Five Things to Know Coming Out of 2023 USMNT March Camp

USA Earns Top Seed in CNL Finals, Pepi’s Statement Performance, Pulisic Ascends Attacking Charts
Jeff Crandall

USMNT Advances, Will Face Mexico in CNL Semifinals

With wins against Grenada and El Salvador, the USMNT completed the main objective of the March camp in earning the top spot in Concacaf Nations League A, Group D. The team now moves on to the competition semifinals where they will meet rivals Mexico on June 15 in Las Vegas.

In a tantalizing preview, the teams will also meet in the Allstate Continental Clásico on April 19 in Phoenix.

Panama will face Canada in the other CNL semifinal, booking their first ticket to the competition’s final four by earning wins on Tuesday night. Needing only a draw to advance, Panama went on the road and utilized a 77th minute goal from José Fajardo to upset Costa Rica 1-0 and gain the top spot in Group B, while Canada eased to a 4-1 home win against Honduras in Toronto.

In order to determine the semifinal pairings, teams are ranked based on total points earned during the group stage with goal differential serving as the first tie breaker:

  1. USA – 10 pts. (+12 GD)
  2. Panama – 10 pts. (+8 GD)
  3. Canada – 9 pts. (+8 GD)
  4. Mexico – 8 pts. (+5 GD)

Ricardo Pepi Doubles Goal Total

Plenty of players had standout performances during the March camp, but no one made as big a statement as striker Ricardo Pepi, who bagged three goals through the two matches. The 20-year-old striker got things started early in Grenada, heading home Christian Pulisic’s cross in the fourth minute for his first international goal since Oct. 7, 2021 against Jamaica. On the other side of halftime, Luca de la Torre played a great penetrating pass for Pepi to run onto before slotting home at the near post in the 53rd minute.

After logging nearly an hour against Grenada, Pepi came off the bench in the 60th minute of Monday’s decisive Group D clash against El Salvador. It took him just two minutes and as many touches to deposit the game-winner. In a similar play to Pepi’s second goal against Grenada, Weston McKennie played provider with a lovely through ball for the striker to take one touch into the box before chipping La Selecta ‘keeper Mario Martínez in the 62nd minute.

Pepi’s game winner and overall activity in his substitute performance earned him Man of the Match honors against El Salvador, and he comes away from the March window having doubled his goal tally from three to six. Following the match, @OptaJoe astutely pointed out that Pepi (20 years, 77 days) is the third youngest player in USMNT history to reach six goals, after only Christian Pulisic (18 years, 263 days) and Jozy Altidore (19 years, 146 days).

Christian Pulisic Paces Ahead of USMNT’s Attacking Leaders

Christian Pulisic, who donned the captain’s armband in both matches, continued to pace the USA offensively against Grenada where he registered a goal and two assists and was involved in five of the seven that were scored against the Spice Boyz.

The performance earned Pulisic Bud Light Man of the Match for the 11th time in his international career, and with 58 caps to his name the 24-year-old is still paced ahead of all USMNT players in goals and goals+assists at this stage in their international careers. Pulisic also sits just behind Eddie Lewis and Landon Donovan in the assist category.

USMNT Offensive Leaders at 58 Caps

Player

G+A

Player

Goals

Player

Assists

Christian Pulisic

37

Christian Pulisic

23

Eddie Lewis

16

Landon Donovan

34

Landon Donovan

19

Landon Donovan

15

Bruce Murray

25

Eddie Johnson

18

Christian Pulisic

14

Clint Dempsey

24

Brian McBride

18

Tab Ramos

14

Brian McBride

24

Clint Dempsey

17

Fabian Johnson

11

Joe-Max Moore

24

Joe-Max Moore

16

Gyasi Zardes

10

Gyasi Zardes

23

Bruce Murray

16

Claudio Reyna

10


The performance also marked the fifth time Pulisic had three or more goal contributions in a game, which is second most among any USMNT player behind only Landon Donovan, who did it seven times in 157 matches.

With 23 career goals, Pulisic sits just one back of Joe-Max Moore (24 goals) for sixth on the USMNT’s scoring list, while his 14 career assists place him just behind John Harkes and Tab Ramos (15 assists) for eighth on the team’s assist list.

Zendejas Scores After Committing to USMNT

Just barely a week after committing to play for the United States, Mexican-American forward Alex Zendejas became cap-tied when he entered in the second half against Grenada. Not long after, he put his name on the score sheet for the first time to cap the 7-1 win in St. George’s.

The El Paso, Texas product intercepted a misplayed pass in the penalty arc and curled a lovely left-footed effort inside the lower left post in the 72nd minute. The strike also set a new USMNT record for most goals scored in an away match.

Trusty, Booth Earn USMNT Debuts

Auston Trusty and Taylor Booth made their welcome USMNT debuts during the March window, both of whom saw their first action against Grenada.

Called into the USMNT a number of times during the last cycle, Trusty got the start in his first international cap and collected an assist when he nodded Pulisic’s free kick across the penalty area for Weston McKennie’s second goal of the match in the 34th minute.

Meanwhile, Taylor Booth earned his debut when he replaced Gio Reyna in the 64th minute of the match and gained his second cap off the bench in the 1-0 win against El Salvador.

Booth, who was also eligible to play for Italy, joined Zendejas and midfielder Johnny Cardoso as the three dual nationals became cap-tied to the United States.