DUSSELDORF, Germany — With the World Cup less than two months away, themen’s national team was hoping to sharpen up its game against , but if anything, it was the Samurai Blue who looked more ready for the showpiece tournament, riding goals either side of halftime from and to .
The scoreline flattered the U.S. team’s woeful performance, as the Americans looked completely out of sync throughout the match. It’s clear that even at this late stage, U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter has some work to do.
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1. U.S. has no answer for Japan’s press
Berhalter often wants his side to play on the front foot, and that starts with pressing teams high up the field. On this day, though, Japan gave the Americans a taste of their own medicine, and it worked to perfection. Case in point was Japan’s goal in the 24th minute, when a turnover fromled to a transition opportunity in which found Kamada wide open to side-foot past in the U.S. goal.
The U.S. also was slow to react to seemingly everything, playing timidly at times, and no American was immune from turning the ball over. Could it have been nerves or a case of playing safe with the World Cup looming? That seems unlikely.
The effectiveness of Japan’s pressure meant that the U.S. rarely got into the kind of spots in which it could threatenin the Japan goal, and had just five touches in Japan’s penalty area during the first half — the USMNT’s fewest in a friendly since 2019. did deliver an inviting cross for in the eighth minute, but the striker could only balloon his header over the bar. Ferreira’s lack of physical presence up top, combined with the absence of , only compounded the U.S. team’s struggles with the ball. The U.S. looked a bit more threatening with up top in the second half, but not much.
Given the difficulty that the U.S. had in playing out of the back — and this was a midfield problem as much as it was a backline problem — it stands to reason that the Americans’ group-stage opponents will be taking copious notes in terms of how to get at the U.S. defense.
2. Has Turner claimed the U.S.’s No. 1 shirt?
The U.S. had Turner to thank for going into halftime with just a one-goal deficit. In particular his save from Kamada when he was clear through on goal in the 13th minute following giveaway fromwas impressive. He also commanded his box well and made the routine saves he was supposed to make.
The only complaint was Turner’s distribution in some cases, in which his contact and accuracy with the ball was subpar. He’ll need to sharpen that up in the remaining weeks ahead of the World Cup.
Was it enough to push his nose in front in the battle for the starting goalkeeper spot? One would have to think so, but Berhalter has long had a soft spot for. It likely won’t be until November that we know this answer for certain.
3. Fringe players make little impact
On a day in which opportunity beckoned for players competing for the last few roster spots, there wasn’t much movement. Bothand acquitted themselves well in substitute roles, but there wasn’t much else of note. In terms of starters, didn’t improve his stock at all, and the same was true for , as neither player looked up to the pace of the match.
In fact, if anything this was a day in which the absences of some injured players were telling. Pulisic in attack,in midfield and at center-back all need to heal up as quickly as possible.
United States: Matt Turner 8, Sam Vines 4, Aaron Long 4, Walker Zimmerman 5, Sergino Dest 5,4, 4, Weston McKennie 3, 5, Jesus Ferreira 4, 5
Subs:5, Mark McKenzie 6, Josh Sargent 5, Reggie Cannon 6, 5, Johnny Cardoso 5
Japan: Shuichi Gonda 5,6, 7, 7, 6, 8, 7, Midemasa Morita 6, 6, Daichi Kamada 7, 6
Subs:5, Shuto Machino 5, 5, Kaoru Mitoma 7, 5, Genki Haraguchi N/R
Best and worst performers
BEST: Daichi Kamada, Japan. There were a few players to pick from. Endo ran the show in midfield, and the center-back pairing of Sakai and Nakayama were composed throughout, but Kamada took his goal well and was involved in a few other slick buildups.
WORST: Weston McKennie, U.S. The same was true at the other end of the spectrum, but McKennie’s giveaway that sparked the sequence that led to Kamada’s goal, and that he completed just 69.2% of his passes, stood out from the rest.
Highlights and notable moments
The numbers, and the graphs that go with them, told the story of the U.S.’s impotence against Japan.
Passes completed in the attacking third thus far:
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC)
🇺🇸 The Pulisic-shaped hole is back!
🇯🇵 Japan had 82 attacking-third touches, to 42 for the U.S.
— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr)
USMNT managed ZERO shots on target vs. Japan 🙃
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC)
Japan 2-0 USA
No shots on target is a problem, but it wasn’t the only problem for the.
— The Analyst US (@OptaAnalystUS)
Japan put the icing on the cake with a well-taken goal from Mitoma, having brushed off Cannon and the rest of the American defense.
Japan secure a 2-0 win over the USMNT to kick off the international break 🎯
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC)
After the match: What the players and managers said
Berhalter: “We’ve got work to do. We clearly need to improve.”
Berhalter: “We need to play with personality, we need to play relaxed, we need to play with intensity, and when we do these things, we’re really good team. But when we don’t, we’re an average team.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– The U.S. is now 1W-3L-2D this year against teams that have qualified for November’s World Cup.
– Friday was the first time since a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat toin October 2021 that the USMNT were held to zero shots on target.
– Turner’s six saves were the second most by a U.S. keeper under Berhalter, who took over in January 2019. (Turner also has the most saves in a game under Berhalter, eight, againston June 1.)
United States: The USMNT head tofor a Tuesday friendly against in Murcia. It will be the final fixture for the U.S. before its World Cup group stage opener on Nov. 21 against .
Japan: Two more friendlies on the docket. First up ison Tuesday, also in Dusseldorf. Then against on Nov. 17 in Dubai, just one week before the Nov. 23 clash against Germany at the World Cup.