Away From Home Woes Continue For USMNT

With two games left until the World Cup, should fans be concerned?

Those who tuned in to the USMNT match against El Salvador last night expecting to see a soccer game may not have been able to recognize the final product on the pitch. U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter previously stated his intention to use the game to evaluate players on the fringes of making the World Cup roster, but the conditions made that task a virtually impossible one. At times during the 1-1 draw, the game looked more like a mud-wrestling match or this scene from the Longest Yard than a game showcasing a plethora of elite players from Europe’s top leagues. 

As the rain came down in San Salvador, the USMNT conceded 35 minutes in. Alexander Larín sailed in a shot-that-might-have-been-a-cross that left Ethan Horvath stranded in no man’s land. Picking the ball out of the net ended up being just about the only thing Horvath did all game. El Salvador did not generate another shot on target, but its opponents failed to do much better. Berhalter’s bunch pushed for an equalizer, but the rain and mud resulted in sloppy, frequently disrupted play. This only escalated when the United States’ Paul Arriola and El Salvador’s Ronald Gómez were sent off within 10 minutes of each other. 

The U.S. looked set for an embarrassing loss when Jordan Morris scored an extra-time header that rescued a result. 

The USMNT Has A Serious Case Of The Away Blues

While the game may have at times been comical, the conditions may have distracted from a trend that over the past year has been elevated from an area of concern to completely alarming: This USMNT side does not win away.

Here are the stats: Since the final round of qualifying kicked off in September 2021, the USMNT away record is one win, three losses and four draws. That win was against Honduras on Sept. 8. Since then, the U.S. away record has included losses at Panama and Costa Rica, two draws at El Salvador and a draw at Jamaica. The teams the USMNT has lost or drawn to since September have a FIFA ranking 31 spots below the U.S. on average. That includes Canada and Mexico. Of course, these results are only over the past year. 

When bad results happen on a case-by-case basis, it is easy to come up with excuses. Indeed, this is what most fans do. Often, we blame the field, the crowd conditions and the referee as reasons for tough away results. We pen this off as the reality of playing in Concacaf. We say that salvaging draws with extra-time equalizers against far lesser opponents shows mentality.  

All of these things may be true, but they do not excuse a run of away form this poor. As preparations for the World Cup continue, Berhalter and company should be asking the question: Are we expecting Qatar to go any better? 

Sure, the stadiums will be cooled and the fields won’t feature ankle-deep grass. But games will take place 10 hours past Pacific time, and traveling World Cup fans have been known to make noise outside of team hotels late into the night. Plus, the opponents will surely be a level above much of the United States’ competition in Concacaf. The point is, this team will surely still face its fair share of adversity. Hopefully, Berhalter will have the team prepared to deal with it better than they have thus far. 

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