USA thumps El Salvador as young MLS stars shine

The US Men’s National Team closed out an unusual 2020 season in style with a 6-0 route over El Salvador.

Playing just their fourth match of 2020, manager Gregg Berhalter called up a squad of mostly Major League Soccer based players, giving a trio of players in Chris Mueller, Julian Araujo and Ayo Akinola their national team debuts.

Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman started the match on the bench, behind the preferred pairing of New York Red Bulls’ Aaron Long and Philadelphia’s Mark McKenzie. The MLS Defender of the Year came on in the 83rd minute, becoming the first Nashville player to represent the United States.

It was the players at the other end of the pitch, though, that stole the show.

DC United’s Paul Arriola opened the scoring after 17 minutes, getting on the end of a deflected cutback from Chris Mueller before finishing past a helpless Henry Hernandez.

The floodgates opened after that. A debut brace from Mueller and a pair of goals from Sebastian Lletget and Ayo Akinola within the space of seven minutes gave the US a 5-0 lead after 27 minutes. Brendan Aaronson made it six shortly after halftime to ice the match.

While it’s hard to read too much into the result given the quality of the opponent, it was an uplifting ending to a unprecedentedly difficult season. And with a packed season ahead, the quality shown by young players like Mueller, Araujo, and Akinola gives the US’s depth a needed boost.

Man of the match

Chris Mueller. The Orlando City winger scored a brace in his international debut, and was a constant source of danger on the left. Mueller consistently got behind El Salvador’s backline and showed impressive composure with his two goals, as well as a calmly delivered assist for Akinola’s goal. He has plenty of competition from players like Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna and Jordan Morris, but it was a promising start to his national team career.

Timeline

17′ – USA Goal (1-0) – Paul Arriola
20′ – USA Goal (2-0) – Chris Mueller, assisted by Jackson Yueill
23′ – USA Goal (3-0) – Sebastian Lletget, assisted by Brendan Aaronson
25′ – USA Goal (4-0) – Chris Mueller, assisted by Julian Araujo
27′ – USA Goal (5-0) – Ayo Akinola, assisted by Chris Mueller
50′ – USA Goal (6-0) – Brendan Aaronson, assisted by Sebastian Lletget

Stats

Shots: USA 22 – 3 El Salvador
Shots on goal: USA 9 – 3 El Salvador
Goals: USA 6 – 0 El Salvador
Possession: USA 60% – 40% El Salvador
Yellow cards: USA 0 – 1 El Salvador
Red cards: USA 0 – 0 El Salvador

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