The USA are back in World Cup 2022 qualification action on Thursday evening as they host El Salvador at Lower.com Field, Columbus, Ohio (7pm ET; Live on TV: ESPN 2, Unimas, TUDN). Gregg Berhalter’s men will be looking to wrestle control of the qualifying group from the Canadians, who currently top the pile in North & Central America.
Read on for our full soccer matchup preview with picks and betting predictions.
When the USMNT lost to Panama back at the end of 2021, things weren’t looking so great, and it would’ve been easy for Berhalter’s boys to feel sorry for themselves, especially after failing to register a shot on target against a side that is generally considered inferior.
However, instead of slumping, Thursday’s hosts rallied. Since that rather disappointing defeat at Estadio Rommel Fernandez, they’ve gone unbeaten in four, three of which they have won. Their win against the Mexicans was particularly eye-catching, while there were certain positives to be taken from the 1-0 win gained against Bosnia & Herzegovina last time out.
For the visitors, things haven’t gone so well. The boys from El Salvador come into this fixture having won none of their last seven fixtures, five of which they’ve lost. Scattered amongst those losses are a couple of reasonable draws against both Ecuador and Jamaica, though those points were collected on home soil. Away from home, El Salvador tend to struggle considerably, while their record against the big boys in this group is very poor.
At their best at home
Over the last year or so, the current crop of USMNT players has gone through a few struggling periods, but on home soil, things are generally straightforward. Berhalter’s men are unbeaten at home since September 2019. They have won each of their last four at home, as well as eight of their last ten inside regular time.
What is particularly impressive about Team USA’s recent efforts at home is the lack of goals conceded. Last time out in front of a home crowd, the Stars and Stripes kept the Bosnians at bay, while they also kept a clean sheet against rivals Mexico prior to that. They’ve now kept a clean sheet in three of their last four home fixtures, as well in eight of their last ten on US soil, keeping out the likes of Canada and Costa Rica, two teams that sit comfortably above Thursday’s opponents in the World Cup 2022 qualification standings.
Struggles on the road
As touched on in this preview above, playing on the road really is something that this El Salvador side can’t really get to grips with, at least in qualifying. Thursday’s visitors have now lost each of their last five away from the comforts of home, conceding 11 goals in the process. What’s more, they have a terrible record away against the USA, losing 12 of their 13 matches on US soil. You’d have to go back to 1989 to find the last (and only) time that El Salvador avoided defeat in mainland America. When they last paid a visit to the USMNT, they lost by six goals to nil in 2020. Such a result leaves lots of room for improvement but little hope for Hugo Perez’s men.
Betting this fixture
The hosts should win here and win well at that, though betting on the home win at odds of -500 offers little value. Those looking to play this fixture should consider ‘USA to Score Over 2.5 Goals’. In general, the goals haven’t been flying in for the hosts, but this a huge opportunity for them to fill their boosts as they go up against defensively inferior opposition.
When the pair last met on US soil, Berhalter’s men hammered home five before half-time, so we know they have what it takes to severely punish the lacklustre defending often showcased by El Salvador. Moreover, the visitors arrive at this junction having shipped at least three goals in two of their last four on the road, while the fact that they recently conceded twice against both Panama and Costa Rica doesn’t exactly bode well ahead of a fixture against a USA team that isn’t lacking in offensive muscle.
Pepi to pounce again
Teenage sensation Ricardo Pepi has had a busy month prior to being called up for national team duty for the third time. He recently switched Major League Soccer for the Bundesliga, joining Augsburg, a move that’s testament to his ability. Given how he burst onto the scene in the US, it shouldn’t be long before he is catching the eye in Germany’s top division, though for now, it’s back stateside, where he’s sure to be raring to go.
Three goals in seven appearances for the USMNT, the 19-year-old has had little trouble finding the net at international level. A match against the leaky defense of El Salvador represents an excellent opportunity for the wonderkid, who in 2021 averaged 0.56 goals and 0.42 expected goals per 90 minutes, to add to his tally.
So these are our USMNT vs El Salvador predictions and betting picks for this soccer game preview and it is just the one pick, but feel free to add Pepi to score at any time as well:
- In the ‘match result & total goals’ market: USA to Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ -105 with BetOnline.