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Eight Observations from the USMNT Loss to Japan

Not much went right for the United States in their penultimate match before the 2022 World Cup.

Japan v United States - International Friendly Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

On Friday morning, a little after 7:00 AM CST, the United States played and lost 2-0 in their next to last warm up for the 2022 World Cup. They’ll play one more time against Saudi Arabia next week. Other countries are playing days before the World Cup in Qatar in a friendly, so maybe they’ll add a game, but right now there is just one more warm up before it starts to count.

Matt Turner was a Bright Spot

Let’s start positive before it turns very negative. This game could have easily been four or five to nil. The United States generated zero shots on goal (whoops, I got negative) but Matt Turner was a shining beacon in net. He made several really good saves and seemed to prove not starting everyday at Arsenal isn’t hurting him. His feet still need work, but they are noticeably better and that’s why he’s playing in the Premier League.

Apparently Arsenal plan to start him in Europa League, so he’ll get some minutes for his club soon. It’s his job to lose and it never made sense to me why Zack Steffen was starting ahead of him.

Turnovers were Killer

I lost count of all the mistakes in the midfield and defense that led to chances coming the other way. The one that will stand out the most is a turnover by Weston McKennie because it led to the opening goal. However, there had been several poor turnovers before that which could have resulted in goals.

Aaron Long had a weak pass to Sam Vines at left back that was picked off. Vines could have stepped to it, so I somewhat blame them both. Walker Zimmerman had a bad one. McKennie had another one trying to be cute. Tyler Adams had a bad back pass of his own. Let’s not forget Mark McKenzie turning it over on the sideline trying to be cute. Johnny Cardoso had one late towards his own goal too. I’m sure I missed some others, but it was pretty ugly.

Part of this could be blamed on what appeared to be a pretty torn up pitch. The United States want to play pretty soccer, but that field didn’t aid that process. That said, Japan played on the same field and found a way. Plus the US should be used to this with playing on all those crappy CONCACAF pitches.

Missing Players

The USMNT, like most teams, were down players. They were without Cristian Pulisic, who was a late scratch due to a knock picked up in practice. They didn’t come to camp with Tim Weah, Antonee Robinson, Yunas Musah, Cameron Carter-Vickers or Chris Richards, all due to injury. They’ll be without Miles Robinson who would be an asset in defense since he’s out for the year. Of those listed players both Robinson’s are starters, Pulisic and probably Weah. Plus Richards may have been next man up at CB.

Every team deals with injuries, let’s just hope some of these guys coming back will help fix some of these problems.

Good Adjustments from Berhalter

Something Gregg Berhalter has been pretty good at is making changes mid-game. The United States were being played off the field much of the first half. The Japanese were very tight and left no space for the US to play their game. Ideally, I’d have liked to see them play over the top more to break that press, but they didn’t and missing Weah hurts that aspect of their game.

However, in the second half Gregg made four subs immediately. I don’t think Gio Reyna coming off was tactical as much as he’s working back to fitness. But Jordan Morris does provide more width than Gio who likes to drift centrally. Brendan Aaronson, who is a midfielder for Leeds United, also wants to work centrally so Berhalter moved Sam Vines (the left back) very far forward and Aaronson just roamed all over the attack.

To compensate in the back, Reggie Cannon played more like a right center back in a three back setup than a fullback. At the beginning of the half it all was working really well. Turnovers continued to plague the team and they lost something when they took Luca de la Torre out of the game who played well for my money and has a spot on this team. It didn’t generate a goal, but it was a very different second half.

Quick Thoughts

  • The second biggest problem for me in the whole game (after the turnovers) was the slow movement of the US. They would sometimes stand around or take multiple touches. If they would have been more decisive and passed quicker when they were in attacking positions, they may have created a few more chances. Can’t blame Gregg for that.
  • Ito should have gotten a red card for his studs to the calf challenge on Aaronson. How it wasn’t at least a yellow was baffling. I get not wanting it to be 10v11 in a friendly, but that has to be at least a yellow.
  • The striker position seems very unsettled. Jesus Ferreira had the only good chance but he got under it and put it over the bar. In the opening minutes of the second half I thought Josh Sargent was combiningg well but he disappeared as the half wore on. If the team would have called Pefok he’d have been a nice option as a second forward or to give the team a different look, especially since they had gone away from the 4-3-3 anyways.
  • Brendan Aaronson looks like a starter. I’m not sure where he plays and injuries will probably dictate that. Maybe he takes McKennie’s job in the midfield. Weston is a very good player, but he had a bad game today and the depth of the team (if healthy) means someone good (or multiple good players) will be coming off the bench.

What were your thoughts on today’s game? What do you want to see from TBT when it comes to World Cup coverage? At a minimum, match threads will probably be a must so we can all chat about the games. But do we just want them for USMNT games, or for each day’s games? Let’s discuss in the comments.