9 US starters get World Cup qualifying debuts at El Salvador

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An El Salvador fan cheers prior a qualifying soccer match against United States for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Nine U.S. starters were set to make their World Cup qualifying debuts against El Salvador on Thursday night, matching the most since 1996.

Matt Turner was in goal, with DeAndre Yedlin at right back, Miles Robinson and Tim Ream in central defense and Sergiño Dest at left back.

Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Brenden Aaronson, Gio Reyna and Konrad de La Fuente were in midfield, and Josh Sargent headed the attack,

All but Yedlin and Ream were playing their first qualifiers. Ream was a surprise starter over John Brooks.

Yedlin was the only player left over from the starting lineup in the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven World Cup appearances.

The U.S. lineup averaged 23 years, 282 days, the fourth-youngest in a qualifier in the modern era.

The 10th-ranked U.S. was missing star attacker Christian Pulisic (recovering from COVID-19) and goalkeeper Zack Steffen (back spasms).

Reyna, at 18 years, 293 days, became the second-youngest American to start a qualifier behind Pulisic, who was 17 years, 353 days, against Trinidad in 2016.

Adams, at 22 years, 200 days, became the youngest to captain the Americans in a qualifier in the modern era, beating Landon Donovan at 22 years, 219 day, against El Salvador in 2004.

De La Fuente was making his second international appearance. He debuted at Wales last November.

The Americans entered on a nine-game winning streak.

No. 64 El Salvador is seeking its first World Cup appearance since 1982.

This was the start of the 14-game final round of North and Central America and the Caribbean. The U.S. hosts Canada on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, and plays at Honduras on Sept. 8.

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