The man who led the United States to two Football World Cup appearances as a player hopes he can do the same for the country of his birth as head coach when Hugo Perez and El Salvador play the first match of the hexagonal phase of the Qatar Football World Cup 2022 qualifying for both teams at Cuscatlán Stadium.
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For La Selecta, it will be the first time they have reached the final stage of qualifying since 2010, while the Yanks will be looking to reach the finals for the first time since 1986 after missing out on the 2018 Football World Cup. It has been more than 29 years since El Salvador last punched their ticket to the Football World Cup. Back then, the country received help from Honduras, which drew 0-0 with Mexico on the final day of qualifying in 1981, allowing La Selecta to travel to Spain for the ’82 final.
Perez, who was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame, was instrumental in the Americans’ rise in CONCACAF in the mid-1990s, hosting the 1994 Football World Cup for them, and he played an equally important role in La Selecta’s development into a formidable team, ranked 64th in the world in the latest FIFA rankings.
With 19 goals in the first two qualifying rounds and only one conceded, El Salvador was arguably the most impressive talent this century, even if none of their opponents reached the level of the Americans. It was considered a national disgrace that the USA failed to qualify for the 2018 Football World Cup, losing 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago in their final match.
After that loss, Gregg Berhalter was brought in to restore some pride to a team that, along with Mexico, had been one of the most dominant teams in CONCACAF for years. This team has gone through many changes in leadership and on the field, and the new generation of young Americans will prove that what happened in 2018 will not be repeated.
It was a pretty good year for the Stars and Stripes, who won the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup and have 12 wins and just one loss so far in 2021. In their last Gold Cup win, we got a glimpse of the strength of this team as they won with a relatively inexperienced squad, many of whom were making their international debut. For more details about Football World Cup Tickets.
Most of the regulars will be playing in this competition, but seeing what the rookies have accomplished in the last month, Berhalter and his team have to go into this qualifying round with a lot of confidence. Four years ago, the team started very weakly, losing their first two games against Mexico and Costa Rica. As a result, Jürgen Klinsmann was fired and Bruce Arena was brought in, and he didn’t fare much better, winning only one of his last five qualifying games as coach.
Perez will have to rely on other goal scorers as striker David Rugamas, who led the scoring charts in qualifying with eight goals, will not be available. Joaquin Rivas scored three goals in the Gold Cup, while goalkeeper Kevin Calabantes played only his third game for the national team in the 0-0 draw in the friendly against Costa Rica before being replaced at halftime by debutant Mario González.
Alex Roldan will hope to have the support of his brother Christian in this match. The siblings play as teammates in MLS with the Seattle Sounders, although Christian Roldan has chosen to play for the country of his birth, the United States. After missing out on winning the Gold Cup this year, midfielder Christian Pulisic is back and looking to build on his record in Football World Cup qualifying. He scored seven goals last season, tied with Michael Bradley for seventh in history.
Miles Robinson was the Yanks’ hero at the Gold Cup when he scored the equalizer in extra time of the final against Mexico, his second goal of the tournament. Goalkeeper Matt Turner scored five goals but may not be in the starting eleven on Thursday as backup goalkeeper Zach Steffen returns to the squad from Manchester City.
The USA squad for this match includes 10 players who also played in this year’s UEFA Champions League, including Brenden Arenson, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Sergio Durst, Weston McKennie, Jordan Sibachu, Giovanni Reina, Tim Vea, and Stephane and Pulisic.
El Salvador’s probable starting lineup
Gonzalez; Larin, Gomez, Zavaleta, Tamacas; Moreno, A. Roldan, Ceren; Enriquez, Rivas, Perez.
Possible starting lineup for the USA
Steffen; Dest, Zimmerman, Robinson, Sands; Adams, Acosta, C. Roldan; Reyna, Sargent, Pulisic.
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