U.S. Men’s National Team Returns To Nations League Final Four After 1-0 Win Against El SalvadorRicardo Pepi Tabs Game-Winner Minutes After Entering in Second Half; USMNT Advances to Nations League Semifinal on June 15
ORLANDO, Fla. (March 27, 2023) – The U.S. Men’s National Team secured a return to the Concacaf Nations League Final Four with a 1-0 win against El Salvador on Monday night at Exploria Stadium. Ricardo Pepi’s third goal in two games – which came two minutes after he entered the match in the second half – was the difference as the USA finished atop Group D with 10 points. The win extended the USA’s undefeated streak against El Salvador to 22 straight games.
Having won the inaugural CNL in 2021, the USA will return to the 2022-23 semifinals which will be played Thursday, June 15 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mexico has also clinched a semifinal berth after winning Group A with eight points. The other semifinalists will be decided on Tuesday, March 28 when Costa Rica and Panama meet for the top spot in Group B and Canada hosts Honduras with Group C on the line. The group winner with the most points will face the fourth-ranked team, and the second and third ranked teams will meet in the other semifinal.
Anthony Hudson made seven changes to the Starting XI that defeated Grenada on Friday, inserting defenders Sergiño Dest, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson and Tim Ream, midfielder Yunus Musah, and forwards Daryl Dike and Alex Zendejas.
The group faced a disciplined and determined El Salvador side, which nearly took the lead after two minutes when Jairo Henriquez ripped a shot from the top of the box that forced USA goalkeeper Matt Turner to fully extend low to his left to parry the ball out for a corner kick.
The teams played a well-contested opening half, with neither side allowing the other much space or time to pose serious threats. One of the USA’s best opportunities came after 29 minutes when Gio Reyna cut inside from the left and hit a low shot from nearly 30 yards that forced La Selecta goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez to dive low to make the save.
The USA started the second half with more urgency, and Reyna again almost put the USMNT ahead nearly off the opening whistle. Christian Pulisic played a nice ball into the box that Reyna collected on the left, saw space as he faced goal and cut a shot that was deflected and clanked off the near post.
With the USA applying pressure, defender Tim Ream then got on the end of a loose ball in the box that defender Roberto Dominguez took off the chest a few yards from goal. Teammate Nelson Blanco attempted to clear it out of danger, but inadvertently headed back towards goal, where Dominguez headed it out before it crossed the goal line.
The break finally came just past the hour mark - two minutes after Pepi and Brenden Aaronson entered the match - when McKennie sprung Pepi behind the defense with an incisive through ball to set up his sixth international goal with a composed chip to beat the keeper.
The USA looked in control for most of the half and nearly doubled the lead with five minutes left when Pepi brought down a cross from Sergiño Dest in front of goal with a deft touch; however, his shot from close range was stopped by Gonzalez.
Before the Nations League Finals, the USMNT will take on Mexico on April 19 in Glendale, Ariz. in the inaugural Allstate Continental Clásico. The USMNT is aiming for its fourth-straight victory against El Tri on U.S. soil dating back to 2021.
GOAL SCORING RUNDOWN
USA - Ricardo Pepi (Weston McKennie), 62nd minute: From beyond midfield, McKennie looked up and saw Pepi toeing the backline. He drove a low through-ball to split the defenders and Pepi ran onto it, took a touch and chipped the onrushing goalkeeper to open the scoring. USA 1, SLV 0
- With the result, the USMNT finished atop Concacaf Nations League A, Group D and advanced to the CNL Finals to be played June 15-18 in Las Vegas.
- Tonight’s USMNT Starting XI had an average age of 25 years, 34 days and averaged 30 caps overall.
- Having entered at the hour mark, Ricardo Pepi’s 62nd minute goal came on just his second touch of the match. The strike extended his career total to six in 14 appearances, with three coming in his last two matches. The goal was Pepi’s third game-winner and also his first as a substitute.
