The USMNT qualified for the Concacaf Nations League knockout rounds with a 1-0 win vs. El Salvador at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.  Though Los Cuscatlecos didn’t make it easy, a goal from Ricardo Pepi propelled the American side through to the next round of the international tounament.

It what a fairly difficult game for the US, as El Salvador went into the match tactically sound, specifically on the defensive side. They forced the Stars and Stripes to put six shots off target, which is a complete change from what the US put up during their 7-1 route of Grenada just a couple of days earlier. 

Eventually, the Americans would break the deadlock with a cheeky Ricardo Pepi goal in the 62nd minute. After the match, head coach Anthony Hudson gave El Salvador kudos for their tactical setup and touched on the slow first half for the US.

“All of us, coaching staff included, I don’t think we probably set the team up in a way to really help them in the first half. They made it very difficult for us. The first half, defensively, we were far too stretched.”

Goalkeeper Matt Turner spoke about their sluggish start and how at halftime, they needed a reality check.

“The message amongst the players as well was that it just wasn’t good enough in the first half – individual mistakes, individual errors, balls going under guys’ feet. “We knew coming off of [the win vs. Grenada that] we needed to give our fans something to cheer for in the second half.”

Turner also touched on the return of Pepi, who missed out on the final World Cup roster. The 20-year-old is back into the national team fold with a chip on his shoulder, scoring three goals in his last two matches with the team.

“I’m so happy for [Pepi], because he works so hard, and that’s a guy with a lot of confidence to come in and finish like that, in a tight game, in a really challenging game,” Turner said.

“It makes me emotional, being a father, because I’m one of the older guys on this team. And to see somebody his age who’s taken a big step in his career, gone over to Europe and things, let’s say haven’t gone perfectly to plan for him. To turn around and take his opportunities here, it’s just really, really great for him and for this program.”

After transferring from FC Dallas to Ausburg, Pepi struggled to get going, which saw him loaned out to Dutch side FC Groningen where they’re currently in a relegation battle.

Hudson chimed in on the young forward, saying that he was glad Pepi could maintain his good form despite the tumultuous circumstances.

“His club team, unfortunately they’re not in a great place in the table and it sometimes can be tough when you’re down there at that end of the table. When you come out of that environment, you come back to your national team environment, it sort of gives you a little bit of a break, which I think that in itself helped him.”

Another young player returning to the national team fold after some difficult times is midfielder Gio Reyna. After a highly publicized spat between his parent Claudio and Danielle, Reyna, and the US Soccer Federation, many looked to see if the 20-year-old could shake off the noise.

“Gio’s performance overall, I thought was really good. He showed flashes of being our biggest attacking threat. … we believe in him – clearly he has talent and you see tonight some of the things he does. He probably needs a few more games under his belt.”

“We’re very, very pleased with how he’s been this week in training. And I think we’re all just in a position where we just want to keep looking forward.”

Lastly, this game marked the return of Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson, who spent the last ten months on the sidelines dealing with a ruptured Achilles tendon in May 2022.

“Miles, really, really pleased, just pleased he’s back, pleased with his performance. You saw moments of the old Miles where he’s just so dominant in 1-v-1 situations, and he reads plays well and he steps in at the right time. He just very, very quietly goes about being dominant in his role.”

The USMNT’s next match will be on April 19th, as they square off against Mexico in Glendale, Arizona. 


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