USMNT has ‘work to do’ ahead of Japan defeat World Cup

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — U.S. men’s national team manager Greg Berhalter admitted his team has “work to do” ahead of the World Cup following a 2-0 friendly loss to Japan in which the Americans struggled against the Samurai Blue press.

Japan applied the pressure in the opening 45 minutes, limiting the U.S. to just five touches in the opposition penalty area. U.S. keeper Matt Turner was forced to make several saves in the 13th minute, including one in a tussle with Daichi Kamada.

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But the Eintracht Frankfurt striker made a deserved breakthrough in the 24th minute. Japan broke quickly after the American hosts, and Kamada’s first-time shot from Hidemasa Morita’s pass beat Turner for Japan’s first goal.

The U.S. looked a little better in the second half following a quartet of substitutes, but never threatened Japan’s goal except for Brendan Aaronson’s late effort. Japan substitute Kaoru Mitoma scored a fitting winner in the 88th minute.

“We have work to do. We obviously have to improve, but overall this team has a good experience,” Berhalter said in his post-game press conference.

“Give Japan a lot of credit. They played well, I think they gave us a tough time. I think at times we looked good in the match and played well, but overall, over 90 minutes, we could have been better. [It] Not enough.”

The manner of the defeat, in which the US was guilty of too many turnovers in its own half, will give Berhalter pause. Japan was quicker to 50/50 balls and more aggressive overall, as evidenced by committing just 16 fouls to the USA.

“I don’t know if it has anything to do with the proximity of the World Cup, but the guys don’t seem fresh and we’re a step behind from the physical release,” Berhalter said. ‚ÄúThen it’s difficult, a team like Japan will punish you.

“The adjustment in the second half helped give us more control over the game, giving us more passes between the lines. But in the first half, I think there was a lack of comfort on the ball, funny gifts.

“We built up the opposition after a decent start, but it started to snowball and give some balls away, which wasn’t what we envisioned.”

The U.S. was without some first-choice players, including Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic, who picked up a minor injury in training earlier in the week and was ruled out of the tournament as a precaution.

Berhalter said Pulisic’s condition will be monitored. The U.S. plays Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Murcia, Spain.

“Christian, his condition is day-to-day,” Berhalter said. “It’s tapped, and, well, we’ll see [at Saturday’s practice] If he takes the field.”

American midfielder Tyler Adams insisted that Japan’s press was a tactic other teams used against his side, but in this instance, the Americans took too long to make adjustments.

“Some of the teams in CONCACAF, you know, Mexico and Honduras, they’ve pressed us and we’ve found solutions,” he said.

“We had to find solutions early on. I think we had a game plan and I think if we stuck to the game plan it would have worked. But sometimes I think we started looking for individual solutions. Instead of sticking together, sticking to the game plan, sticking to our game plan. Be disciplined.

“You looked at Japan and they did it well. They had a game plan and it worked.”

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