Pulisic et al return but US stumble in opening 2022 qualifiers. Mexico open with wins

September 6 – This summer’s Gold Cup winners USA have stumbled in their start to their Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign managing only draw in their two opening fixtures. In contrast Gold Cup and Nations League runners up Mexico have opened with two wins.

Concacaf’s ‘octagonal’ qualifier – which sees a final eight teams competing in a league format for three qualifying spots plus an inter-confederation play-off – promises to be the closest yet.

After two rounds of the three-match international window, Mexico lead the group with six points, followed by 2018 World Cup qualifiers Panama with four points. Then come four nations who have all opened with two draws – Canada, US, Honduras and El Salvador.

Bottom of the group are a sad-looking Jamaica who have two losses and are a point behind Costa Rica who opened with a draw against Honduras.

It is the performance of the US that will attract most scrutiny. Having released almost all their star names from Europe after the final of Nations League and before the Gold Cup – the reason they gave was to give them a break before focussing on World Cup qualifying – the return of their European sons has not been prodigal, so far.

The US were drawn away to El Salvador in the opening round, managing a 0-0 draw against the Central Americans who were knocked out in the Gold Cup quarter finals by Qatar. They then faced a fast improving Canada at home but could not repeat their 1-0 win of the Gold Cup and were once again indebted to stand-out keeper Matt Turner for keeping them in the game.

The next stop for the US is Honduras on Tuesday for what promises to be a fierce fixture against a motivated team that opened with draws away to Canada and El Salvador.

The US will be expecting the likes of Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams to step up to their star billing if they are to avoid a repeat of the 2018 failure to qualify for the World Cup.

In the other ties El Salvador are away to Canada, both looking for a first win, while Panama will be hoping to burst Mexico’s winning bubble. Costa Rica host Jamaica in what could be a defining fixture in terms of 2022 qualifying for both nations.

Qatar 2022 QualifyingWDLFAPts
Costa Rica021122
El Salvador021032

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