USMNT had no answer for Japan in friendly loss


DUSSELDORF, Germany — With the World Cup less than two months away, the U.S. Men’s National Team will be hoping to sharpen its game against Japan, but if anything, it was more prepared for the showpiece matchup, riding Samurai Blue. Taichi Kamada and Kaoru Mitoma scored either side of half-time in a 2-0 victory.

The scoreline praised the poor performance of the American team as the Americans were completely out of sync throughout the game. Even at this late stage, it’s clear that US manager Greg Berhalter has some work to do.

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Quick reaction

1. America has no response to Japan’s press

Berhalter often wants his team to play on the front foot, and that starts by pressing teams down the field. On this day, Japan gave Americans a taste of their own medicine, and it worked to perfection. Japan scored in the 24th minute when Weston McKenney’s turnover led to a transition opportunity in which Hidemasa found Morita Kamada open to side-foot past Matt Turner in the American goal.

America was also seemingly slow to react to everything, played with fear at times, and no American was immune to turning the ball over. Could it have been nervousness or playing it safe with the World Cup looming? It seems unlikely.

The effectiveness of Japan’s pressure meant that the U.S. rarely got down to points that threatened Shuichi Konda in the Japan goal, and had just five touches in Japan’s penalty area in the first half — the USMNT’s fewest in a friendly. 2019. Sergino Test gave Jesus Ferreira an inviting cross in the eighth minute, but the FC Dallas striker could only balloon his header over the bar. Ferreira’s lack of fitness, combined with the absence of Christian Pulisic due to a knock, added to the American team’s bowling. In the second half, the United States looked a bit more threatening with Joshua Sargent up top, but not much.

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2. Does Turner claim America’s No. 1 jersey?

The United States had Turner to thank for going into the break with a one-goal deficit. His save was especially impressive in the 13th minute when he scored from Kamada following Walker Zimmerman’s giveaway. He commanded his box well and made the usual saves he needed to make.

The only complaint was Turner’s delivery in some cases, where his contact and accuracy with the ball was lacking. He needs to sharpen it up in the remaining weeks ahead of the World Cup.

Is it enough to push his nose forward in the battle for the starting goalkeeper spot? One would have to think so, but Berhalter has long had a soft spot for Zach Steffen. We won’t know the answer for sure until November.

3. Marginal players have little impact

On a day where players vying for the last few roster spots had a chance, there wasn’t much movement. Reggie Cannon and Mark McKenzie acquit themselves well in alternate roles, but nothing else stands out. As for the openers, Sam Vines didn’t improve his role and the same was true for Aaron Long as neither player looked up to the tempo of the match.

In fact, it could be said that it was a day without some injured players. Pulisic in attack, Younes Musa in midfield and Chris Richards at centre-back should all recover as soon as possible.

Player ratings

USA: Matt Turner 8, Sam Vines 4, Aaron Long 4, Walker Zimmerman 5, Sergino Test 5, Luca De La Torre 4, Tyler Adams 4, Weston McKenney 3, Giovanni Reyna 5, Jesus Ferreira 4, Brendan Aaronson 5

Companions: Jordan Morris 5, Mark McKenzie 6, Josh Sargent 5, Reggie Cannon 6, Malik Tillman 5, Johnny Cardoso 5

Japan: Shuichi Konda 5, Takehiro Tomiyasu 6, Hiroki Sakai 7, Yuta Nakayama 7, Maya Yoshida 6, Wataru Endo 8, Takefusa Kubo 7, Midemasa Morita 6, Junya Ito 6, Taichi Kamada 7, Daisen Maeda 6

Companions: Daniel Schmidt 5, Shudo Machino 5, Hiroki Ito 5, Kaoru Mitoma 7, Ritsu Tone 5, Genki Haraguchi N/R

Best and worst performers

Best: Daiichi Kamada, Japan. There were quite a few players to choose from. Endo ran the show in midfield and the centre-back pairing of Sakai and Nakayama were composed throughout, but Kamata took his goal well and produced some more slick play.

Worst: Weston McKenney, US The same is true at the other end of the spectrum, but McKenney’s giveaway that sparked the sequence that led to Kamada’s goal, and he only completed 69.2% of his passes, stood out from the rest.

Highlights and notable moments

The numbers and accompanying maps told the story of America’s impotence against Japan.

With Maitoma’s outstanding goal, Japan pushed past Cannon and the rest of the American defense.

After the match: What the players and managers had to say

Berhalter: “We have work to do. We clearly need to improve.”

Berhalter: “We have to play with personality, we have to play with poise, we have to play with intensity, and when we do these things, we’re a really good team. But when we don’t, we’re an average team.”

Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Info)

– USA is now 1W-3L-2D against teams that qualified for this year’s November World Cup.

– USMNT had zero shots on target for the first time since a 1-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Panama in October 2021.

– Turner’s six saves are the second-most by an American keeper under Berhalter, who took over in January 2019. (Turner has the most saves in a game since Berhalder, eight, against Morocco on June 1.)


USA: The USMNT heads to Spain for Tuesday’s friendly against Saudi Arabia in Murcia. It will be the USA’s final match in their World Cup group stage opener against Wales on November 21.

Japan: Two more friendships on the docket. First up is Ecuador on Tuesday, in Dusseldorf. After that, against Canada on November 17 in Dubai, Nov. A week before the World Cup clash against Germany on the 23rd.


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