Five things to know about qualifying for the 2022 World Cup at Concacaf
Opening the qualifying process in El Salvador in September, a young American side played out a spirited 0-0 draw in front of a near-full crowd at Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador. A record 12 American players made their World Cup qualifying debuts in the game and helped deny the hosts a precious two points in its first qualifying round since 1989.
Returning home to face Canada on September 5, the USMNT encountered a The Reds content side to sit back and hold back with hopes of taking a point on the road. Twenty-year-old USMNT striker Brenden Aaronson opened the deadlock 10 minutes after halftime but Canada bounced back just seven minutes later as Alphonso Davies broke in on the left and found Cyle Larin for the equalizer in the 62n/a minute, forcing a 1-1 draw on September 5.
BEHIND THE RIDGE: USMNT gains waypoint in El Salvador
With two points in two games, the USMNT returned to Honduras three days later. Gregg Berhalter chose to start what was at the time the youngest USMNT World Cup qualifying roster ever, including 18-year-old Ricardo Pepi. After Brayan Moya’s 27th-minute header gave Honduras the lead at the break, the 18-year-old striker led a second-half comeback, assisting Antonee Robinson’s 48.and minute equalizer, before nodding to USA with his first international goal in 75and minute.
As Honduras pushed to tie the game, Pepi linked up with Brenden Aaronson who put the game on ice in 87and minute before Sebastian Lletget rebounded Pepi’s shot in added time of the second half to cap off a resounding 4-1 win September 8
BEHIND THE CATCH: USMNT takes victory on route back to Honduras
The USMNT reunited for their first World Cup qualifier in Austin to start the October window and Pepi remained hot-handed, scoring both goals in a comprehensive 2-0 win over Jamaica. The victory combined with other results in the region propelled the United States to first place in the standings after four matches.
Berhalter opted to make seven changes to his squad when the team visited Panama three days later. In a game with few chances, a wary USMNT side frustrated the hosts throughout the first half, but surrendered a header to Anibal Godoy in the 54and minute and failed to tie, losing 1-0 on October 10 in Panama City.
BEHIND THE CREST: USMNT scores win over Costa Rica
Returning to open a new home at Lower.com Field in Columbus against Costa Rica, the United States fell behind early when Keysher Fuller gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the first minute. The team went on the front foot and leveled things thanks to Sergiño Dest’s left-foot rocket in the 25and minute, before Tim Weah forced an own goal in the 66and to secure a 2-1 American victory.
The three points won in Columbus lifted the United States into second place at the end of the October window.
Every four years, fans on both sides of the border mark their calendars for the showpiece match of Concacaf World Cup qualifying: USA-Mexico. Kicking off the Octagonal’s only two-game window, this game had more spice – if it could handle more – with the USMNT having beaten El Tri in back-to-back league games over the summer, capturing the first Concacaf Nations League. title to the 2021 Gold Cup crown as well. But it’s in qualifying that results matter most, and US Soccer has selected Cincinnati’s brand new TQL Stadium to provide the environment for the United States to take three critical points.
BEHIND THE CATCH: USMNT revives ‘Dos a Cero’ against Mexico
Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa decided to add his own fuel to the fire upfield, suggesting his team was the “mirror” the USMNT wanted to see itself in. Christian Pulisic had its own message to deliver, when in the 74andminute he headed home with an expert cross from Tim Weah to give the United States a 1-0 lead. During the celebration that followed, Pulisic lifted his t-shirt to reveal his answer: “Man in the Mirror.” When Weston McKennie beat Ochoa again in 85andminute to double the lead, a familiar, heartwarming chant rang out in the stadium: “Make a Cero! Make a Cero!The final whistle sounded and as Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ played, the American players celebrated another historic win over El Tri.