The United States topped El Salvador 1-0 on Thursday evening in a match that had positives and negatives.
While the clean sheet stood out as the USMNT kept a lid on El Salvador’s attack with possessional dominance, the attack was marred by a sputtering inconsistency that limited the goal-scoring ceiling.
A few US players had excellent showings in Columbus, Ohio, while others left more to be desired. “We need to tidy up in certain areas, be more aggressive and on the front foot,” goal-scorer Antonee Robinson said in the postmatch press conference. Head coach Gregg Berhalter pointed to a spacing issue in midfield.
MORE: Minute-by-minute recap of USA 1-0 El Salvador
Here’s a rundown of each American starter’s performance on the field against El Salvador as the US came away with all three points.
USMNT player grades vs. The Savior
GK Matt Turner: 6
Turner didn’t have too much to do in this match, but he was so-so in the few times he was required.
The one big first-half chance for El Salvador was nervous, and while he had the goal mostly covered, there was a small window for Alex Roldan to shoot at; Thankfully for the US, I have missed. Turner also was n’t great with his feet; if El Salvador had pressed harder while he was on the ball, it could have been trouble.
Otherwise, there were no real glaring issues. “We’re lucky to have him,” Berhalter said after the match.
R Antonee Robinson: 8
Fulham is bursting with goals, and Robinson brought that back with him to Columbus. “Jedi” was excellent going forward and fine on defense with little to do.
Robinson was great cutting toward the top of the box and also out wide, and he tested the goalkeeper on a number of occasions. He was one of the best players on the pitch for the United States, and Berhalter acknowledged that after the game in his postmatch presser. “We call our fullbacks the superheroes of our team, because they produce.
“At Fulham he’s been in great form, and we asked him to do something similar. We put an emphasis on our fullbacks arriving in the penalty box because we know we have that midfield line that can arrive and clean anything up behind them.” Berhalter called him the “Coach’s Man of the Match tonight.”
R Chris Richards: 6
The defense on the whole didn’t have much to do, but Richards was nervous a few times on the ball. Otherwise, I have defended well alongside the veteran Zimmerman. Berhalter said his positioning and build-up play of him were “good” but noted that he committed a few too many fouls in man-marking situations. Berhalter finished his thoughts with praise, saying of the 21-year-old, “We’ve seen a really sharp learning curve from him in the last few months.”
It would be surprising if Richards started against Canada.
DWalker Zimmerman: 8
The two-time reigning MLS Defender of the Year was a brick wall, providing a number of interventions that were critical, and recycling possession coolly under the El Salvador press. It’s easy to overlook the defender in a match where there wasn’t much defending to do, but he was a necessary presence.
Seems weird to say about a two-time reigning MLS defender of the year, but Walker Zimmerman still feels slept on to me.
— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) January 28, 2022
D Sergino Dest: 7
Despite his struggles for time at Barcelona, Dest on the whole looks like an improved and maturing player. While it took Robinson a bit to have an effect on the match, Dest was the option down the right early and linked with Timothy Weah very well.
When the attack shifted to the left flank with Robinson, Dest lost his influence on the match, but there are only so many possessions to go around. It was a positive performance on the whole and one the young fullback can build upon. His chemistry with Weah is extremely promising.
M Tyler Adams : 7
Weston McKennie was the star in midfield, but Adams was almost as strong,
M Weston McKennie: 8
The star of the show, the master of the magic. The Juventus man played extremely well, providing the link between Adams and the front line. His runs on the ball were stellar, winning 7 of his 15 ground duels (including a perfect 3-for-3 in dribbles) to provide excellent service for the forwards to then penetrate the El Salvador penalty area.
The passing was also on point — he misplaced just eight passes — and he pushed high up the pitch to draw El Salvador out. Nearly everything positive the United States produced on the evening had McKennie’s touch.
M Yunus Musah: 6
McKennie’s night was far more glittering, but Musah did a lot of the dirty work. An outrageous 48-for-49 passing total provides insight into his hard work from him despite a lack of more gaudy stats like tackles or dribbles. It wasn’t a standout performance, but Musah’s chemistry with the other two, more well-known midfielders was promising.
FW Christian Pulisic: 5
We have to be smart about criticizing Pulisic in these CONCACAF slugfests, because opponents literally game-plan to stop him first and foremost, which requires other players to step up in his stead. El Salvador did that Thursday night, as expected, and it worked.
While some of his struggles can be excused by the opposition’s tactical approach, Pulisic was also just plain bad. He was 0 for 10 in duels through the first 45 minutes, and finished 2 for 15, an ugly haul from a high volume of attempts. Pulisic will have better games for the United States, there is no question, but it has to be questioned whether his Chelsea struggles are carrying over mentally.
Berhalter on why Pulisic wasn’t effective tonight: “It’s just about him finding his top form and really finding ways to get him in front of goal because that’s really where he shines.” #USMNT
— Jacob Myers (@_jcmyers) January 28, 2022
FW Timothy Weah: 8
While Robinson and McKennie might get more nominations for postmatch awards, Weah was extremely important to the success of the USMNT on the night. He was spectacular at times on the right, and he was incredible on the Robinson goal, creating the chance by using his pace and strength to get around a pair of defenders and create the initial shot.
Weah’s injection of life was a bright spot in an otherwise sputtering attack at Lower.com Field. He has made a case for more playing time moving forward despite the presence of Pulisic and Brenden Aaronson at the same position.
Weah was dangerously stretching the backline a few times in the first half. Paid off nicely on that goal. Robinson pretty damn good finisher for a left back.
— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 28, 2022
FW Jesus Ferreira: 6
It was overall a positive performance from the young forward, something Gregg Berhalter acknowledged postmatch, but his two big misses in the first half are impossible to ignore. The second – by far the most glaring — garnered a gargantuan 0.7 xG mark, and he managed to flub it. He also struggled making runs in situations where he needed to be more decisive.
Still, on the whole, Ferreira was a positive presence who did exactly what Berhalter hoped he would do, which was provide hold-up play and get teammates involved. Not sure Ferreira is the answer about Pepi, but he contributed.
None of the substitutes provided enough of an impact to note.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.