Analysis & player ratings: Musah, Morris, & LDLT lift USMNT to ugly, hard-fought 1-1 draw vs. El Salvador
June 15, 2022
THE UNITED STATES national team concluded its four-game June run with an hard-fought, dramatic, but ugly 1-1 away to El Salvador on Tuesday night. The game was played in the driving rain, on a muddy field, in front of a sparse crowd in San Salvador. The players could have mailed it in but instead chose to battle and earn a point on the road.
Drawing El Salvador isn’t a great result for an ambitious U.S. team but these conditions on the road, after most players have had a long season, force the U.S. team to battle. The U.S. team actually played well for long stretched but were put in a tough situation when a goalkeeping blunder from Ethan Horvath gifted El Salvador a goal. Then, the U.S. team struggled with its finishing as El Salvador bunkered.
Alexander’s Larin’s 35th minute goal came from the far-left side. Guarded by Reggie Cannon, Horvath was anticipating a cross but instead left the near post completely exposed which Larin was able exploit on a shot that completely took Horvath by surprise.
This just isn’t good positioning pic.twitter.com/jyllCbbdxK— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 15, 2022
The rest of the game was a slog. The U.S. team generally controlled the game and had to play a man down for nine minutes starting in the 70th when Paul Arriola was called for a foul where referee Cesar Ramos saw the FC Dallas winger come in with his studs up. VAR probably would have reduced it to a yellow card, but Arriola’s protests were weakened by the fact his leg came up during the tackle.
In the 79th, El Salvador’s Ronald Rodriguez was sent off for fouling Yunus Musah from behind on a dangerous scoring opportunity.
With the team’s even at 10v10, the U.S. team continued to push forward. In the 88th minute, Jordan Morris had a very legitimate argument for a penalty when his header in the box blatantly hit Raul Dominguez’s outstretched arm. Morris’ protests, however, were ignored from Ramos.
Then in stoppage time, the U.S. found its deserved equalizer on a play that connected two players who were subbed into the game in the 80th minute. Luca de la Torre floated a well-timed, and accurate cross that was perfectly headed by Morris past Mario Gonzalez.
Here are a few thoughts.
U.S. didn’t play poorly
It’s understandable why the U.S. expects to win games against El Salvador with the talent it has, but in poor conditions on the road, talent is often neutralized. It’s tough for skills such as passing on the ground and dribbling to have such an effect.
The U.S. conceded a bad goal that was against the run of play. After that, Horvath didn’t have anything meaningful to do. The U.S. had the better of chances before that opportunity and afterward. El Salvador sat back and bunkered but the U.S. still had chances.
There were many. Haji Wright had a first half chance he should have put on goal. Musah was going to have a 1v1 on Gonzalez, but drew a red card instead on a DOGSO. Jesus Ferreira rounded the keeper only to force an emergency defensive clearance. Musah had a great free kick that forced a diving stop. Morris should have drawn a penalty three minutes before he scored.
El Salvador scored on a half chance and the U.S. was unlucky it was only able to score on its last of several good chances. The result might have been disappointing, but the overall performances was pretty good.
Another positive takeaway was highlighted after the game when Gregg Berhalter said this was a performance that built character. The team kept fighting and battled through tough conditions.
"The group grows with moments like this" he said afterwards. "Jordan Morris walks into the locker room, everyone starts to cheer. Everyone's uniform is a dark brown color, the shoes are a mess, the staff is all dirty. And this is what builds teams."
But the team competed hard and found its way back into the game in tough conditions.
The top level of international soccer is a mental game as much as anything. If you’re talented but you don’t fight even in tough moments, then you build a recipe for being an underperforming flop at a tournament like the World Cup. It happens every World Cup – look at France in 2010 or Italy in 2014.
The fact that this team was willing to fight so hard in a game where they had reasons not to speaks well.
"It was a tough game, obviously a tough conditions, a tough environment, playing against a good team," Morris said. "I thought the fight in the team was really, really good. And the energy that we brought was really, really good."
Musah was the MOTM
The best player in this game was Yunus Musah. His dribbling was outstanding, even in the mud. He drew a red card, he forced a save on a huge free kick, he dribbled through the El Salvadorian defense to boost the U.S. team’s attack.
Once his end product becomes more clinical, he could be a nightmare to defend.
