Antonee Robinson, USMNT explode late to all-but-secure Copa America qualification

Ricardo Pepi's 82nd minute goal saved heavily-favored United States men's national team major blushes and — perhaps — their Copa America hopes in a 3-0 win over 10-man Trinidad and Tobago in CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal play on Thursday.

Flustered and edgeless in the final third, the Yanks played up a man for nearly an hour but failed to score until Antonee Robinson cued up the goal for super sub Pepi, a marker which helps the Yanks head to Trinidad and Tobago with an advantage. Robinson then scored in the 86th to put the first leg to bed, and Giovanni Reyna basically ended the tie off a Folarin Balogun assist three minutes later.

Copa America qualification looked set to remain in the balance heading into Port of Spain on Tuesday, and the eight-minute blitz from Berhalter's men changed that.

The Yanks were missing Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah and also missing ideas in the final third, holding 77% of the ball and out-attempting T&T 20-0. The U.S. was already controlling the game when Noah Powder was sent off for the Soca Warriors in the 38th minute.

USMNT keeper Matt Turner had six touches, all completed passes.

Now the Americans will secure automatic qualification to this summer's Copa America in the United States with a win, draw, or one-goal loss (Stream at 7pm ET on November 20 en Peacock en Espanol.)

Should they somehow fail, they'll face a March 23, 2024 qualification match with one of the losers of Costa Rica vs Panama, Jamaica vs Canada, and Honduras vs Mexico.

Jedi, Pepi bail out USMNT, who struggles mightily without Pulisic, Weah

The United States men's national team badly needed its attacking depth to poke its head above the water on Thursday, and Gregg Berhalter needed to turn to his bench to find any love from his front three.

The leg injury suffered by Christian Pulisic during AC Milan's UEFA Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain has cost him fitness for club and country, while Timothy Weah has been out of the mix for Juventus all month with a hamstring injury.

And so Berhalter turned to Malik Tillman, Folarin Balogun, and young Kevin Paredes in Texas and got... very little. That's despite lively nights for fullbacks Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest plus energy from Weston McKennie.

So it's fitting that Robinson was the provider for Pepi's goal, and perhaps more fitting that Robinson's goal put the game away for Berhalter. By the time Reyna made it 3-0, the first leg looked a lot like many expected it to look.

Ricardo Pepi might've been a little wasteful in his sub's appearances, but he did what he usually does and found a way to get on the scoresheet with a deft header that turned out to be a floodgate-opener. Folarin Balogun has been out-of-form for Monaco and probably felt his seat getting warm before turning provider on Reyna's goal.

Berhalter does have something to consider moving forward, but now he's got some license to mess around next week.

USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago final score: 3-0

Goals: Pepi (81'), A. Robinson (86'), Reyna (89')

Red card: Powder (38')

89th minute goal: Giovanni Reyna (Folarin Balogun assist)

When it rains, it pours.

86th minute goal: Antonee Robinson

81st minute goal: Ricardo Pepi (Antonee Robinson assist)

66th minute: USMNT subs

Out go Kevin Paredes and Malik Tillman, who have had chances.

In come Brenden Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi, so it seems likely we'll see a pair of forwards up top.

Something's gotta happen for the USMNT, who was surely counting on heading to T&T with multiple goals.

60th minute penalty reversed by VAR

Daniel Phillips goes to ground in a bid to clear Antonee Robinson's entry pass.

A leaping Weston McKennie lands between Phillips' legs and hits the deck.

Referee Oshane Nation is being asked by VAR to check the pitch-side monitor. Will it be reversed?

Yes! Looks like the right call, too.

57th minute: Finally testing the keeper

Yunus Musah lets fly with a vicious attempt from outside the box and Denzil Smith concedes a corner with a fine save.

The Yanks have put three shots on target, their first three of the match, since the halftime break and Musah's was the best yet.

The ensuing corner is headed just wide by Tim Ream. Closer.

USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago halftime analysis: 0-0

The chance is here for the USMNT to bury this tie in the United States, up a man against an inferior opponent. Unfortunately, the absences of Timothy Weah and Christian Pulisic are, as expected, being felt quite a bit.

The Yanks have had 75% possession and have taken the game's seven shot attempts. Still, though, none are on target despite five corner kicks.

The best chance came in stoppage time, as Antonee Robinson crossed into the heart of the six only to see T&T keeper Denzil Smith beat Folarin Balogun to the ball.

Cameron Carter-Vickers and Weston McKennie stand out as the stars of the half and that also shows the problems in the final third.

Kevin Paredes, Malik Tillman, and even Balogun may find their places challenged soon, as Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and the Aaronson brothers are on the bench.

38th minute RED CARD: Noah Powder, T&T

Already on a yellow for a hard tackle, Noah Powder's delivered another and earned another.

The 25-year-old from USL League One side Northern Colorado Hailstorm slides Weston McKennie from behind and it's reckless.

The Soca Warriors have gifted the USMNT a little bit more space on the field for a long time.

25th minute: All USMNT, but no in-roads to goal

The United States has held 80% of the ball early, with Trinidad and Tobago clearly hoping to get the tie back home in a manageable situation.

The Yanks have taken four shots but none have reached T&T keeper Denzil Smith.

How one-sided has it been? The USMNT have completed 195 passes. T&T has completed 39.

How to watch USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago en Peacock en Espanol

Kickoff (first leg): 9pm ET Thursday, November 16
TV Channel: Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Stream En Espanol: Peacock

Kickoff (second leg): 7pm ET Monday, November 20
TV Channel: Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Stream En Espanol: Peacock

USMNT lineup vs Trinidad and Tobago

Cameron Carter-Vickers pairs with Tim Ream at center back, while Gio Reyna, Malik Tillman, and Kevin Paredes earn spots in attack with Timothy Weah and Christian Pulisic missing through injury. Folarin Balogun is up top.