COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wearing long trousers and gloves, a few topped by ski hats, the United States men’s soccer team players practiced Wednesday in 10 degree weather ahead of Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against El Salvador, quite a contrast to the 72 degrees in San Salvador for the opening 0-0 draw on Sept. 2.

The Americans face three games in an eight-day span, two of them at home, and with two wins would move into commanding position to clinch a berth during the final three qualifiers in March. Canada leads North and Central America and the Caribbean with 16 points, one ahead of the U.S., with Mexico and Panama at 14 points. El Salvador is seventh with six.

U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter has shifted to restrained confidence, admitting that in September he was “a little bit more bold with my prediction.”

“They’re going to be pressing really high, and we’ve got to move the ball quickly,” he said of El Salvador. “They were the best pressing team in the first eight games.”

Among the few holdovers from the failed U.S. 2018 World Cup effort, Christian Pulisic is the American centerpiece. Still just 23, the Hershey, Pennsylvania native became the first American to appear in and win a Champions League final, proudly wearing a “USA” hoodie during the postgame celebration in Portugal last May.

Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams could start together Thursday for only the second time, the first since an exhibition against Ecuador in March 2019.

Next up will be a match Sunday at Canada and a Feb. 2 matchup against Honduras at St. Paul, Minnesota.

“We’re in a good position,” Pulisic said, “and by the end of this window, we could be in a great position.”

NOTES: Matt Turner is “the clear starter” in goal, according to Berhalter, with Zack Steffen remaining in Manchester, England, for back treatment. There has been speculation Arsenal could try to acquire Turner from New England. “He’s able to tune that out,” Berhalter said. … Delayed by flight cancellations in Istanbul, D DeAndre Yedlin arrived in Columbus on Wednesday. … Berhalter said Antonee Robinson is his starter at left back.


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