The United States is currently in its final preparations for the World Cup. Unfortunately, the team has not played well over the last few months, and there are less than two months before the United States’ return to the World Cup.
After a 2-0 Loss to Japan, Is It Time to Be Concerned About the US National Team’s Form Before the World Cup?
The 2022 World Cup is less than two months away. The United States Men’s National Team has high expectations in their return to the tournament, but over the past few months, the team has been inconsistent.
This year’s World Cup will be vitally important for the continuing development of soccer in the United States. It is a huge opportunity for the US to not only have success this year, but to continue to improve the team ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which will be partially hosted in the United States.
The United States Loses International Friendly 2-0 to Japan
On Friday, the United States played its first of two games during this international window. The US is playing two opponents who will also play in the World Cup, Japan and Saudi Arabia, this month in order to prepare for the tournament.
The US’ first preparation game did not unfold the way Head Coach Gregg Berhalter hoped. Japan had 16 shots as compared to four for the United States. Of those shots, eight of Japan’s were shots on goal, while the United States finished the game with no shots on goal.
Despite having 58% of possession during the game as compared to Japan’s 42%, the United States was often unable to create scoring chances. At halftime, Berhalter made four substitutions, partially due to the game being a friendly and partially to try to improve the team during the second half.
Throughout the game, the US struggled with turnovers, poor passes, and mistakes. Two of the halftime substitutions were changes to the United States’ defense. Throughout the game, the US defense allowed 12 shots from within the box, while on offense, the United States created just two shots within the box.
Friday morning’s game was extremely disappointing for the United States. Over the past few months, the team has not played as well as expected in the buildup to the World Cup.
The World Cup
Last November, the United States defeated Mexico, the No.12 team in the FIFA World Rankings, 2-0. Since then, the United States has beaten Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Morocco, and Grenada in addition to officially qualifying for the World Cup.
Despite those wins, during that time the United States has often struggled in its biggest games. In addition to Friday’s 2-0 loss to Japan, the US lost 2-0 to Canada in a World Cup qualification match in January and lost 2-0 to Costa Rica in another qualification match on March 30.
In the United States’ second CONCACAF Nations League match this summer the team played with 10 men after the 70th minute due to Paul Arriola receiving a red card, but managed to earn a draw when Jordan Morris scored in stoppage time.
While the United States did not play well in any of those games, the US’ has also performed well in some recent games. This summer, the United States played well in a 3-0 win against Morocco and a 0-0 draw against Uruguay; the latter of which is currently No.13 in the FIFA World Rankings.
However, Berhalter likely will be concerned about his team’s defense. Center-back Miles Robinson almost certainly would have been a member of the United States starting lineup at this year’s World Cup, but suffered an ankle injury earlier this year that will mean he can’t play in the tournament. Over the past few months, multiple players have been competing to start at the position.
Aaron Long, one of those players, started most of the United States’ matches this summer, but he was one of Berhalter’s halftime substitutes on Friday. Chris Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers, two other players expected to be on the United States’ roster at the World Cup this fall, are both unable to play in either game against Japan or Saudi Araba due to injuries.
As the United States approaches its final friendly before the World Cup, it is unclear who will start at several defensive positions. Due to the number of players who are currently injured, Berhalter will likely have to decide which players to start at those positions based on how they are playing for their club teams and on which players play well during the limited amount of practice the team will have in November before the World Cup begins.
Over the next few months, Berhalter will make his final decisions on which players will be on the United States World Cup roster this fall, and unfortunately, recent injuries will make those decisions more difficult. Friday’s 2-0 loss, while disappointing, likely doesn’t reflect on how well the United States will play in the World Cup, but the game will almost certainly impact Berhalter’s decision-making before the US’ first World Cup game against Wales begins on November 21.