Get All Nine Points This Window And The USMNT Can Practically Punch Its Ticket To Qatar
By Nick Robbins – LA Soccer Press
With the kickoff of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar just under 10 months away, CONCACAF World Cup qualifying heats up as the US play three games in six days.
The battle for the three auto qualifying spots is tight as four nations are all within two points of each other. Should the United States Men’s National Team get all nine points available and with some help from other results, it can practically punch its ticket to Qatar.
Two games against weaker opponents will be played on home soil plus a trip north of the border to Canada gives the USMNT a great opportunity to pick up nine points. All three games this window will be played in traditionally cold weather climates, adding an advantage for the U.S. against its Central American opponents.
The U.S. kicks the window off tonight against El Salvador in Columbus, OH. The USMNT will hosting its second game at Lower.com Field, having beat Costa Rica there 2-1 in October 2021. The U.S. and El Salvador most recently played earlier in qualifying, scratching out a dull 0-0 draw in San Salvador. Outside of that September match up El Salvador have been poor in qualifying, only picking up a single win. The weather should be just around freezing at kickoff, providing a significant advantage against El Salvador.
The most difficult game of the window may have gotten easier for the United States as its northern neighbors will be missing their best player for the Jan. 30 contest. The shock team of qualifying, the Canadians find themselves first in the table prior to the window sitting with 16 points and yet to lose a game. Canada’s 21-year-old starlet, Alphonso Davies, will miss all qualifiers this window with a heart muscle issue following a lengthy battle with COVID-19.
Canada gave the U.S. a tough game in Nashville in September, drawing 1-1 following a late Canadian equalizer. Canada has seen a serious advantage this qualifying campaign hosting matches at home in the frigid climate. While that may provide an advantage against Central American teams, the point is mute against a U.S. team equally prepared to play in the cold. Weather is expected to be in the low 20s during kickoff in Hamilton, Ontario. The Canadians are hoping for a strong hostile crowd at Tim Horton’s Field. This game will be the most difficult of the window.
The USMNT wraps up qualifying in St. Paul, MN hosting Honduras at Allianz Field. The U.S. hosts its second game in the Minnesota venue but the first during a harsh Minnesota winter. Weather on Feb. 2 has the area expecting below-freezing temperatures and snow. This plays into the hands of the U.S. as it is unlikely that any of the Hondurans have played in snow. The U.S. dominated Honduras during their first qualifying match up in San Pedro Sula, winning 4-1 in September 2021. Honduras have been the worst team in the tournament and have failed to win a single game so far.
Gregg Berhalter has called up a squad with most of the usual suspects featuring a squad of MLS players and guys playing in Europe. Christian Pulisic will lead from the front and Tim Weah should get back on the scoresheet. Three games also offer Berhalter with the opportunity to rotate players and provide the whole roster the opportunity to play.
This window is a fantastic opportunity for the USMNT to pick up nine points, and if the pieces fall into place, punch a ticket to Qatar. While qualifying has gone well, the job isn’t done yet. Three games in winter climates, with two providing the opportunity to put two Central American opponents out of their comfort zones.
2021 was great for the USMNT. 2022 can be even better. It starts tonight in Columbus.
Robbins is a native of New York City and a student at University of Alabama. He writes about the United States Men’s National Team for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him on Twitter @nickrobbins12.