The United States put one foot in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals after a late flurry of goals secured a nervy 3-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday.
Ricardo Pepi, Antonee Robinson and Gio Reyna scored in the final 10 minutes in Austin, Texas, leaving Gregg Berhalter’s side firmly on course for a place in the last four.
The Americans can book their place in the semifinals — and a ticket to next year’s Copa America in the United States — when they head to Port of Spain next Monday for the second leg.
But the USA will prepare for the second leg taking nothing for granted after struggling to impose themselves on a Trinidad & Tobago side reduced to 10 men after Noah Powder was sent off in the first half.
“It was just one of those days where it felt like nothing was coming in,” Robinson said after the win.
“I feel we created more chances but I think we will be disappointed — we will have to overcome them with 10 men really.
“But 3-0 is still a decent lead for the next game and hopefully we can do better next time.”
It looked for long periods that the ‘Soca Warriors’ would hold the tie against the Americans, who failed to get a shot off in the 1st half.
However, a change in tactics by Berhalter in the second half, bringing Borussia Dortmund’s Reina into a more central role, paid off as the USA began to dominate.
The Americans looked poised to pull off an upset in the 60th minute when Daniel Phillips brought down Weston McKenney in the penalty area.
Jamaican referee Osane Ethion pointed to the spot but after VAR intervention the penalty was overturned.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 82nd minute when good play from Reina saw the ball worked to Fulham defender Robinson on the left.
Robinson whipped in a low ball and Pepy waited at the near post with the most deft of moves to finally beat Trinidad goalkeeper Denzil Smith.
Four minutes later Robinson doubled the lead with his first international goal, his well-taken shot from the edge of the area deflecting into the net.
As relief rolled around the Q2 Stadium, Reyna added a third on 89 minutes, playing a fine one-two with Folarin Balogun before finishing to give the Americans a 3-0 advantage heading into the second leg.
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