The USMNT has two more games to play before Qatar sets foot in Wales to start their World Cup race in November. Both of these undeclared September matches will be friendly, meaning last night’s Nations League game against El Salvador was the final competitive game the United States will play until November. Unfortunately, fans who tuned in to Tuesday night’s game were disappointed to see what the squad looked like and what kind of tactical wiring Greg Barhalter would introduce, as well as those who wanted to see something easily recognizable as a football game. Heavy rain and an agincourt-ass playing surface rendered things like completing multiple passes in a row and running a physical impossibility. Instead, the game turned into a mud war, which is to say that we learned nothing. The Americans fielded an A-team, and despite the drawings, showed some real heart.
The League of Nations is firmly at the scrub level of the CONCACAF tournament. Last year’s final was an extraordinary and extremely ugly game of football which was only important because its calendar slot was more suitable for playing the best version of USMNT than the Gold Cup. The pair of USMNT matches against Grenada and El Salvador were technically part of a group stage that would not end until March 2023, when USMNT will probably play a completely different set when they begin another long World Cup cycle. So the game was technically a bet, only the smaller ones. That’s why I was surprised to see the healthy Corey Barhalter play in the top eleven, featuring Christian Policeman, Brendan Aaron, Tyler Adams, Tim Weh, Anthony Robinson and Yunus Musa. Why risk a long-term injury for playing a meaningless game on Salvador soil a few months before the World Cup? Apparently because it forms the character.
The game was a slog from Kick Off. The passes either died in the mud puddles or strangely chewed away from the pooling water above the play surface. Players would push the longball forward, knowing that the ball would probably hit the turf and die. USMNT played on white kits, which was either a ridiculous surveillance or a pretty good bit. The closest man in the first half hour could score when Tim Weh stood in line to kick the bike into a corner; He slapped someone in the face. Estadio Cuscatlan hosted a concert over the weekend and heavy rain on Tuesday turned the field into soup. That was Ethan Harbath’s goal before the start of the game.
To their credit, El Salvador seemed even more excited to play in a rotten state, and they started scoring through consistent brazen goals that the game deserved. I think it bounced off Reggie Cannon’s legs.
Somehow, the cops got hurt playing the whole game and in the second half USMNT clearly went ahead to win. Despite increasing slushfacing of the payment surface, Weston McKenney got some second half burns, and USMNT was making some serious moves until 70 minutes, when the game was transformed from an entertaining but annoying mess to a classic Concacaf night. Paul Ariola arrived in the 61st minute, and needed just nine minutes to warm up to make his biggest contribution to the game: a Straight red card For a bad tackle in the 70th minute. This angered the USMNT, who saw most of the game’s calls go against them and missed four great scoring chances, and Tyler Adams started a fight with this horse’s collar tackle a few minutes later.
To a limited extent anyone can come to a meaningful conclusion from this stupid game, we have learned that Cameron Carter-Vickers has taken serious steps and should be on the Qatar plane. The El Salvador game was another confirmation that Yunus Musa was the real deal. At night he was comfortably the best player in the USMNT, scoring two full-field runs and was usually the only player on the pitch whose running ability was not affected by the situation. He was everywhere on both sides of the field and a few minutes after the Adams fight he forced El Salvador on a red card, which was primarily for interference.
This goes on for some time. The US were denied a clear penalty, forced a bunch of great saves, and looked like they were fighting this hard to lose 1-0 to their best players. Then, at 90 o’clock, and as if crossing that temporary hurdle to unlock a new level of filth for the game to sink, USMNT instantly equalized. Barhalter sprinted to the celebration scrum and shouted to his team to celebrate the tied goal when there were still six minutes left to win, but this time the game was clearly over. Either way, no one was injured, which is better than the 1-1 draw.
Barhalter and his team value their soil baptism for team-building purposes. “The team grows with such moments,” he later said. “Jordan Morris went into the locker room and everyone started cheering. Everyone’s uniforms are dark brown, the shoes are random, the staffs are all dirty. And that’s what makes a team. ” I think he got a point. Police have a reputation as a glass cannon, a player not designed for the highest level of rigor in football. He has done a few nice plays, but just being there and muddy with his team sends a clear message that he enjoys any opportunity to play for the United States and will not ask for special treatment, even if it is done intentionally. This kind of tone-setting is really important, and for a team that has obviously grown so much during a tough qualifying campaign and will go to Qatar as the youngest team on the field, to sharpen itself and coordinate as a unit like that. Also as meaningless, if the Qatari fields somehow become waterlogged, no party will be more prepared than the USMNT.