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El Salvador vs. USMNT Odds, Picks, Prediction: Thursday’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier Betting Preview (Sept. 2)

El Salvador vs. USMNT Odds, Picks, Prediction: Thursday’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier Betting Preview (Sept. 2) article feature image

John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images. Pictured: Weston McKennie.

  • The United States and El Salvador begin the World Cup qualifying in San Salvador on Thursday.
  • The U.S. will be without Christian Pulisic, while the hosts look to build on a strong Gold Cup performance.
  • Ian Quillen explains below why he thinks the Americans will prevail and gives his top pick for a goal scorer.

El Salvador vs. United States Odds

El Salvador Odds+580
United States Odds-200
Over/Under2.5 (+100 /-125)
Day | TimeThursday | 10:05 p.m. ET
How To WatchCBS Sports Network | Paramount+ | fuboTV
Odds updated Wednesday night via PointsBet.

Nearly four years after Trinidad and Tobago ruined the United States’ 2018 FIFA World Cup hopes, a new qualification cycle begins for a new generation of American talent.

DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta are the only players who participated that night to make Gregg Berhalter’s squad for the trip to San Salvador.

And although it’s a younger squad overall, it’s also an indisputably more talented one. Five potential starters Thursday are playing regular football for teams that reached the 2020-2021 UEFA Champions League knockout phase.

El Salvador have a new look of their own under former American international and Salvadoran born Hugo Perez.

The Cuscatlecos‘ youth movement includes an influx of American-born players with Salvadoran heritage like Alex Roldan and Josh Perez.

Don’t Take El Salvador Lightly

El Salvador began the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying as one of the direct beneficiaries of the expanded eight-team field.

But if their Gold Cup performance is an indication, this group is capable of making noise within the region in their first final-round appearance since 2010.

In the group phase, the Salvadorans were a near-miss from earning a point against Mexico. In the quarterfinals,  a soft penalty decision resulted in the decisive goal in a 3-2 loss to defending Asian Cup champions Qatar.

The Cuscatlecos lack a big European-based name. Alex Roldan is the most valuable player on the squad, according to Transfermarkt, and he’s not even the star Roldan on his club team. (The honor belongs to older brother Cristian, who is a part of the U.S. squad.)

But they are not the dourly conservative team of recent past, having nearly matched Mexico in terms of possession and out-possessing and outshooting Qatar in their last two Gold Cup fixtures.

And on Thursday they’ll have something they didn’t then: the support of about  30,000 home fans.

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Reyna & Aaronson Will Be Tasked With More For United States

The big news is that Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic did not make the trip from the team’s base camp in Nashville.

That’s not necessarily surprising. Pulisic reported to camp after a 10-day isolation period in England because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

He has been cleared to return to full team activities. But it makes sense Berhalter would ease him into action after more than a week of relative inactivity followed by trans-Atlantic travel.

That is likely to place more play-making responsibilities on the 18-year-old Giovani Reyna and 20-year-old Brenden Aaronson,

Reyna in particular is having an excellent start to the Bundesliga season, with two goals through three games for Borussia Dortmund.

Technically, our last look at the U.S. men’s national team was of them winning the Concacaf Gold Cup in a dramatic triumph over Mexico a month ago.

But that was a more provisional squad drawing mostly from MLS-based players. The majority of this more European-based squad last played June in the Concacaf Nations League.

The U.S. defeated Honduras 1-0 in the semifinals on Jordan Siebatcheu’s late winner, followed by a thrilling 3-2 win over Mexico in extra time on goals from Reyna, Weston McKennie and Pulisic.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The price of an El Salvador or draw double chance wager at +155 odds and an implied 39.2% probability is tempting.

Under Berhalter, the U.S. appears to get better relative to the competition the more extended time they have together. In a three-match window, the best chance to get them out of rhythm is probably the first match.

But I pause to back the home underdogs because the Gold Cup can be a deceiving measuring stick. The tournament’s history is is littered with captivating Cinderella runs that didn’t translate on the qualifying stage. And player by player, the talent gap between El Salvador and the U.S. is enormous.

Depending which book you’re using, ruling that play out doesn’t leave a ton of options, with the uncertainty of a match like this leaving less wagering options on the board. But I think there’s value in backing Weston McKennie to score.

The Juventus man plays a true box-to-box role and isn’t primarily tasked with shouldering the attacking burden on the club level. The same is largely true when the Americans play higher-level opposition from Europe or South America.

Something changes in Concacaf. McKennie has never played in World Cup qualifying. But he has played in 11 Concacaf matches between the Nations League and the 2019 Gold Cup. He’s scored six times, across four games.

McKennie’s ability to make secondary late runs into the box lends itself to these kinds of fixtures on the road. It’s about finding a moment and seizing it as much as crafting creative attacking play. While McKennie is not known as much for the latter, he is exceptional at the former.

I’m playing him to score and the U.S. to win at +500 odds, an implied 1 in 6 probability or 16.7% if you prefer. It’s a high-risk play, but not as high as the price suggests.

Pick: Weston McKennie to score and U.S. to win (+500, DraftKings)

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