With the start of the 2022 World Cup just two months away, the USA approached the friendly match against Japan in Dusseldorf with an optimistic mindset. A jovial Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams joked with reporters just 20 hours prior, while manager Gregg Berhalter talked up the abilities of some of his last-minute roster replacements.
By the time the final whistle blew on a 2-0 defeat, USMNT supporters were instead filled with concern and doubt as the U.S. was soundly beaten by a fellow World Cup participant.
Japan fully deserved the 2-0 victory, confounding a USMNT squad that looked devoid of answers, leaving fans with numerous questions with the FIFA showcase just eight weeks away. For a young American team that should be heading into the World Cup with pomp and flair looking to turn around the failures of the 2018 cycle, they were left licking their wounds thanks to goals from Daichi Kamada and Kaoru Mitoma.
The USMNT will have another chance to quell the unrest with a match against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, as Berhalter has plenty of issues to sort out before the USA take the field against Wales on November 21 in Qatar.
MORE: Full recap, analysis, highlig ronaldo 9 inter milan shirt hts of USMNT 2-0 defeat to Japan
Matt Turner shines in goal against cr7 kit bag Japan
Despite all the negatives — of which there were plenty — one key for the USMNT in this September camp was to sort out the goalkeeper position. With a recent injury to Zack Steffen, the spot projects to be Matt Turner's to win or lose, despite his lack of playing time at Arsenal.
The No. 2 role at his club didn't seem to bother Turner one bit, as the former New England Revolution shot-stopper brought his 'A' game against Japan. While he conceded two goals, he made big saves to keep the deficit from ballooning further. Turner made six total saves, including a number of acrobatic stops that stym ronaldo signed man utd shirt ied b ronaldo real madrid jersey long sleeve right Japanese attackers Daichi Kamada and Daizen Maeda, plus substitutes Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma.
Japan press caused USMNT problems in progression & possession
The difference in this game, unquestionably, was the inability of the cristiano ronaldo jersey kids 8 year old USMNT defenders and midfielders to deal with the Japan high press.
Deploying a relatively standard 4-4-2 formation, Japan pressed the U.S. into oblivion, not with exhausting pace that would have waned as the match went on, but instead with precision that forced the U.S. back and resulted in numerous embarrassing turnovers. Walker Zimmerman, Weston McKennie, and Luca de la Torre especially struggled with the pressure, as the three were rendered powerless in buildup.
The result of this was a starved U.S. attacking trio, as Jesus Ferreira, Gio Reyna, and Brenden Aaronson were effectively choked out of the match. It also produced turnovers in dangerous positions that left the U.S. scrambling to recover against a venomous Japan counter-attack.
Berhalter seemed to temporarily seal the leak after halftime as he brought on Reggie Cannon and Mark McKenzie off the bench, but eventually they too fell victim to the Japanese tactical pressure.
With Japan providing the U.S. World Cup opponents with a blueprint on how to attack the Americans' possessional buildup, which proved effective against CONCACAF opposition throughout qualifying, Berhalter will need to patch up the holes quickly or a group stage exit will be on the cards.
USMNT injuries a concern as Pulisic, Musah, Jedi all missed
There was no doubt that injuries played a concerning role in the U.S. defeat to Japan.
Already without starters Yunus Musah and Antonee "Jedi" Robinson as September camp began, news broke an hour before kickoff in Dusseldorf that talisman Christian Pulisic would miss the match after picking up a knock in training. Reports stated that Pulisic would have played had it been an important competitive match, but the U.S. were cautious for the f ronaldo real madrid jersey 2016 riendly and sat the Chelsea forward.
Their absences were felt in a big way. Robinson's two-way abilities at left-back have been critical to Fulham's bright start to the Pr ronaldo manchester united jersey youth emier League season, and his replacement Sam Vines was incapable of replicating the same attacking flair th cristiano ronaldo t-shirts at are supported by Jedi's improved one-on-one defensive abilities.
Additionally, Musah was sorely missed as Weston McKennie was forced into a ball carrier role that he's far less capable of handling than his usual box-to-box style.
Finally, the absence of Pulisic was massive. While the U.S. struggled to play any attackers into the game, the missing "personality" (as Berhalter put it in his post-match press conference) was clear without their best creative forward.
USMNT need more than just "personality"
Following the match, Gregg Berhalter spoke with ESPN reporter Sam Bord cristiano ronaldo jersey adult en on the field, saying repeatedly that the team was lacking "personality" in the defeat to Japan.
"I think we ended up hurting ourselves too much with silly giveaways," Berhalter said, "and we want a little more personality in the match. Give Japan a lot of credi cristiano ronaldo jersey purple t — a good team, a competitive team, they pressed well, but we can do better."
When pressed by Borden on what he wants to see differently against Saudi Arabia, Berhalter repeated his earlier point. "[I want to see] More personality in the match. For some reason I didn't see a lot of personality in our performance tonight."
Judging by the 90 minutes on the field, it's going to take a lot more than personality. Were the U.S. lacking intensity and incision throughout the game? Absolutely. Yet they were also lacking a Plan B. When Plan A — the progressional attack, which was cut down repeatedly by the Japan press — failed, there was no second option.
It's possible that Berhalter kept the original tactical approach as he wished to evaluate players at the expense of the result, but fans were left with little proof that the USMNT can adapt mid-game to the other team's aggression and precision.
The U.S. has much work to do, both improving their desired approach and developing a backup option that they can switch to should the initial plan fall to pieces.