What was great about Musah also is how much he’s bought into this team. When Arriola was sent off, he went over to shake is hand to keep his spirits up. When Morris scored, Musah was among the first to celebrate with him.
Musah showed not just talent, but also the fact that he has bought into this team.
“I was a little bit hesitant in thinking about his skillset and how it was going to work today,” Berhalter said after the game. “But he took advantage of it, for sure. In tough conditions, sometimes that can slow you down. He was tremendous today.”
Goalkeeping becomes clearer
The goal which Horvath conceded was unfortunate. He’s a talented shot stopper but I think it’s tough for anyone to expect a performance like his Nations League final outing when he’s out of rhythm. Yes, he wasn’t playing much in 2021 and still was instrumental in beating Mexico, but I think that performance distorted the ability of a keeper to consistently play well when he’s rarely playing for his club over a period of years. Yes, a good game like the Nations League final is possible, but it’s not going to come on a regular basis.
Horvath, 27, has the talent but it raises the strong argument that if Zack Steffen and Matt Turner are locks to be on the World Cup team while potentially being backups with top Premier League teams, the final goalkeeping spot should at least go to the best American goalkeeper who is playing on a weekly basis. Whether that be Horvath should he make a move where he’s the No. 1, or Sean Johnson, Stefan Frei, or whoever – the argument is strong that there needs to be a goalkeeper who is playing regularly on the roster.
Right now, Sean Johnson has the inside track to being the third goalkeeper on the World Cup team.
The Starting XI
Ethan Horvath: Poor positioning gifted El Salvador it’s only goal. Aside from that, he had little to do. Rating. 4.0
Antonee Robinson: The Fulham left back’s athleticism was helpful as the U.S. team attacked but his crosses were typically off. Rating. 5.0
Cameron Carter-Vickers: Struggled with a few crosses early but was otherwise decent with his distribution. Rating. 5.5
Aaron Long: It was a good game from the Red Bull captain. He won all of his duels and used his speed to break up a Salvadorian attack later in the first half. Rating. 6.5
Reggie Cannon: Didn’t close down quick enough on Larin for the Salvadorian goal. Fouled unnecessarily shortly before the half. Rating. 4.5
Tyler Adams: The mainstay struggled with the field conditions to play his normally tidy game. He had to engage in a physical manner as the game wore on. Rating. 5.0
Brenden Aaronson: Like Tyler Adams, Aaronson worked hard and tried to adapt to a formational switch as the U.S. team adjusted to the field conditions deteriorating. Still, it was a tough game for attackers to play pretty. Rating. 5.0
Yunus Musah: The Valencia midfielder was the best player on the field. Normally these conditions would limit a player with his skills. But Musah found a way to make it work. His dribbling was very effective in opening up the game. He nearly scored on a free kick, and he drew a red card. Rating. 8.0
Tim Weah: played 61 minutes but was mostly invisible aside from a few attacks early in the game. He was defended well by El Salvador. Rating. 5.0
Christian Pulisic: Played like a captain in this one to help motivate his team to keep fighting. Offensivley he was trying everything and his runs were solid. If Morris didn’t score his goal, it would have bounced to Pulisic for a finish. The major flaw for Pulisic on the day is that his set pieces were letting him down. But overall, it was a positive performance. Rating. 6.5
Haji Wright: Had a good chance in the first half that he couldn’t get on frame. He made a few good runs but it was an off game for Wright with the ball at his feet before he was subbed out at the half. Rating. 4.0
Weston McKennie: came into the game at the half and played well. He hit an outstanding pass to set up Ferreira to round the keeper. Overall, he helped tilt the balance of the game in favor of the U.S. team. Rating. 7.5
Jesus Ferreira: The FC Dallas man moved well, pressed hard, helped in the build-up of some chances. Rating. 5.5
Paul Arriola: Lasted only a few minutes before getting red carded. It was a tough call that VAR might have downgraded to a yellow, but Arriola put himself in a bad spot. Rating. 4.0
Luca de la Torre: Played the final 10 minutes and had a big impact with his classy cross to assist on the Morris equalizer. Rating. 6.5
Jordan Morris: Had a great sub appearance for just 10 minutes. He should have drawn a penalty (had their been VAR, it would have been a penalty) and then scored the equalizing goal. Rating. 7.0