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Native Texan Pepi scores twice for 2-0 USMNT win in Austin

Austin fans welcomed the USMNT with a tifo depicting the original World Cup trophy at their match vs. Jamaica on Thursday. (Austin FC/Twitter)

Q2 Stadium attendees swapped their Verde for red, white and blue as they packed the sold-out venue to watch the United States Men's National Team take down Jamaica 2-0 for their first World Cup Qualifying Match on Thursday.

FC Dallas's 18-year-old standout Ricardo Pepi was the man of the match as he scored twice to put Team USA over The Reggae Boyz. The Texas native has scored a brace at Q2 once before in a 5-3 defeat over Austin FC in August.

In a now-signature move for Austin futbol fans, the South Side supporters' section raised a large banner, or "tifo," depicting the original World Cup trophy with the USMNT slogan "Only Forward" displayed across the bottom as the match began.

The "biggest party in Austin" was in for a treat as the team played better than they had in months, but it wouldn't prove fruitful until the beginning of the second half. Head Coach Gregg Berhalter's emphasis on "verticality," or quickly pushing up the field, paid off as Pepi grabbed a cross from Sergiño Dest to score from six yards out in the 49th minute. According to The Athletic, the drive from goalkeeper to opponent's goal took just 16 seconds.

Pepi would strike again in 62nd as he sped one past Jamaican keeper Andre Blake off a cross to score his third goal in just two appearances with the national team.

Jamaica would be unable to bounce back as they continued to fall to the bottom of the eight-team Concacaf World Cup Qualifying table.

While the win was expected from a team that has defeated longtime rivals Mexico twice this year, the decisive defeat came even as stars Christian Pulisic—of English Premier League club Chelsea—and Gio Reyna—son of Austin FC sporting director Claudio Reyna—were out on injury.

Standout performances from Pepi, DC United's Paul Arriola and Brenden Aaronson propelled the team to the top of the Concacaf Qualifying table with eight points alongside their El Tri rivals.

US national soccer teams are now 3-0 in the brand-new Q2—the USMNT defeated Qatar in July to advance to the Gold Cup finals, while the US Women's National Team beat Nigeria 2-0 in June to christen the stadium.

"When you have atmospheres like we had tonight, it gets the guys up to perform," USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said after Thursday's match. "Fantastic field, fantastic stadium, fantastic fans, I mean this is what it's about, this is why we chose a venue like Austin."

The USMNT will head to Panama on Sunday and will finish the World Cup Qualifying series against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, Oct. 13.


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