COLUMBUS, Ohio – Antonee Robinson’s goal early in the second half Thursday lifted the U.S. to a 1-0 victory over El Salvador, moving the Americans a big step closer to returning to the World Cup this fall in Qatar.
With five games remaining in the eight-team CONCACAF tournament the U.S. (5-1-3) is second, a point behind unbeaten Canada that earned a 2-0 road win against Honduras. The top three teams advance directly to the World Cup, a tournament the U.S. missed four years ago.
Playing before a sellout crowd of 20,000 at a chilly Lower.com Field, the U.S. got the only goal it would need in the 52nd minute. And it was set up by a stout save from Salvadoran keeper Marlo González, who made a sliding stop of Tim Weah’s hard right-footed shot from the right edge of the 6-yard box.
The rebound caromed toward the edge of the penalty area for Jesús Ferreira, who headed it back toward the net. Weah, who was scrambling after the play, went airborne in an attempt to get a foot on it but missed, allowing the loose ball to bounce twice to an unmarked Robinson, who volleyed a low left-footed shot past González and in at the far side.
Robinson then celebrated with a somersault and a handspring.
The goal was the Americans’ first against El Salvador in 175 minutes, dating back to a 2020 friendly, and it was the only mistake González made on an otherwise brilliant night. Three minutes after the goal, he turned away Yunus Musah’s shot from the center of the box and 10 minutes after that, he stopped another Robinson try from almost the same spot.
El Salvador didn’t play nearly as well on the other side, managing just one dangerous chance and failing to force U.S. keeper Matt Turner into a save.
The temperature at kickoff was 30 degrees with a windchill of 23, making it the second-coldest qualifier the U.S. has played this century. It was weather U.S. center backs Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards greeted wearing shirt sleeves and no gloves, the only starters on either side to do so.
Neither team looked particularly sharp in a ragged first half that saw Ferreira miss a pair of shots from close range in a three-minute span.
On the first, Ferreira, making his first competitive start for the U.S., took a feed from Robinson but drilled his left-footed shot well over the bar in the 16th minute. Three minutes later a splendid sequence saw Sergiño Dest spin a cross from the right wing into the box for Weah, who headed it across the front of the net to a wide-open Ferreira at the far post.
But Ferreira was unable to get a boot on the ball, which rolled harmlessly beyond the end line.
El Salvador’s best chance of the night came in the 28th minute when captain Alex Roldan, who plays in the MLS with the Seattle Sounders, made a long open run up the right side before pulling up and trying a right-footed that missed wide of the far post.
El Salvador (1-5-3), which hasn’t played in a World Cup since 1982, needed a win to keep its fading hopes for Qatar alive; Thursday’s loss leaves it on the verge of elimination.
El Salvador, which played the U.S. to a goalless draw in its opening qualifier in September, hasn’t scored against the U.S. since 2013.