Preview: USMNT hosts El Salvador in snowy Columbus

USMNT Preview El Salvador
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The U.S. men’s national team is looking for nine points in the upcoming World Cup Qualifying window. On the other hand, El Salvador — who is down, not out — is looking for points to make a comeback in qualifying. On Thursday, the two sides will meet in snowy Columbus, Ohio, for the first of three matches in this window.

The USMNT has called up plenty of young reinforcements. Players like Josh Sargent, John Brooks and Matt Miazga were left at home, for what Gregg Berhalter called “nothing more than form.” Meanwhile, players like red-hot Weston McKennie and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner are in camp.

Columbus, of course, is home of the “Dos a Cero” victory the U.S. men pulled off against Mexico in 2013 — the match that put the United States to the World Cup. Right now, the U.S. sit second on the Concacaf World Cup Qualifying standings, right behind Canada. The two sides will face off on Jan. 30 in Canada. For now, the U.S. is focused on El Salvador.

El Salvador has had its reins taken by Seattle Sounders defender Alex Roldan — the younger brother of U.S. men’s international Cristian Roldan. The 25-year-old has 12 appearances and is already a captain for the team, starting in eight of his matches. Roldan could very well face off against his older brother, as Cristian is one of the older, more veteran players on the USMNT roster.

Youthful UMSNT Roster

As for the United States, when selecting his roster, head coach Gregg Berhalter went youthful. He has a few veteran players, but the future of the United States is now with young players with 10 or less caps, like Mark McKenzie, Ricardo Pepi and Jesús Ferreira. The benefit to playing in Columbus is that most of these players know how to play in harsh, snow-filled conditions. As Walker Zimmerman stated: let it snow.

“You know what? I want it to be freezing, I want it to be cold, I want the snow, I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So I think the guys are ready to embrace it, and it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise as well,” Zimmerman said.

Three things to look for in USMNT vs. El Salvador

  1. Ricardo Pepi: The talk of the town has easily been Ricardo Pepi for the U.S. The former FC Dallas striker just sealed a move to Europe with Augsburg of the Bundesliga. With Augsburg, Pepi has a few matches under his belt. He has come up big for the United States, already scoring three times in seven appearances. Look for him to only grow in his partnership with Christian Pulisic and guys like Gyasi Zardes and Brenden Aaronson.
  2. Who starts in goal? Ah, this question again. The biggest debate right now for the U.S. men’s national team isn’t about who got left off the roster. The big debate is between Zack Steffen and Matt Turner. You have to give it to both men; Steffen is getting world-class training everyday with Manchester City and has a few games under his belt, and Turner played out of his mind for the New England Revolution this year, and during the Gold Cup in 2021. Berhalter has been pretty loyal to Steffen, but with three games in a tight window, we’ll see who gets the nod first.
  3. Don’t dismiss El Salvador: My colleague Harvey Cruz wrote about how right now is do-or-die time for El Salvador. He can give you a better picture on this team than I can, so I encourage anyone reading this to click on that story. Can they reclaim the glory and hype that they once had during the Gold Cup?

How to watch USMNT vs. La Selecta

Where: Field; Columbus, Ohio.

Date: Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Game Time: 7 PM EST; 4 PM PT

Channel: ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN


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