The best looking part of the USMNT friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia were the new kits. In both games the USA looked fairly clueless at either how to counter an opponent that had a solid game plan and made the best use of its most talented players, or couldn’t figure out a team that just held on for a draw against Ecuador. I’m saying they scored no goals, had two shots on target, were out shot 26-11 and dominated possession.
It wasn’t good, and there are more stats that show it wasn’t good also.
Game 1: USA vs. Japan
There are victories, there are moral victories, and then there are passing stats. Hey, look the USA passed the ball a lot. So many passes, 583 in fact. That’s almost 600.
One thing the team did not have was shots on target. The game would also be notable for the USA failing to win away from home in the last six games to that point, a stretch the team has just managed a single goal in.
The player stats weren’t much better. The team didn’t have a single player that really shinned in the match, Matt Turner had to make some big plays, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that he stood on his head to any extent.
There were 17 players that saw the field with four changes at half-time. Nothing really made a difference in terms of personnel, individual performance, or team cohesion. Maybe the players coming in from MLS were feeling the effects of jet-lag and a long flight? It really is a difficult adjustment to make and a short turn around for a match, but perhaps that can be accounted for by starting players who didn’t quite have such a long commute to the first of the two friendlies.
As far as what Gregg Berhalter had to say - he wanted the team to be relaxed, but also intense... like when someone meditates to relax in an F1 car.
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.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) September 23, 2022
"But when we don't, we're an average team."
Luckily, Tyler Adams provided more substantive comments about the difficulty the USMNT had in addressing what Japan was doing as far as pressing.
Tyler Adams on what ailed the #usmnt in the first half against Japan... pic.twitter.com/IkiAgTSJWz— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) September 23, 2022
To his credit, Berhalter also noted that the press gave the team trouble and that a better team would have done better against it...
Gregg Berhalter didn't hide from the USMNT's "very bad" play vs. Japan.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) September 26, 2022
“Poor coaching, poor execution, poor training."
The match certainly looked no better on second viewing. Breaking down the US' rough pre-Qatar tune-up + predicted XI vs. Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/D2O8YxCPcR pic.twitter.com/CRNmj0dmEc
Game 2: USA vs. Saudi Arabia
The USMNT responded by... doing the same thing. Just look:
The team lined up with more of Gregg’s guys either getting a look or a second look as Aaron Long once again whelmed and Ricardo Pepi tried to fit the system.
The Americans were once again out shot and failed to turn their passes into passes in the attacking third or assists or goals. With the World Cup in less than two months the team is still looking for answers that were being asked during qualification. Making matters more complicated is that the winter World Cup means that the typical extended pre-tournament camp will not take place and the team will have a compressed schedule to work out these issues. In the end, the USA will go into the World Cup with it’s recent resume looking like this:
The @USMNT tie 0-0 against Saudi Arabia.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 27, 2022
❌ 1-3-3 in 2022 vs teams that have qualified for the World Cup
❌ Failed to score in 6 of its 7 games vs such opponents
❌ 3rd time under Gregg Berhalter with consecutive scoreless games pic.twitter.com/Hh0k0EvooO