The USMNT has completed the October round of World Cup Qualifying. Key stars in Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna missed out due to injury. However, several of the lesser known players produced in crucial matches for the nation. 3 matches in 7 days meant the U.S. would ultimately end up giving minutes to 25 out of 26 players selected in the squad, the only omission being 3rd string goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Here’s how the stars and stripes faired over the week of fixtures:
10/7/21 2-0 win Vs Jamaica (Home)
A 2nd half brace from Texas-native Ricardo Pepi ensured victory over then bottom of the table Jamaica. The American’s were dominant on the ball as the Jamaican midfielders struggled to close down space , and in the 49th minute, the U.S. finally made them pay. Yunus Musah picked up the ball deep in the Jamaican half, where he was provided space to drive all the way to the top of the box. The Jamaican defense reacting to Musah’s run opened space for Dest out wide. Dest was then able to deliver a pinpoint cross on to the head of Texan Pepi. This was his second goal in two appearances for the USMNT.
Pepi added another after a quick transition allowed Brenden Aaronson time to pick out a low cross for the striker to tap in at the back post. This win Placed the USMNT at the summit of the Hexagonal table, edging out Mexico via superior goal difference.
10/10/21 1-0 loss Vs Panama (Away)
Due to covid restrictions, Zack Steffen and Antonee Robinson did not travel to the Central American nation. Weston Mckennie and Sergino Dest also were unavailable due to slight injury concerns. Consequently, the U.S. would be forced to make 8 changes to the starting 11 that defeated Jamaica. Symptomatic of the lineup changes and the short rest period between matches, The USMNT put in a largely incohesive and forgettable performance. Having failed to register a single shot on target during the match, a Gyasi Zardes own goal meant defeat for the U.S. .
10/13/21 2-1 Win Vs Costa Rica (Home)
Three days later, the USMNT returned back to Columbus to take on Costa Rica in a must win match. The chosen 11 being youngest-ever team in USMNT World Cup qualifying history. The average age being 22 years and 61 days. Things could not have started any worse, However. Costa Rica scored a controversial goal in the 1st minute, a ruling USMNT coach Greg Berhalter maligned to officials at halftime. Although, Espn associate and former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg felt the correct call was given. Fortunately for the U.S., the lead only lasted for 24 minutes. After patient buildup play, Dest cut in from the top of the box to deliver a rasping strike into the top corner. This was the first time the USMNT produced a first half goal in 9 games.
Tim Weah’s thunderous strike off the post in the 66th minute ricocheted of the Costa Rican Goalkeeper resulting in an own goal. With the comeback complete, the U.S. dominated possession to see out the match.
With key stars absent in Pulisic and Reyna, new names took the opportunity to thrust themselves into the USMNT limelight. Ricardo Pepi (3 goals in 4 international appearances) and Yunus Musah have shown they are here to stay. Tyler Adams continues to show his maturity and tactical awareness on the field. Sergino Dest displays why several top European clubs were after his signature. Due to the youthfulness of the squad, evidence suggests they are not done developing.
The USMNT end the round of fixtures 2nd in the hexagonal table, 3 points points off leaders Mexico. Fortunately, the Mexicans travel to Cincinnati on November 12 for the next round of qualifiers. The USMNT find themselves in a good spot momentarily, but there is still no room for complacency in the unpredictable nature of Concacaf World cup Qualifying.
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