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SOCCER

USMNT’s Walker Zimmerman: “El Salvador was probably my favorite atmosphere for qualifying”

The road to qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was not easy for the United States Men’s National Team.

Update:
Walker Zimmerman" El Cuscatlán fue mi ambiente favorito en la eliminatoria"
JOSE JORDANAFP

The United States returns to the World Cup after failing to qualify four years ago and the road was not easy to secure a spot in Qatar this year. The USMNT started from scratch and brought in a new process in 2018 with Gregg Berhalter being given the managerial job.The American manager opted to rejuvenate the squad and started calling up young talent so they could mature as they built towards qualifying.

First stop El Salvador for USMNT

The USMNT started their road to Qatar playing against El Salvador at Estadio Cuscatlán on September 2, 2021 and it was a very hostile environment for the team managed by Gregg Berhalter. The United States were unable to walk away with the three points and they had to settle for a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes.

“It was probably my favorite atmosphere for qualifying, throughout the entire time. I remember, leading into the game, it was like ‘Oh, because of Covid, it’s like 50-60% capacity, it’s not going to be a full stadium,” said Walker Zimmerman in The Athletic’s new podcast series “From Couva to Qatar: Remaking the USMNT.”

And I will never forget walking out, up those stairs, to go out on the field for warmups – normally, I’m pretty locked in. It’s kind of like white noise in the stands for me, and it was so loud and so passionate, I just started laughing. I started like – that was my gut reaction. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is actually pretty cool,” added the Nashville SC defender.

USMNT rise up the rankings

After 14 fixtures, the United States men’s national team managed to secure third place in the standings with a record of six wins, one draw and no defeats for 25 points. The USMNT tied in points with Costa Rica, but had a better goal difference and they avoided playing in the inter-confederation play-off.

We were never fully safe until that last window, obviously, with points and clinching in that scenario, but I think that it was important for us to do well in the February games – the cold one against Honduras was an important game for us to make sure we won that convincingly,” added Walker Zimmerman.

And then to come back and have that win against Panama in such a good fashion, that was really the first time that we could relax. It was tighter than we all probably thought going into it, but at the same time, it built a lot of character that we needed and we will need to rely on as we head into the World Cup,” concluded the United States international.

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