USMNT preparing for “intense” Nations League group stage finale vs. El Salvador
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USMNT preparing for “intense” Nations League group stage finale vs. El Salvador

The U.S. men’s national team has never lost to El Salvador in its previous 26 head-to-head meetings, and with the top spot of Group D in Concacaf Nations League play on the line Monday night, Anthony Hudson’s squad are preparing for anything in the newest showdown.

Exploria Stadium will play host to the final group stage match for both the USMNT and El Salvador with only two points separating the Concacaf squads. The Americans rolled past Grenada 7-1 on Friday night to leapfrog El Salvador into first place while La Selecta fell 1-0 to Honduras last week in friendly action.

Hugo Perez’s squad have taken points in two of their last three head-to-head meetings with the USMNT, including last June’s 1-1 draw at Estadio Cuscatlán. El Salvador might have the odds against them coming into Monday’s meeting in Orlando, but Hudson has praised the continued improvement of his latest opponents.

“I think the coach has done a great job with them,” Hudson said about Hugo Perez and El Salvador. “He is someone that when you watch his teams play against other teams, and then when you watch the games against us, he is someone that has a very, very clear plan.. and he’s not afraid to change things.

“We’ve gone into games where we are fully expecting for him to play a certain way, and he changes it,” Hudson added. “So he is a very, very good coach. I think that’s the starting point. And then I think they’re a team that they have a really good mentality in terms of just an honest, aggressive team, work really hard, clearly believe in what the coach has asked them to do.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

The Americans had to overcome a first-half deficit against El Salvador in their first Nations League showdown last summer, using a 91st minute equalizer from Jordan Morris to leave with a 1-1 draw. Both Paul Arriola and Ronald Gomez were sent off in that match, while only nine American Players who were in the squad that night in San Salvador are currently part of this March roster.

Yunus Musah, Christian Pulisic, Antonee Robinson, and Brenden Aaronson all started in that rain-filled affair last June and gained valuable experience from it to take in their international careers. El Salvador has lost each of its last 15 road matches on United States soil in all competitions, but their aggressive style of play will not change knowing a first-ever victory could see them top Group D.

“The game is going to be a really intense battle,” Musah said. “El Salvador is going to com here for a win, they haven’t won against us in a few matches, so we’re going to have to match their intensity, physicality, our attitude has to be spot on. We have to get the job done if we want to get to the semifinals.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

The USMNT used 16 Players in its trip to Grenada on Friday with six Players playing the full 90 minutes including Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, Joe Scally, and Bryan Reynolds. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Ricardo Pepi were among the standout stars for the Americans, who were able to get a rest with the result in the bag by the second half.

Hudson did not release any names of who will be starting in Monday’s match, but several lineup changes are expected with an important summer of the horizon.

“There’s going to be a few changes,” Hudson said. “Coming into camp we had an eye on pre-planned changes, and I think it’s one of the best things to have is good depth, it’s a luxury to have. To be able to rotate, not making wholesale changes, but to rotate in a way that we can at least get to the second game of a window and have freshness in Players and not lose quality is good to have.”

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