This past Friday’s contest involving the USA left much to be desired, and fans hope it is not a preview of what is to come against Saudi Arabia. In fact, the United States turned in an absolutely shambolic performance. The 2-0 loss set alarm bells ringing about the team’s preparedness and ability to compete against quality teams at the World Cup.
Tuesday’s game against Saudi Arabia is the last look at this team before a ball is kicked in Qatar. It represents a chance to perhaps somewhat steady the ship.
USA Saudi Arabia Preview
Friday’s 2-0 loss did more than just a 2-0 loss in a friendly. The scoreline was kind to how Gregg Berhalter’s squad played. The US out-possessed Japan, but they did absolutely nothing to threaten the opposition. This all-too-common occurrence under Berhalter yielded zero shots on goal compared to eight for the Japanese. Bad giveaways in the midfield and by the defenders led to numerous chances for Japan. Fans should forgive Matt Turner for potentially thinking he was in a shooting gallery rather than a soccer stadium in Düsseldorf.
In his postgame assessment, Berhalter was uncharacteristically honest. He did not see a lot of personality out there. Then, on Monday, Berhalter added Japan outcoached and outplayed the United States. It is a stark contrast from the 2-0 loss earlier in the year to Canada. Back then, he said the USMNT actually outplayed Canada, despite the clear deficit in the scoreline.
Is this sudden honesty the rhetoric of a man who knows his tenure could be over by Christmas? Many fans certainly hope so, while another large segment of the fan base believes that no matter how bad things go in Qatar, Berhalter will be the US manager through the 2026 World Cup on home soil.
While the US seems to be going out of their way to not play games before the World Cup, Saudi Arabia has been doing the exact opposite. Since their qualification campaign ended in March, Saudi Arabia set up 10 international games before the World Cup. Two games went down in June before the two in the current September window. Over the next two months, Saudi Arabia scheduled six more friendlies, including three immediately before the World Cup.
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Saudi Arabia put together a strong run of form of late, including a top-of-the-group finish in Group B in AFC Qualifying. That was one point ahead of a Japan side that simply manhandled the United States on Friday. Recently, Saudi Arabia played to a 0-0 draw with Ecuador. Manager Herve Renard has experience winning AFCON with the Ivory Coast and coached Morocco to Russia 2018. He called in a squad consisting of nothing but Saudi-based club players. The bulk of the players come from two clubs, Al-Nassr and Al-Shabab. The roster is light on both goals and experience. Only three of the call-ups have more than 50 caps. Then, only two have double-digit goals.
The USA’s last game before the World Cup against Saudi Arabia comes from Murcia, Spain. This is the first USMNT game in Spain since a friendly against the hosts in 2008. This game is from the Estadio Nueva Condomina. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET, with coverage airing on FS1, UniMas and TUDN.
The USMNT leads the all time series against Saudi Arabia with three wins, two losses and a draw. These two sides last met some time ago, back in 1999 in the FIFA Confederations Cup. The United States won 2-0.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ANP
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