Just when the U.S. men’s national team looked like they were headed for defeat, Jordan Morris came to the rescue with a stoppage-time goal to steal a precious point against El Salvador in their CONCACAF Nations League Group D clash at a soggy Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador on Tuesday night.
With this being one of the final three official games ahead of the FIFA World Cup, many of the players on the bubble had a chance to make their cases to be on that plane for Qatar. The challenge from El Salvador was certainly not going to be like their 5-0 mauling of Grenada.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter made a few changes in his trusty 4-3-3 formation. Ethan Horvath got the nod in goal, while Aaron Long and Cameron Carter-Vickers teamed up in central defense. Haji Wright got the start ahead of Jesus Ferriera at center-forward with Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah supporting him on the wings.
The Americans tried to set the tone on the heavily waterlogged field as the referee blew the whistle for the start of the first half but found themselves down a goal in the 35th minute. El Salvador’s Alexander Larin sent what appeared to be a cross into the goal as a hapless Horvath stayed rooted to his spot.
Berhalter would make a couple of changes to start the second half as Weston McKennie came on for Brenden Aaronson while Ferriera replaced Wright.
The U.S. came out in the early minutes of the second interval on the attack with McKennie playing a through ball to Ferriera in the 50th minute. Goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez came out to challenge, but the forward would get shot around him only for Roberto Dominguez to slide in to keep the ball out.
Yunus Musah had a chance to level the score eight minutes later when he made a darting run towards the hosts’ end with the ball. He passed it to Weah, who then returned it to the midfielder to put a shot on target. However, Martinez would make the stop.
The visitors then found themselves going down to 10 men in the 70th minute when the referee showed a red card to Paul Arriola who had entered the game Weah. The FC Dallas man was accused of making a harsh tackle on Larin.
Despite being a man down, the U.S. continued to push for a goal even though the game got a bit chippy. They received a lifeline from the referee when he reached in his pocket to show the red card to El Salvador’s Ronald Rodriguez for a professional foul as he prevented Musah from breaking free on a scoring opportunity.
Musah then had another chance to be the hero for the U.S. when he fired a free-kick on target, but Martinez was once again on the spot to parry the ball away from danger.
As the game entered stoppage time, it looked the Americans were headed towards defeat to El Salvador, which hadn’t happened since 1992. However, Luca de la Torre’s cross into the area found Morris who headed the ball past Martinez to silence the home supporters.
The U.S. ends this June window with two wins, two draws, and a lot of questions as to whom have earned their spots on the plane to Qatar.
Final auditions for the World Cup will come in September when the team plays their final two friendlies on European soil.