The United States showed promise but no ability to finish in its pandemic-delayed World Cup qualifying opener, drawing 0-0 at El Salvador on Thursday night in the type of Central American stadium that repeatedly has stymied the Americans.
Both teams created few chances before a boisterious yet polite sellout crowd of about 30,000 that started filling Monumental Estadio Cuscatlán, Central America’s largest, about 8 1/2 hours before kickoff.
The U.S., trying to rebound from its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, failed to win its sixth straight road qualifier dating to 2016 (two losses, four draws).
“We can make a lot of excuses about the game, but at the end of the day there’s some positives to take away,” midfielder Tyler Adams said. “We got a clean sheet, we didn’t give up a goal, we’ll take the point and we’ve got to focus on the next game.”
Qualifying was delayed a year by the pandemic, and a compacted schedule has teams in the final round of North and Central America and the Caribbean playing 14 matches in seven months. The U.S. hosts Canada on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, and plays at Honduras on Sept. 8.
Three of the eight nations in regional finals qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar and fourth place advances to a playoff. But there rarely are easy games for the U.S. in Central America.
Riot police with helmets and shields were in front of the stands. Fans, most wearing blue home jerseys, were separated from the field by yellow chain-link fencing. Many held up the lights on their mobile phones, as if it were a rock concert.