If the goal of these pre-World Cup friendlies was to expose areas the U.S. national team needs to improve, then Friday’s match against Japan was emphatically mission accomplished.
The USMNT was comprehensively beaten 2-0 in Düsseldorf in a game that was much more lopsided than that scoreline would suggest.
The U.S. was steamrolled in the first half and only marginally improved in the second, giving head coach Gregg Berhalter plenty to mull over with just one game between his team and the World Cup.
Against a well-drilled Japanese side, the USMNT was unable to manage a single shot on goal. Meanwhile, Matt Turner had to be at his shot-stopping best to help his team avoid a much heavier defeat.
Japan’s press drove the USMNT into a host of poor giveaways in bad areas. The U.S. was too slow to move the ball and Japan succeeded in funneling its opponent’s possession into areas it could pounce.
It was Weston McKennie, whose turnover led to the opening Japanese goal, with Daichi Kamada giving his side a deserved advantage.
The USMNT appeared to desperately lack confident ball-players out of the back, as Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, McKennie and Tyler Adams all repeatedly failed to progress the ball up the pitch.
The loss of Yunus Musah for this camp was acutely felt. No other USMNT offers his ball progression ability out of central midfield and against Japan, it showed.
In attack, the USMNT was equally poor.
Jesús Ferreira does a lot of things well as the No. 9 in Gregg Berhalter’s system but he is decidedly not a vertical threat, which allowed Japan to play a high line without much concern about a ball played over the top.
Josh Sargent was introduced at the break to give the U.S. more of a vertical threat and along with Jordan Morris on the wing, the USMNT succeeded in establishing more presence in Japan’s half.
But that did not result in any real goalscoring chances. Brenden Aaronson’s shot over the bar with 10 minutes left may have qualified as the best opportunity for the USMNT in a game that desperately lacked them.
Japan’s second goal, scored by Kaoru Mitoma, provided a goal that much more accurately reflected the balance of play.
The USMNT will face Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in a game in which Berhalter will desperately want to see his team improve. The ceiling for this team can still be rather high, but Friday showed where the floor is and it was not pretty.