USMNT 2, Jamaica 0: Ricardo Pepi scores twice

AUSTIN, Texas – Ricardo Pepi left the jogging area as the volume in the stadium began to increase. With two masterful touches of the ba...


AUSTIN, Texas – Ricardo Pepi left the jogging area as the volume in the stadium began to increase. With two masterful touches of the ball, he had done his job for the night, and he was substituted out of the game with more than 20 minutes remaining.

Before reaching the bench, Pepi, an 18-year-old Mexican-American forward from Texas, ducked his head, touched the grass and signed himself. During this time, a song was built in the stands:

“Pepi! Pepi! Pepi!

Youth is a complicated thing.

When things go wrong like they did for a good part of the last month for the United States men’s soccer team, young people can feel like a glaring handicap. When things are going well, like they did on Thursday night in Austin, it can give you all the hope in the world.

Pepi, for one night, presented a vision of a bright future for the Americans and the 20,500 fans in attendance, scoring two second-half goals to lead the United States to a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in their fourth World Cup qualifying game.

The victory propelled the United States, for the moment at least, to the top spot of its regional qualification group. The Americans, with eight points in four games, lead on the goal difference against Mexico, who were tied 1-1 when visiting Canada on Thursday night.

By relying on such a young group, with so many key players in their teens and early twenties, American coach Gregg Berhalter has set up a kind of race against time: to assemble a stable of relatively incomplete young talent, and hope that they do. will flourish in time to land the country’s ticket to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“I don’t even think we think of ourselves as young guys anymore,” said Brenden Aaronson, a 20-year-old winger from New Jersey. “We are placed in a situation where the whole country is watching us and we have to perform. “

So was it a demonstration of spectacular maturation in a month, or an unsurprising victory against a suffering team? his own period of disarray? A bit of both, maybe, but the USA team and their fans won’t care anyway. What matters today are the storage points, as much as possible, before next March.

This mission had started stuttering last month, when the Americans’ first three games functioned as a sort of hazing ritual for the young group of players. Sixteen of them made their debut in qualifying for the World Cup, a number frequently cited in the aftermath of matches by the team’s public relations team to underline their youth, their room for improvement.

“When we got to the last camp we were maybe a little naive and didn’t know what to expect and that’s why we had to use the first three games as a learning process,” said the captain of the team, 22 years old, Tyler adams, said this week.

Their problems in those three games, which resulted in two disappointing draws and a win from behind, were very clear on offense. The Americans passed heavily, stifling any forward momentum they could hope to build. The opposing teams sat comfortably in their own camp, and the United States couldn’t find a way out.

Amid those growing pains, one of the fastest learners was Pepi, who scored and scored two goals in the team’s third game last month in Honduras, helping the team get home with a necessary victory and a wave of good feeling.

On Thursday night, he was one of many American players to enter the box in the 49th minute as Yunus Musah – like Pepi, only 18 – dribbled dangerous through the heart of the Jamaican defense. Musah slid the ball to Sergiño Dest, who curled the ball towards the mouth of the goal, where Pepi curled up and let it shoot out of his forehead and inside the left post.

The same straightforward approach 13 minutes later produced the team’s second goal: another sweeping run – this time down the left side, by Aaronson – coaxed Pepi into a full sprint into the box. When the ball came to his feet, he spread his legs for a clean strike that sent celebratory drinks flying into the stands behind the goal.

“It’s amazing,” Berhalter said. “An 18-year-old has an opportunity and he takes advantage of it. “

Thursday’s game brought the return of Weston McKennie, who was banned from the team last month after a gratuitous violation of his coronavirus protocols. At 23, he is considered an indispensable player, even if his immaturity is often reflected.

The team was again led by Adams, a wise 22-year-old veteran. Dest, 20, was dangerous and Musah, 18, indispensable.

All these young players, for one night, took their blank slate and produced an image full of hope.

Youth can be a beautifully complicated thing.

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Newsrust - US Top News: USMNT 2, Jamaica 0: Ricardo Pepi scores twice
USMNT 2, Jamaica 0: Ricardo Pepi scores twice
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