USMNT leads Japan in worrying loss ahead of World Cup

Japan’s Daiichi Kamada, right, and United States Weston Makeni battle for the ball during the friendly international soccer match between the United States and Japan as part of the Kirin Challenge Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany, Friday, September 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meisner)

The US men’s national soccer team spent 90 of the last 180 minutes before the 2022 World Cup to gain power and pressure Japan to surrender.

USMNT entered the friendly on Friday buoyed by excitement and optimism. The 2-0 loss, though, set off alarms. Americans were dirty. They were not threatening to move forward. They did not succeed with a single shot on goal. And in the case of a few players who might have important roles in Qatar, they simply weren’t good enough.

Absence will ease fears. Christian Pulisic missed the match due to a slight “hit” he suffered in training. Four other potential players – Tim Weah, Younes Moussa, Anthony Robinson and Chris Richards – have also come out with injuries that should recede completely by November.

But Japan was far from full force. However, it did reveal a few of the USMNT’s biggest flaws, especially in the one-sided first half, suggesting that the United States is not as close to preparing for the World Cup as many assumed or hoped.

Why was the first half of USMNT so awful

Over the course of the first 30 minutes of Friday’s game, according to stats cited by ESPN, the USMNT gave the ball away 28 times as a defensive third and Only completed four passes in the attacking third.

Throughout the first half, he lost the ball in his defensive half 54 times, more than ever under coach Greg Berhalter.

It failed, completely and amazingly, to play through the Japanese press for two main reasons. Without a vertical threat between the US front three, Japan pressed the game and ate up space in the midfield. Without a competent center back, the United States will not be able to cope.

The first problem may be a temporary problem. Pulisic and Weah usually present the vertical threat, passing forward Jesus Ferreira and behind the opponent’s defense line. With both on the sidelines, Berhalter chose Gio Reina and Brenden Aronson, who are two great players, but also more attacking midfielders than forwards; They do not expand the game.

Without options over the top, the United States played a part in the canines of the press. And Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman were unable to break it.

Japan forced these two MLS midfielders to be their midfielders. And they gave the ball away, over and over, preempting US attacks and spurring Japanese attacks. Even before the opening goal, Long intercepted a poor pass, resulting in Japan’s first clear chance; Zimmermann sent a pass into his defensive third, which led to another pass.

One possible solution in such a compact game is to extend the playing field both vertically and horizontally with two high defenders. But this solution requires security in tenure. The United States rarely had that. In the 24th minute, right-back Serginio Dest thought they had done so, so he began to attack forward – and at that exact moment, Weston McKinney played a foul pass; Japan broke out over the counter; And Daichi Kamada scored from the same position that Dest had vacated.

The US made four substitutions at the end of the first half – Reggie Cannon vs. Dest was the most important – and a decisive tactical change. She changed her shape in possession, from 4-1-2-3 to 3-2-5 which she used in a thrilling 3-0 victory over Morocco in June. Slotted cannon in the back three. Left-back Sam Vines pushed high. Luca de la Torre, who played in the first half on the same midfield as teammate McKinney, slipped to the side of Tyler Adams, and the US rhythm improved.

But even in the second half, Japan was the better team.

The USMNT’s only bright spot was goalkeeper Matt Turner, who kept a lopsided game 1-0 until the 88th minute – which seemed to book a starting point.

But no one else did on Monday. Long, presumably in contention with Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers for a key centre-back, looked perpetually uncomfortable and uncomfortable for 45 minutes, until Mark McKenzie replaced him at halftime.

Vines, who had a chance to claim a reserve left-back role behind Robinson, didn’t take it.

USMNT will be a different team when Pulisic, Moses and WWE in particular come back. But at least, on Friday, the team didn’t come close to being a World Cup-ready team.

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