Chris Mueller leads six-goal barrage as U.S. men's national soccer team defeats El Salvador in friendly

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Andre Fernandez, Special to USA TODAY Sports
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Gregg Berhalter’s tenure as the United States men’s national soccer team’s coach has been all about opportunity.

A total of 32 players have made their national team debuts over the 22 matches he’s presided over in the past two years, creating a youth movement he hopes will help the U.S. return to the World Cup in 2022.

On Wednesday night, Berhalter saw one of those first-timers seize his chance during an impressive 6-0 rout of El Salvador at Inter Miami CF Stadium.

Chris Mueller, a 24-year-old winger for MLS’ Orlando City, earned his first cap on the national team and led the charge scoring twice, assisting on another goal as the United States scored five goals over the first 27 minutes of the match.

Mueller, who registered 10 goals and seven assists in MLS play during the 2020 season, had never appeared on the U.S. team at any level prior to the match.

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Chris Mueller celebrates after scoring a goal against El Salvador at Inter Miami CF Stadium.
Chris Mueller celebrates after scoring a goal against El Salvador at Inter Miami CF Stadium.

The U.S. won its third match this year and finished 3-0-1 in its abbreviated 2020 international schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a pressing style that Berhalter has begun to instill in his teams over the past year, the U.S. overwhelmed El Salvador, which had not played an international match since Jan. 19 when it lost 1-0 to Iceland in Carson, Calif.

Sebastian Lletget, 28, one of the “elder statesmen” on a predominantly MLS-based roster with an average age of 23 years and 95 days, finished with a goal and an assist, as did Brenden Aaronson. They and Jackson Yueill, 23, worked the midfield together as they did on Feb. 1 during the USA’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica. Yueill, a midfielder for San Jose, assisted on Mueller's first goal.

The game also marked the return to international competition for 25-year-old D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola, who earned his first cap since tearing his ACL back in February. Arriola scored the first goal in the 17th minute.

Ayo Akinola, a 20-year-old forward for Toronto FC in MLS, also scored a goal, and L.A. Galaxy defender Julian Araujo, 19, recorded an assist.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT youth movement impresses again in rout of El Salvador