The Best Part Of USA-El Salvador Was The Pregame Show

Win at home; draw on the road — that’s long been said to be the formula for success in Concacaf World Cup qualifying. If true, the U.S. is at least on track to book a trip to Qatar, but it wasn’t exactly the barnstorming start to World Cup qualifying many U.S. fans were hoping for after a summer full of trophies.

The USMNT earned a 0-0 draw with El Salvador to open qualification for the 2022 World Cup on Thursday in San Salvador. A match largely devoid of scoring chances, the most entertaining aspect of the match — from an American perspective — was the two-hour pregame show on CBSSN.

At times, the U.S. looked good; at times El Salvador looked the superior team, despite being ranked 54 spots lower. It wasn’t the worst result, but it wasn’t cause for celebration. 

Gregg Berhalter fielded a young team led by Tyler Adams, the youngest captain for a USMNT World Cup qualifier in the modern era at 22 years and 200 days. Gio Reyna, at 18 years and 293 days old, became the second youngest USMNT player to appear in a World Cup qualifier. Christian Pulisic, still regaining fitness after testing positive for Covid-19 a couple of weeks ago, was left in the States and did not play.

The atmosphere in the Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador was electric well before kickoff and never abated, giving the young Americans a taste of what they’ll experience in Concacaf over the next seven months of qualifying. Just over 30,000 vaccinated fans were allowed into the 53,000-seat venue. 

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USMNT vs El Salvador Highlights

El Salvador’s best chance came from an Eriq Zavaleta header off a corner kick in the 57th minute, when Matt Turner came up with a strong save, his only of the game.

The U.S. only had one more shot on target than the hosts, with a Kellyn Acosta header denied on the goal line the closest the Americans came to scoring. Weston McKennie also had a header fly just wide. The only other shot on target was a tame effort from long range by Sergiño Dest.

In the end, it was a point apiece, which left the U.S. with five other teams on one point after a slew of draws on Thursday. Elsewhere in the Concacaf qualifying octagon (the ocho?), Canada and Honduras drew 1-1, Panama and Costa Rica played to a 0-0 draw and Mexico secured the lone victory, beating Jamaica 2-1 on a late Henry Martín goal.

USMNT vs El Salvador Highlights (Full Match)

The U.S. entered the match with such high expectations after beating Mexico in the Nations League and Gold Cup finals over the summer. With anticipation at an all-time high after the USMNT failed to qualify for the last World Cup, CBSSN put together a two-hour pregame show that was actually a joy to watch. 

Kate Abdo led much of the same fun crew from the Nations League broadcasts: Oguchi Onyewu, Charlie Davies, Maurice Edu, Nico Cantor and the inimitable Clint Dempsey. Though admittedly I also had eyes on the Canada-Honduras and Argentina-Venezuela games while watching, it was a fun, entertaining and informative pregame show. It just makes the fact CBSSN won’t air Wednesday’s game against Honduras all the more baffling, as CBS is hiding the match on Paramount+, which is silly because everyone will just watch on Universo instead.

It all started off with Drew Carey — yeah, the Price Is Right dude (he also part-owns the Sounders) — explaining the Concacaf World Cup qualifying process and included interviews, analysis and plenty of shenanigans (but thankfully not as much as the CBSSN’s Champions League coverage).

The interview with the Roldan brothers (Christian of the USMNT and Alex of El Salvador) was a highlight, especially since the two got to go head to head during the match a few times. Gooch, Deuce and Davies are a great trio together, with the best moment for them a little fashion show (along with Edu) featuring some fine footwear.

Unfortunately, the USMNT couldn’t equal the pregame show and failed to make an impact on the octagon from the start. Again, a draw isn’t the end of the world, but it was certainly one of those nights the team will lament if the U.S. fails to qualify for the World Cup yet again.

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