United States men’s national team striker Ricardo Pepi says his career over the past eight months has been “a roller-coaster ride,” but after a week in which he scored three goals for the national team, including the game winner in a 1-0 victory over El Salvador, he has made a “big statement” with his play.
Pepi entered the U.S. camp for the first time since he was left off the World Cup roster last November. He also has been in a relegation battle while on loan at Groningen from Bundesliga side Augsburg, even as he has scored 10 goals in all competitions.
The former FC Dallas forward entered as a substitute in the second half, and just minutes after, he latched onto Weston McKennie’s inch-perfect through ball, shook off the attentions of defender Roberto Dominguez, and then delivered a delicate chip over keeper Mario Gonzalez to give the U.S. the win.
“It is been a roller coaster to be honest,” Pepi said. “Happy to be just in the squad, scoring goals again after missing the World Cup. I think I made a big statement tonight and I’m just happy to be fighting with my teammates again and helping them out.”
Pepi scored twice in last Friday’s 7-1 hammering of Grenada, but his final tally of the week was arguably the most important. While the U.S. needed only a draw against El Salvador to advance to the final four of the CONCACAF Nations League, the Cuscatlecos were proving to be a tough nut to crack on the night. But some understanding with McKennie helped set the table for the goal.