USMNT has no answer for Japan in friendly loss


DUSSELDORF, Germany — With the World Cup less than two months away, the United States men’s national team was hoping to sharpen up its game against Japan, but if anything, it was the Samurai Blue who looked more ready for the showpiece tournament, riding goals either side of halftime from Daichi Kamada and Kaoru Mitoma to a 2-0 victory.

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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Rapid Reaction

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 from Weston McKennie led to a transition opportunity in which Hidemasa Morita found Kamada wide open to side-foot past Matt Turner 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 threaten Shuichi Gonda in 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. Sergino Dest delivered an inviting cross for Jesus Ferreira in the eighth minute, but the FC Dallas striker could only balloon his header over the bar. Ferreira’s lack of physical presence up top, combined with the absence of Christian Pulisic due to a knock, only compounded the U.S. team’s struggles with the ball. The U.S. looked a bit more threatening with Joshua Sargent up top in the second half, but not much.

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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 back-line 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 from Walker Zimmerman was 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 Zack Steffen. It likely won’t be until November that…



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