- Fellow FC Dallas Academy product Weston McKennie provided his fourth career assist on Pepi’s goal and first since Nov. 19, 2019 against Cuba. The 24-year-old also extended his streak of appearing in all 10 of the USMNT’s Concacaf Nations League matches.
- Matt Turner earned his 17th career shutout for the USMNT. Turner holds a 17-4-5 in 26 international matches.
- Centerback Miles Robinson returned to the USA lineup for the first time since suffering a torn Achilles last May for Atlanta United.
- Earning his first start since July 29, 2021 against Qatar, former Orlando City striker Daryl Dike made his 10th USMNT appearance tonight in the familiar confines of Exploria Stadium.
- Just three days after scoring his first international goal, Alex Zendejas earned his first start in official competition for the USMNT.
- Veteran defender Tim Ream made his first appearance on U.S. soil since the 4-0 win against Costa Rica on June 9, 2021.
- Gio Reyna started back-to-back USMNT matches for the first time since the Concacaf Nations League Semifinal and Final on June 3 and June 6, 2021 against Honduras and Mexico, respectively.
- Tim Ream and Miles Robinson paired in central defense for the second time. They last partnered in the 0-0 draw at El Salvador to open 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification on Sept. 2, 2021.
- With teams allowed to dress 23 players, defender Bryan Reynolds was a healthy scratch from the squad.
- The USMNT moves to 20-1-7 all-time against El Salvador and extends their unbeaten streak to 22 games against La Selecta. El Salvador is the third opponent that the USMNT has collected 20 or more wins against along with Mexico (22) and Trinidad and Tobago (20).
- The team also moves to 13-0-5 against El Salvador in official competition.
-U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report-
Match: United States Men’s National Team vs. El Salvador
Date: March 27, 2023
Competition: Concacaf Nations League
Venue: Exploria Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
Kickoff: 7:37 p.m. ET
Weather: 85 degrees; mostly sunny
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
SLV 0 0 0
USA – Ricardo Pepi (Weston McKennie) 62nd minute
USA: 1-Matt Turner; 2-Sergiño Dest, 4-Miles Robinson, 13-Tim Ream, 5-Antonee Robinson; 8-Weston McKennie (15-Johnny Cardoso, 90+2), 6-Yunus Musah (14-Luca de la Torre, 71); 17-Alex Zendejas (11-Brenden Aaronson, 60), 7-Gio Reyna (22-Taylor Booth, 72), 10-Christian Pulisic (capt.); 23-Daryl Dike (9-Ricardo Pepi, 60)
Substitutes not used: 12-Ethan Horvath, 18-Zack Steffen, 3-Mark McKenzie, 16-Alan Soñora, 19-Joe Scally, 20-Auston Trusty, 21-Djordje Mihailovic
Head coach: Anthony Hudson
SLV: 1-Mario Gonzalez (capt.); 21-Bryan Tamacas, 3-Roberto Dominguez, 4-Eriq Zavaleta, 15-Alex Roldan (5-Nelson Blanco, 46); 8-Brayan Landaverde (14-Christian Martinez, 56), 10-Enrico Dueñas (7-Mayer Gil, 56), 6-Narciso Orellana, 17-Jairo Henrique; 19-Kevin Reyes (13-Leonardo Menjivar, 77), 9-Brayan Gil (11-Cristian Gil, 70)
Substitutes not used: 18-Tomas Romero, 2-Rudy Clavel, 12-William Canales, 16-Juan Argueta, 20-Jose Villalobos, 23-Melvin Cartagena
Head coach: Hugo Perez
Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 4 / 0
Saves: 0 / 3
Corner Kicks: 13 / 2
Fouls: 16 / 11
Offside: 2 / 5
SLV – Kevin Reyes (caution) 66th minute
Referee: Mario Escobar (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Luis Ventura (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: Humberto Panjoj (GUA)
4th Official: Julio Cesar Luna (GUA)
Insiders Man of the Match: Ricardo Pepi