Chris Mueller scored twice in his international debut, Ayo Akinola got a goal in his first game and the United States men's national team overwhelmed El Salvador 6-0 on Wednesday night in its fourth and final exhibition of the pandemic-shortened year.
Paul Arriola scored in his first start for club or country since tearing his right Achilles tendon in DC United's preseason match on Feb. 15. Brenden Aaronson, playing his second international game following his debut against Costa Rica in February, got his first goal.
Before a crowd of about 2,500 in the Americans' first match before fans since the pandemic began, Bill Hamid got the shutout in his first international start since a 2-1 loss at Ireland in June 2018.
Using a lineup of players mostly from Major League Soccer teams, the U.S. had wide stretches of free space in a match played outside the FIFA calendar and without European-based stars. The Americans completed their fewest games in a year since playing three in 1987.
A busy 2021 is ahead that includes a pair of March friendlies, the CONCACAF Nations League final four in June, the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, the start of World Cup qualifying in September and possibly the first Olympics for the U.S. under-23 team since 2008.
Fifty-eight players have debuted since the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that prevented the Americans from playing in the 2018 World Cup, including 42 since Gregg Berhalter became coach ahead of 2019. The U.S. lineup averaged 24 years and nine international appearances.
Arriola put the U.S. ahead 17 minutes in with his sixth international goal, a 12-yard left-foot shot off a pass from Mueller, who blew past a defender on the left side, then cut back the ball. Mueller doubled the lead in the 20th with a 15-yard right-foot shot following a pass from Jackson Yueill, and Sebastian Lletget got his fourth goal with an 18-yard chip in the 23rd that deflected off Roberto Dominguez.
Mueller scored again in the 25th with a 6-yard diving header off Akinola's cross. Akinola, also eligible to play for Canada and Nigeria, made it 5-0 in the 27th with a sliding shot from near the penalty spot off a pass from Mueller.
Aaronson got the lone goal of the second half in the 50th with a 12-yard right-foot shot from a Lletget pass.