COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Antonee Robinson broke a freeze in the air and the American attack, scoring a big 52nd-minute goal that lifted the Americans against El Salvador 1-0 on Thursday night and kept them on the right track. path to a return to the World Cup.
The narrow victory on a 29-degree night that tied the record low temperature for a US home qualifier propelled the United States to 18 points with five games remaining.
The United States has two more cold matchups next week and can move closer to a spot with wins Sunday against Canada in Hamilton, Ont., and Wednesday against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota. The last three qualifiers will take place in March.
Mexico have 17 points after beating Jamaica 2-1 on Thursday night. Canada started the night with 16 points heading into their match against Honduras, and Panama had 14, followed by Costa Rica with nine. El Salvador are down to just six and have virtually no chance of reaching this year’s tournament in Qatar.
The top three nations qualify and the fourth-place team advances to a playoff against the Oceania champions, likely New Zealand. Winning games at home is key, and the Americans have won four of five games on American soil, only stumbling in a draw against Canada in September.
Robinson scored after Weston McKennie played a long ball down the right flank to Tim Weah, who let it bounce three times as he passed Roberto Domínguez and Eduardo Vigil.
Goalkeeper Mario González made a sliding block and the ball bounced off Jesús Ferreira. He headed it through the goalmouth and Christian Pulisic let the ball bounce past him to Robinson, who kicked it with his left foot 8 yards out for his second international goal. Robinson did a forward flip and a backflip in celebration, adding to the backflip he performed after scoring the equalizer in the 4-1 Honduras win in September.
Matt Turner replaced Zack Steffen, who stayed in England with back pain and didn’t have to stop. Turner played after announcing he would move next summer from New England to Arsenal.
The U.S. Soccer Federation scheduled the game in a cold climate to minimize travel and cool El Salvador, who visited a sporting goods store to purchase additional winter gear.
The Americans’ 15th consecutive victory at home against El Salvador since 1989 was not easy. They outscored El Salvador 8-3 in the first half but didn’t score. But the offense followed its pattern: the United States scored 11 of their 13 goals in the second half.
González leaps to parry Yunus Musah’s shot on goal three minutes after Robinson’s strike. He also stopped a 12-yard shot from Robinson in the 65th.
El Gráfico, a Salvadoran sports newspaper, headlined the match “En una hielera”. Translation: “In a freezer.” Snow showers fell during warm-ups and the temperature was the same as in ‘Guerra Fria”s win over Mexico at the old Columbus Crew Stadium in February 2001 and the Snow Clasico win over Costa Rica in Commerce City, Colorado, in March 2013.
American players have electric heating pads on the bench and refreshments of chicken broth and cider. The locker room temperature was set unusually low to acclimatize the team.
Defenders Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards were the only starters on either team to wear short sleeves.
About 12 minutes later, Enrico Hernández of El Salvador went to the bench and removed his thermal underwear.
Pulisic, McKennie and Tyler Adams have started together for just the second time, the first since a March 2019 exhibition against Ecuador. Ferreira was a surprise striker choice against Ricardo Pepi, scoreless in 12 appearances for club and country since October 7.
Ferreira was high with a 10-yard angled shot with his left foot in the 16th minute. America’s best chance of the first half came three minutes later, when Adams, Musah, Sergiño Dest and Weah combined a quick attack that left Ferreira open in front of González to miss the crossbar with his right-footed shot.
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