U.S., Riding Its Newest Star, Beats Jamaica in Qualifier

by 24USATVOct. 8, 2021, 8 a.m. 22
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AUSTIN, Texas — Ricardo Pepi jogged off the field as the volume in the stadium began to swell. With two masterful touches of the ball, he had done his job for the night, and he was being substituted out of the game with more than 20 minutes remaining.

Before reaching the bench, Pepi, an 18-year-old Mexican-American striker from Texas, put his head down, touched the grass and crossed himself. All the while, a chant built up in the stands:

When things are going wrong, as they did for much of last month for the United States men’s soccer team, youth can feel like a glaring liability. When things are going right, as they did Thursday night in Austin, it can give you all the hope in the world.

Pepi, for a night, presented a vision of a glimmering future for the Americans and the 20,500 fans in attendance, scoring two second-half goals to lead the United States to a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in its fourth World Cup qualifying match.

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