams in Concacaf is a pretty good resume builder for MLS. There’s MLS coaches that don’t win that keep bouncing around.

      • Who would you choose IV? And no name you can’t just say “a big name” or “I’d follow the Flyn rule”

      • first off, perez is an “attacking” coach whose team has won 3 games and averaged less than a goal a game between WCQ and this NL round (21 games to date). you harp on being “overmatched” but i showed you his team has routinely finished as high as 5th, higher than his 7th, and while emphasizing a phase of the game, he has not produced many goals in the phase despite it being their emphasis.

        second, actually i would follow the equivalent of the flynn rule. as a dynamo fan i got sick of the equivalent of perez being inflicted on my team. ramos, cabrera, nagamura. coaches from reserve teams, USL, YNT.

        so, give me something proven. i wanted tata, tuco, bruce, bradley. experiments are for prospect players.

        LAFC was loaded.

      • along the “LAFC was loaded” lines, he is more likely to get a team like colorado than to get NER, LAFC, seattle, or on current form, StL. at that point spare me the “Berhalter will be awesome given the USMNT” hopefulness. you will likely get trash and either be a mastroeni trash-magician or not. ES is fun to watch but not actually effective at what they try to do.

        for all the fanboying of ES, it’s the more athletic teams like panama, TnT, and jamaica that actually occasionally sneak in the world cup. curacao gets interesting with defense. not sure what the upside is of being a skill-emphasizing but mediocre skilled team. it’s kind of like the all star team of players GB throws out there shouldn’t be in a possession system.

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