The U.S. men’s national team looks to begin its final push towards the 2022 World Cup as Gregg Berhalter’s side hosts El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday in a match it is expected to win.
Six more fixtures remain, including three during this international window, with important points up for grabs. The U.S. sits second in the qualification table, with Canada just a point ahead in first, and both Mexico and Panama just a point behind the Americans. Only the top three secure an automatic berth to Qatar 2022, while fourth place will play an intercontinental play-in match against a team from Oceania.
Opponents El Salvador, meanwhile, sit seventh with just six points from eight matches, and a loss in Columbus would virtually seal their elimination barring an unlikely run of victories to close out qualifying. A competitive performance, perhaps even enough to nick a draw, is the realistic expectation for the Cuscatlecos.
MORE: Who can still qualify for the World Cup?
The USMNT roster called up by Berhalter for these three matches is nearly full-strength. The standout name is Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, who is struggling for time and form with the Blues. But the United States will look to the Premier League star to provide a spark.
“Obviously it has been up and down this year, for sure,” Pulisic said during his pre-match press conference regarding his current situation at Chelsea, admitting life has been difficult. “Not exactly where I want to be and how I want things to be right now.”
“Mentally it has played on me at times, but I am always very excited to be on the national team and get to enjoy playing with these guys and just enjoy football in general.”
El Salvador has beaten the United States just once in 25 tries, and never in World Cup qualification, but the 0-0 draw in the match played in El Salvador will give U.S. fans some trepidation.
CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying standings
* = The top three teams earn direct berths to Qatar 2022, while fourth place will head to an intercontinental playoff against a nation from Oceania.
How to watch USMNT vs. El Salvador
- Date: Thursday, Jan. 27
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN2
- Spanish-language TV: UniMas, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV , ESPN+ (authenticated users)
Thursday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match between the United States and El Salvador from Lower.com Field will be broadcast on ESPN2 (English) and TUDN and UniMas (Spanish) in the USA.
MORE: How the USA can qualify to the World Cup
USMNT vs. El Salvador team news & projected lineups
The only missing name on the U.S. roster for this international break is winger Gio Reyna who has been unable to shake off a frustrating hamstring injury. Otherwise, the roster is full of top-tier U.S. talent with the likes of Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Sergino Dest all available and ready to go.
MORE: USMNT roster for January qualification matches
Matt Turner, who was rumored just a week prior to be set for a move to Arsenal, is expected to start in goal, with Zack Steffen still back in England dealing with a reported back problem. Miles Robinson is a lock to start at center back, but it’s unclear who will partner with the Atlanta United man. Walker Zimmerman is a possibility, as is Mark McKenzie.
Yunus Musah, having scored for Valencia against Atletico Madrid in his last match, could be the one to join Adams and McKennie in a three-man midfield. Ricardo Pepi is expected to lead the U.S. attack, supported by Pulisic and one of Brenden Aaronson or Timothy Weah. Or, Berhalter could sacrifice Musah to include both Aaronson and Weah in a 4-2-3-1.
USMNT projected starting lineup (4-3-3, right to left): Turner (GK) — Dest, Zimmerman, M. Robinson, A. Robinson — Adams, McKennie, Musah — Pulisic, Pepi, Aaronson.
In the 0-0 draw between these two teams in the reverse fixture, El Salvador manager Hugo Perez opted to clog the midfield and make life difficult for the Americans, who only held 49 percent possession despite the talent gap. Perez is likely to do that again, using either a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1, but it could be facing issues along its back line.
Center back Ronald Rodriguez, who recently signed with USL Championship side FC Tulsa and was excellent the last time these teams met, has not been able to secure a visa and Eriq Zavaleta reportedly has a toe infection. Eduardo Vigil and Roberto Dominguez would be next in line to replace them.
There are options in midfield, with Narciso Orellana and Marvin Monterroza both eyeing spots after starting in the last meeting, although either could be replaced by Darwin Ceren. A positive COVID-19 test is set to keep Christian Martinez out.
On the wing, 20-year-old Enrico Duenas, who hails from Dutch club Vitesse, has seen time in every World Cup qualifier, and Alex Roldan — brother of U.S. player Christian Roldan — plays on the opposite flank. Joaquín Rivas is a consistent presence up top, but has failed to score in World Cup qualifying after a three-goal performance in last summer’s Gold Cup.
El Salvador projected starting lineup (4-4-2, left to right): Gonzalez (GK) — Larin, Vigil, Dominguez, Tamacas — Duenas, Monterroza, Ceren, Roldan — J. Henriquez, Rivas.
USMNT vs. El Salvador betting odds, pick & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Pick: USA win & under 2.5 goals (+140)
Prediction: USA 2-0 El Salvador
- Moneyline: USA -500 / Draw +500 / El Salvador +1200
- Spread (Asian Handicap): USA -1.5 (-130) / El Salvador +1.5 (+110)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over -110 / Under -115
- Both teams to score: Yes +200 / No -280