American Soccer Team Overcomes Challenges to Secure Victory in Concacaf Nations League Quarterfinal
AUSTIN, Texas – The United States men’s national soccer team faced a tough battle in the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal first leg against Trinidad and Tobago. Despite dominating possession and playing with a man advantage, the USMNT struggled to break through the opposition’s defense. However, a late surge of goals secured a 3-0 victory for the home side.
With just nine minutes remaining in the match, the U.S. was in danger of heading into the second leg with a scoreless draw. The memory of Trinidad and Tobago eliminating the U.S. from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup added to the tension. But the American team rallied, taking advantage of their opponent’s fatigue and employing a more aggressive attacking strategy.
Ricardo Pepi, Antonee Robinson, and Giovanni Reyna each found the back of the net within a seven-minute span, giving the U.S. a comfortable lead heading into the second leg. Despite the victory, there are both reasons for optimism and concern for the American team.
This match highlighted the U.S.’s struggle to overcome low defensive blocks employed by overmatched opponents. Similar difficulties were encountered in a September match against Uzbekistan. While the ability to score late goals is commendable, it raises questions about the team’s overall performance against resilient opponents.
The U.S. faced challenges of its own, particularly in the first half. Manager Gregg Berhalter attributed the team’s difficulties to a “lack of precision” in the final third. The American players seemed too comfortable in possession, attempting to score the perfect goal instead of adapting to the match’s demands.
More direct play and shots from outside the box could have provided a solution to breaking down Trinidad and Tobago’s defense. The second half saw an improvement in this approach, resulting in Robinson’s long-range strike and increased pressure on the visitors.
However, this presents a dilemma for Berhalter, who has long favored a possession-based style of play. While hitting long-range shots may not be the highest-percentage play, it can draw out defensive teams and create space for intricate patterns. The team’s slow recognition of this need was acknowledged post-match.
Ricardo Pepi’s impact off the bench cannot be overlooked. The young forward has scored seven goals for the U.S. this year, with five of them coming as a substitute. While starting on the bench may not be ideal for any forward, Pepi has embraced his role as a super-sub and contributed significantly to the team’s success.
The U.S. is now halfway toward its goal of reaching the CNL semifinals. A victory in the second leg will also secure qualification for next summer’s Copa America, a crucial competition ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico. Despite holding a three-goal lead, the team remains focused and determined to secure a win in the upcoming match.
“We still have to go down there and do a job, and we want to win. I think that’s the ultimate goal is that you win as many games as possible, and so that’s our mindset,” said defender Tim Ream.