Brenden Aaronson controls the ball during a match between El Salvador at the CONCACAF Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, on August 2, 2021 in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Goalie Matt Turner kept the clean sheet at the U.S. men’s soccer team opened its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign Thursday with a 0-0 draw on the road against El Salvador.
Turner, who has emerged as MLS’ top goalie this season for the New England Revolution, faced just one El Salvador shot on goal but his teammates were unable to bury any of their own in front of the raucous crowd at Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador.
The USMNT has little time to rest as it now has to turn around and host Canada on Sunday in Nashville before traveling to Honduras on Wednesday.
Coming into the series, U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams made clear the team was seeking three wins in these first three games.
“We’re looking for a nine-point week, bottom line,” the RB Leipzig standout said. “We want to set the standard.”
The team didn’t get those three points Thursday, but for a young U.S. team that included many players taking part in their first Concacaf road game, leaving with a single point isn’t a disastrous result either.
While more American players are suiting up for top European teams than ever before, and the U.S. is coming off victories this summer in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League in June and the Gold Cup in August, much of the squad is untested in the always tricky Concacaf region that includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Only six of the 25 players in the U.S. camp had played in a World Cup qualifier prior to tonight.
Though playing without star forward Christian Pulisic, who is coming off a quarantine for a positive Covid-19 test, the U.S. team on Thursday included the World Cup qualifying debuts of several talented young players, including Adams, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna.
The group will continue to be tested throughout the so-called “Octagonal,” a condensed seven-month qualifying process in which eight teams will play each other in a home-and-away round-robin format. The top three teams at the end automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-place team goes on to an international playoff.
The U.S. is seeking to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after missing out on the 2018 tournament, ending a streak of seven consecutive appearances.