USMNT rout Grenada in Nations League as Jesús Ferreira scores four

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AUSTIN — As the months passed and the World Cup approached, coach Gregg Berhalter waited for someone, anyone to claim the starting striker job.

On Friday night, with a record-breaking performance in a 5-0 win over Grenada in the Concacaf Nations League, 21-year-old Jesús Ferreira moved to the front of a crowded field. The level of competition must be taken into account. But four goals is four goals, and with just three tune-ups ahead of the United States men’s national soccer team‘s arrival in Qatar, the race is starting to take shape.

Ferreira became the fifth American male player – and the first since 2003 – to score four times in a game.

“Whenever a player is under pressure, you watch how he reacts,” Berhalter said. “That’s the important thing, and regardless of the level of the opponent, the player always has to perform. And I feel he was under pressure.

Ferreira had scored just once in his last eight national team appearances, a troubling streak for a player locked in a battle with Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Pefok and Haji Wright, among others, for a place in the team. of the World Cup and playing time in Qatar.

“Lately I’ve been trying to work on my mind, knowing that I haven’t been at the level I’m supposed to be at,” Ferreira said. “I try to focus more on having a good game, making sure my first touch is good, helping my teammates in any way I can, and the goals will come.”

Berhalter said he spoke with Ferreira earlier on Friday and told him he wasn’t judging him strictly on goals.

“He does a lot of other things that really help this band succeed,” Berhalter said. “And so I just said, ‘Go ahead, relax and play your game.’ he had were excellent.Against any opponent, you are looking for the quality of the shots and where he puts the ball – the placement.

Ferreira scored in the 43rd, 54th, 56th and 78th minutes, taking his tally to seven goals in 12 appearances. His FC Dallas teammate Paul Arriola scored in the 62nd minute.

Ferreira’s best goal was his third – a 16-yard one-timer off a corner kick that flew into the top corner of the net.

Arriola endorsed Ferreira’s case to become the team’s best striker, saying: “Jesús has all the qualities. He really does. He worked so hard. We talked about it after the game. Everyone in this dressing room knows how amazing Jesús is and what he does for us on the pitch.

Berhalter said Wright, who enjoyed a fabulous campaign in the Turkish league last season, will make his starting debut on Tuesday against El Salvador.

The win extended USA’s home unbeaten streak to 26, equaling the program record set in 2015. They will cap that four-game streak against El Salvador – a slight rise in the competition but still a far cry from the quality of world Cup.

Had he had his hesitations, Berhalter would have chosen a much tougher competition for his side’s final home appearance before the World Cup in November. But because the Nations League is a compulsory competition and two group stage matches had to be played in this international window, the 15th-ranked Americans had no choice but to face Grenada, the team ranked 170th in the world.

Not exactly the best way to prepare for Wales, England and Iran in the World Cup.

Nonetheless, the Americans overcame a slow start, scoring late in the first half and scoring three times in the first 16 minutes of the second before a reported 20,500 at Q2 Stadium.

Haji Wright makes a “beautiful” return to the teammates of his youth

“It was always going to be about us, our mindset and our goal in this game,” Berhalter said. “Although it took a bit of time to shift into high gear, we certainly did.”

The Americans (1-0-0) are the defending tournament champions and heavily favored to beat El Salvador (1-0-1) and Grenada (0-2-1) in group play, which will continue in next spring.

The most important thing, of course, is to position yourself for the World Cup.

The final tweaks will take place in friendlies at the end of September against Asian teams qualified for the World Cup. The identity of these opponents will be announced soon. One friendly match will be played in Germany, the other in Spain. (Due to their own Nations League schedule, European teams are not available for friendlies.)

After starting this camp with tough friendlies against Morocco and Uruguay ahead of the World Cup, Berhalter said this week the focus would be on intensity and mentality in League games of Nations.

The Nations League best serves smaller countries that otherwise struggle to organize matches with larger teams. But the biggest teams that have qualified for the World Cup have little use for these preliminary matches.

Berhalter used Friday’s game to launch a mix of starters and reserves. Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams weren’t even in uniform, and Walker Zimmerman, Yunus Musah and Tim Weah were on the bench.

The Spice Boys roster included players from clubs in the English Fifth and Sixth Divisions, the US Second Division and the Grenada National League.

For most of the first half, the visitors hung on. They were no threat to the future, but thwarted the American push. The Americans played hard but not very well, failing to synchronize the attack or be polite in and around the penalty area.

Their smartest move was Berhalter’s no-look, bouncy pass to a Grenadian player for a throw-in.

The breakthrough finally came in the 43rd minute. Arriola pounced on the ball at the top of the box. His cross was deflected towards Ferreira, who moved to his left to create a pocket of space and then fired a left-footed shot from 10 yards into the far corner.

“When we came into half-time I think they were quite dynamic,” Granada coach Michael Findlay said. “But you could see when we started the second half, we were struggling to manage the pace of the game, the transition of the game.

Arriola was the orchestrator again in the 54th, sending a through ball to Ferreira for a composed finish. Two minutes later, from a Kellyn Acosta corner, Ferreira scored in spectacular fashion with the one-timer.

Arriola scored from a running back, set up by Luca de la Torre’s pass, and Ferreira added his fourth by scoring from close range, assisted by Brenden Aaronson.

“I don’t really want to think about the future,” Ferreira said of his World Cup hopes. “There are a lot of good players there who can take care of this place. What I want to do is just stay focused, keep working hard to earn more minutes and show what I can do for the team.

Remarks: Aside from Pulisic and Adams, the other player not in uniform was centre-back Erik Palmer-Brown (hamstring pain). …

The pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Long was the 20th centre-back combination deployed by Berhalter during his 3½-year tenure. …

Earlier on Friday, Carter-Vickers agreed to a four-year contract with Glasgow Celtic. He spent last season on loan from Tottenham Hotspur to the Scottish champions, who had an option this summer to buy his contract. …

The US team will stay in Austin until Sunday afternoon before chartering to San Salvador. The 26 players should travel.

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