The goal celebration turned out to be the final dramatic moment of the game.
Seconds after U.S. defender Antonee Robinson scored the winner for the Americans in a 1-0 win over El Salvador on Thursday night, he rolled out of goal, performing a split hand and then pull up grabbing his left hamstring. Playing in 30 degrees – US Soccer has scheduled a game in Columbus, Ohio, for January to try to gain a mental, if not meteorological, advantage over Central American opponents – suddenly backfired.
Robinson, however, was only joking. He quickly turned his suffering (artificial) footwork into a powerful strut, to the delight of his teammates and the immense relief of his coach. And rightly so, the US has taken another step to confirm a place in this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The win, combined with other results on a cold night of qualifying matches in North and Central America and the Caribbean, gives the United States peace of mind vying for control of the qualifying group in the all-important game against Canada. on Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario. When the final whistle blew in Columbus, Canada was leading Honduras at half-time.
USA coach Gregg Berhalter made only one notable change to his squad on Thursday, bringing in Jesús Ferreira, a surprise starter in place of Ricardo Pepi, his former teammate in FC Dallas, in the forward position. Ferreira brought in energy, movement and some great connections in the first half. But he failed to convert two stellar chances in the first 20 minutes, and the Americans drifted into halftime with most of the ball and frustration almost exclusively.
The breakthrough came early in the second half, after Timothy Weah removed the defender and fired a shot from close range that sent the keeper high and high after 52 minutes. A header over the goal sent the players off. Both teams mixed up and bounced straight in front of Robinson, who made a one-shot with his left foot.
The goal, and the 1-0 deficit, seemed to take the lives of the Salvadorans, who have now been eliminated in five of their nine qualifiers. A comeback seemed out of the question even before Robinson’s injury: El Salvador had yet to score two goals in any of the final round matches. Finding two adversaries against the United States in cold weather is not a long walk.
But the Americans also seemed to have it easier: Christian Pulisic departed shortly after the hour mark, perhaps to rest a bit before the game against Canada, and Ferreira and Weah soon followed him to the bench.
With three games scheduled over eight days in the current qualifiers, the US has a chance to move into commanding position to claim one of the region’s three automatic stops to the World Cup early in the final three-game period. same in March. (It is mathematically possible, though extremely unlikely, that the Americans could win a place in next week’s World Cup if a complicated series of outcomes disrupts their results.)
Through eight of the 14 qualifiers, the United States was in second place heading into Thursday’s game, one point behind Canada, the surprise leader of the group, one point ahead of arch-rivals Mexico and Panama. Mexico kept up the pace by focusing on a 2-1 win over Jamaica in Kingston.
The United States can take control of the group if they can beat the Canadians – weakened by the absence of Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies – on Sunday. They will then face Honduras on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn., with hopes of hitting three wins in a week.
“We’re in a good position,” Pulisic said earlier this week, “and at the end of this point we could be in a great position.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/sports/soccer/usmnt-el-salvador-world-cup-qualifier.html USA beat El Salvador to Inch closer to World Cup