McKennie, Pepi star for USMNT in 7-1 rout of Grenada
Gio Reyna started in his first match with the U.S. after his parents disparaged then-coach Gregg Berhalter for his lack of playing time at the World Cup, a 7-1 rout of 173rd-ranked Grenada in the CONCACAF Nationals League on Friday night at St. George’s.
Ricardo Pepi and Weston McKennie had two goals each and Alejandro Zendejas scored his first international goal. Christian Pulisic and Brenden Aaronson also scored for the No. 13 Americans, who had never won by a 7-1 score.
Pepi ended a 10-match international scoreless streak when he put the U.S. ahead with a fourth-minute header off Pulisic’s cross. Pulisic and Luca de La Torre had two assists each for the Americans, who for the first time since Major League Soccer launched in 1996 failed to field at least one MLS player.
Berhalter used Reyna sparingly at the World Cup and the 20-year-old nearly was sent home by Berhalter for lack of hustle in training. The player’s parents, former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna and former women’s player Danielle Egan Reyna, notified the U.S. Soccer Federation of a 1992 domestic violence incident involving Berhalter and the woman he later married — Danielle Egan’s former college roommate.
The USSF commissioned a law firm to investigate and appointed Anthony Hudson interim coach after Berhalter’s contract expired Dec. 31. The law firm said there was no legal impediment to retaining Berhalter, who remains a candidate, and the USSF put off a coaching decision until after a new sporting director is hired, probably this summer.
In the first competitive U.S. match since the World Cup, Reyna started in central midfield rather than his wing role under Berhalter. He played until the 64th minute.
Auston Trusty made his U.S. debut, paired in central defense with Mark McKenzie, who got his first start since October 2021. Forward Taylor Booth made his debut in the 64th.
Right back Bryan Reynolds made his first start since December 2021. The U.S. starting lineup included goalkeeper Matt Turner and, left back Joe Scally, McKennie along with Luca de la Torre, Pulisic, Reyna and Aaronson in midfield, and Pepi at striker following his omission from the World Cup roster.
The U.S. improved to 5-0 against Grenada with a 22-3 (15-2) goals advantage.
Pepi scored from 7 yards in the fourth minute, his first international goal since October 2021. Aaronson scored in the 20th minute off Pulisic’s feed, his seventh international goal. and McKennie Aaronson’s Leeds teammate, scored in the 31st, getting a head to Pulisic’s angled free kick and volleying with his weaker left foot.
Myles Hippolyte scored in the 32nd minute for Grenada in his international debut, beating Turner from 16 yards. McKennie got his 11th international goal in the 34th after Trusty headed down a cross. knocking the ball in with his right foot from short range.
Pulisic scored his 23rd international goal in the 49th minute with a shot that bounced in off goalkeeper Jason Belfon, and Pepi got his fifth international goal in the 53rd, scoring from 6 yards after running onto de la Torre’s through ball. Zendejas, who committed to the U.S. over Mexico, made his American competitive debut in the 64th minute and scored from 23 yards following a turnover in the 72nd minute.
Johnny Cardoso entered in the 76th in his American competitive debut, tying him to the U.S. program.
The Americans complete group play Monday in Orlando, Florida, against El Salvador, which has five points. and would advance to the semifinals in June with a win or draw. Grenada finished last in the group with one point.
Notes: After meeting with the U.S. team in Orlando, Reims midfielder Folarin Balogun visited New York Yankees camp in Tampa. The 21-year-old midfielder, on loan from Arsenal, is eligible to play for England, the U.S. and Nigeria. ... D Miles Robinson, who hasn’t played for the U.S. since tearing his left Achilles on May 7, was a healthy scratch.
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