Stakes are high when USA meets Grenada and El Salvador

El Salvador's Kevin Reyes takes down the USA's Antonee Robinson during the 1-1 Concacaf Nations League clash last June in El Salvador.

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The USA facing two teams it's never lost against in an official game, in a competition created five years ago, may not spark excited anticipation among fans. But the U.S. men have plenty to play for when they face Grenada on Friday and El Salvador on Monday.

The Concacaf Nations League games wrap up of play in Group D, in which the USA sits in second place behind El Salvador.

At stake for the USA is qualifying for the 2023 Gold Cup and advancing to the Concacaf Nations League final four.

It’s the first official competition for the USA since the World Cup in Qatar — and the first chance to see 12 of that World Cup squad's foreign-based players in a U.S. jersey, including Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna.

“These games are complicated, very tricky games,” U.S. interim head coach Anthony Hudson said from Grenada during a video conference. “We’ve just come out of the World Cup. We have a really talented squad, coming from playing at very high levels all around the world, playing in Europe.

“And I mean this respectfully. Certain places in the region — it's just different conditions, different stadiums, different fans.”

Playing on U.S. soil against teams like El Salvador, with a large immigrant population, means there may not be a complete home-field atmosphere on Monday.

“They become very complicated games," Hudson said.

The top finisher advances to the Concacaf Nations League final four, in Las Vegas June 15-18. The top two finishers qualify for the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Jesús Ferreira (right, hugging Kellyn Acosta) scored four goals in the USA's 5-0 win over Grenada in its 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League opener last June.

El Salvador is already assured of a Gold Cup spot, thanks to tying the USA (1-1) and beating Grenada (3-2) in San Salvador, and tying at Grenada, 2-2. The USA beat Grenada 5-0 in Austin. If you're having trouble remembering those games, it's because they were way back in June of 2022.

Easier to remember is the final of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League, the USA's dramatic 3-2 win over Mexico in the 2021 final that marked the rise of the Gregg Berhalter-led USMNT era. Only six of the 23 players on the roster represented the USA when it played in its previous competitive tournament (2019 Gold Cup, in which the USA fell to Mexico, 1-0, in the final). Among the young rising stars was Reyna, then 18 years old, who tormented Mexican defenders, scored the 1-1 equalizer, and assisted with a corner kick on McKennie's tying goal late in the game. Pulisic hit the gamewinner from the penalty spot in overtime.

With the USA having a game in hand on both El Salvador and Grenada, and trailing El Salvador by only one point, no one's betting against the Americans finishing atop the group and advancing to the final four. A win or tie in Grenada will clinch the USA's Gold Cup spot.

Grenada is ranked 173rd in the FIFA World Rankings. The USA (13th) has won all four meetings with the Caribbean island (population: 125,000) by a combined score of 15-2.

“The bottom line is that we have to win,” Hudson said. “We have to win because our goal is, first of all to get to the semifinal of the Nations League, and also qualify for the Gold Cup."

Assuming the USA gets a result in Grenada, only a win by El Salvador on Monday would earn Los Cuscatlecos the final four Nations League spot.

The USA is 19-1-7 all-time against El Salvador — 12-0-5 in official competition — and the loss was a 1992 friendly with essentially a U.S. B team.

“We are obviously the current holders of both tournaments [Nations League and Gold Cup],” Hudson said. “And it's really clear for the whole team that our ambition is to retain both titles, and that starts tomorrow.”


3 comments about "Stakes are high when USA meets Grenada and El Salvador".
  1. Peter Bechtold, March 23, 2023 at 11:02 p.m.

    There are three suburbs near Portland with populations like Grenada; if we don't win handily we should come up with an all-Texas team, or such, next time.

  2. Kerry Solomon replied, March 24, 2023 at 8:39 a.m.

    All-TX team?  I don't think so , Tim

  3. Santiago 1314, March 24, 2023 at 6:35 a.m.

    Looking forward to these games...
    Not a Single one of these Players, Shouldn't Be here
    While it's True there might be some other u25s that also deserve to be here... All of this Roster BETTER BE ABLE TO WIN THESE 2 GAMES.
    (I do think it's a Waste of Development Playing Time and Necessitates a Change in Team Tactics, to bring Ream, I would prefer they Make Him THE COACH/Assistant at Least)

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