EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — In the biggest match of his life, 18-year-old Ricardo Pepi proved once again that no moment is too big for him.
The El Paso native made his international debut for the United States Men’s National Team on Wednesday, starting at forward for the squad in its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying match at Honduras. The second-youngest American to ever play in a World Cup qualifier, Pepi was arguably the best player on the field, scoring a goal and recording two assists in a 4-1 USA win.
Things started slow for the Americans. Honduras led 1-0 at halftime on a Brayan Moya header in the 27th minute, putting the USMNT in a tough spot down a goal on the road. It turns out, they needn’t have worried.
Antonee Robinson tied the game in the 48th minute on a loose ball in the box that Pepi directed his way for an assist. Then, with the game knotted at 1 in the 75th minute, the El Pasoan officially became a household name across the country.
Pepi rose up and headed home a perfect cross into the upper right-hand corner of the net, scoring his first international goal in his USMNT debut. The teenager immediately ran for the USA bench where he was mobbed by his teammates after giving the Americans the lead.
He’s scored 11 goals for FC Dallas in 2021, but it’s hard to imagine any goal in Pepi’s young career that is bigger than that. He wasn’t done, either.
In the 86th minute, Pepi got loose on a breakaway after a Honduras defender was dispossessed. With defenders closing in on him near the 18-yard box, Pepi found Brenden Aaronson, who put home the game-sealing goal, securing Pepi’s second assist in the process.
Sebastian Lletget scored one more goal for the Americans in stoppage time, cleaning up a Pepi miss.
The victory was the USMNT’s only win of a three-game World Cup qualifying stretch, coming on the heels of draws with Canada and El Salvador. Pepi did not play in either of those matches, but after his performance against Honduras, it’s likely a safe bet that he’ll see the pitch the next time the USA needs him.