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Three Quick Hit Observations From USA vs. El Salvador

Some thoughts from the USMNT’s gritted teeth 1-0 win over El Salvador.

El Salvador v United States: 2022 World Cup Qualifying
Antonee Robinson was the hero for the USMNT on Thursday night
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

MEANINGFUL SOCCER IS HAPPENING AGAIN IN THE US!!!!

Just let that sink in, it feels good right. As I was watching the game I could not keep a smile off my face. The rush of success and the agony of defeat is a drug that I was in severe withdrawals from during this MLS offseason. Now on to the good stuff.

1. The Fullbacks

Normally the modern fullback is expected to defend their side and maraud down the wing to connect with teammates and swing in crosses. Antonee Robinson certainly connects with his USMNT teammates but we do not see him swing in a lot of crosses. Instead, he constantly finds himself in dangerous positions to go for the goal himself. It confounds the opposition and often frees up dangerous spaces for his teammates as the center-backs are forced to step to him or leave him unmarked.

In contrast, Sergiño Dest while undoubtedly a more talented attacker seems to lack the innate defensive chops that Robinson displays. Constantly the play of El Salvador was driving at Dest and finding a fair bit of success either beating him on the dribble or simply passing around him as he would choose a bad position for himself. Hopefully, as Dest matures his game will continue to round out to be less of a defensive liability.

2. This Team is Bad At Closing Out Games

The last 30 minutes of the game on Thursday were rough. The boys tried to bunker but were not good at it. The substitution in of Zardes, Morris, and Aaronson as the front three should have given some fresh legs to possess the ball a bit against a stretched and tired El Salvador team. However, the team refused to hold onto the ball and instead just lobbed hopeful balls upfield which El Salvador happily recovered. This led to ever-increasing pressure and took some heroics by Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards to stave off.

We have enough talent over our opponents that we should be playing with some swagger and our midfield is more than capable of bossing them. Perhaps this is a product of the youth of this team and it will round out in the future but it definitely is concerning when thinking about playing much better teams in Qatar this winter.

3. The Big Picture

Canada, Mexico, and the US all picked up points on Thursday making it increasingly likely that all three will qualify. Given the trajectory of all three programs, it is hard to see that landscape changing a lot in the future either. Personally, I love this because the rivalry between those three teams is excellent. And in that vein, the game on Sunday against Canada should be a great test for this USMNT side to test themselves against a better team than most of the CONCACAF minnows. The home game against Canada last year definitely left something to be desired as it ended in a 1-1 draw, so let us hope for something better tomorrow.

In Conclusion

I am excited about this Saturday’s SKC preseason game [Editor: sorry, got this published a bit late]! I am excited about this Sunday’s USMNT game vs Canada! I am excited about soccer in general! And I am excited to keep writing about it for all of you! keep it classy The Blue Testament readers.