With the World Cup approaching and final squad decisions looming, the US soccer team put on a dismal performance in a 2-0 premier league loss to Japan on Friday in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Daichi Kamada scored in the 24th minute after a giveaway from Weston McKennie and Kaoru Mitoma added a goal in the 88th minute.
In their penultimate World Cup warm-up, the Americans didn’t get a single shot on goal, they went wide 16:4 – including an 8:0 shot on target.
“Obviously very disappointing,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner. “I just wish we had a little more fighting about us from the start. I think we hurt each other in many ways.”
The United States have won, lost five and drawn four in their last 10 away games, and just one goal in their last five away games. US coach Gregg Berhalter said the underperformance was “almost consistent.”
“We have to play with the personality. We have to play relaxed. We have to play hard,” said Berhalter. “When we do those things we’re a really good team, but when we don’t we’re an average team.”
Berhalter plans to announce its 26-man World Cup squad on November 9 and said 15-20% of the spots are tied.
“There are certainly positions and players that are probably a little tight,” said defenseman Walker Zimmerman. “They know they have a game or two, an opportunity or two to show they can make a difference in Qatar.”
US star Christian Pulisic didn’t get dressed because of an unspecified injury that Berhalter called “a blow.” Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson and Zack Steffen were already absent from the 14th American through injury, while Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup with a torn Achilles tendon.
A series of defensive collapses put pressure on Turner, who has only played one game for Arsenal this season. He made two saves in the second half, against Junya Ito in the 55th and Kamada in the 65th.
Kamada scored after McKennie received the ball from Tyler Adams and embezzled a back pass. Hidemasa Morita played the ball to an open kamada which Turner hit the far post from about 12 yards for his sixth international goal.
“It was pretty sloppy of all of us — myself, yeah, Weston in moments,” Adams said.
No. 24 Japan was initially flagged for offside but the goal was awarded after a video review revealed Kamada was played off the side by Zimmerman.
Mitoma scored his fifth international goal, turning around second-half substitute Reggie Cannon and curling the ball around Zimmerman for a right footed shot from inside the box to put Turner at the far post.
“That second goal comes from a lot of frustration that things just aren’t really working out for us,” Turner said. “We give the ball away and we kind of all drop our heads and we don’t react. And they enjoyed the ball and ran freely towards us.”
Jesús Ferreira had America’s best chance in the seventh minute, heading over the bar from close range after a Sergiño Dest cross.
The US have a final clash against 53rd-place Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Murcia, Spain. Berhalter said it’s too early to tell if Pulisic will be available.
After missing the 2018 tournament, the Americans are back in the World Cup, opening in Qatar against No. 19 Wales on November 21, playing fifth-placed England four days later and closing the first round against Iran on November 29 No. 22 onwards.
During a game in front of 5,149 spectators in the 54,600-seat Merkur Spiel-Arena, the players could be heard shouting at each other.
Gio Reyna and Dest were in the starting XI despite not having played 90-minute games for their clubs this season. Reyna, fit after a leg injury that wrecked his 2021-22 season, had not started for the USA in a year. He wore the number 21 of his father, former US captain Claudio Reyna.
Josh Sargent, Jordan Morris, Cannon and Mark McKenzie lined up to start the second half in place of Ferreira, Reyna, Dest and Aaron Long.
“We’re a young team and we’re going to have to go through some difficult moments here and there,” said Turner. “Hopefully we can correct a lot of our mistakes and ride a nice wave to Qatar.”
Japan are gearing up for their seventh straight World Cup, playing 44th-placed Ecuador on Tuesday in Dusseldorf and 43rd-placed Canada on November 17 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Japan open against No. 11 Germany on November 23, meet 34th-placed Costa Rica four days later and conclude the group game on December 1 against No. 6 Spain.
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