While there’s the chance to rebound in Tuesday’s tune-up against Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain, there’s reason to be concerned after a flat performance at the Merkur Spiel-Arena. The USMNT attempted just four shots against Japan, none of which were on target.
Here’s how the squad fared two months before Group B play begins at Qatar 2022, opening Nov. 21 against Wales.
Whatever else happened against Japan, Matt Turner may have just earned a starting spot. Without the Arsenal shot-stopper, the US could have conceded three. Or four. Or more. The 2021 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year stood on his head and wasn't at fault for either of Japan's goals, making six saves and standing out as perhaps the only positive from the match.
The AC Milan loanee was exposed for positioning a couple of times, but he got forward to good effect. Dest was one of the few players who looked generally effective going forward in the first half.
Vines was completely invisible in the first half, largely pinned back by the relentless Japanese press. After the break, the Colorado Rapids homegrown product was pushed further forward with Berhalter's switch to a back three, and at least offered an occasional outlet in possession. Brought in to earn the job as Antonee Robinson's backup, the Royal Antwerp defender demonstrated just how important the Fulham standout has become to this team.
The Celta de Vigo midfielder started brightly and covered plenty of ground, but he was too easy to play around in midfield. The playing surface was clearly tough for de la Torre to deal with, but in a match where the US needed their midfielders to impact the match going forward, he didn't.
As usual, Adams worked hard on both sides of the ball, but the Leeds United midfielder wasn't able to find a way through Japan's defense and his passing was limited to recycling the ball. In fairness, he didn't get much help from the rest of midfield.
McKennie struggled mightily. The Juventus midfielder wasn't able to progress the ball, was caught out of position defensively on multiple occasions, and his connection with Adams was almost non-existent. He's one of the most important players to this squad, and an improved performance against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday is mandatory.
In an otherwise lethargic team, Aaronson at least ran himself into the ground. The Leeds United man took a beating and drew several fouls, including one that probably should have been given a red card. He's arguably become undroppable over the last 12 months.
Reyna was one of a handful of players to finish the first half with his stock untarnished. The Borussia Dortmund playmaker was inventive when he got on the ball; he just struggled to get on the ball enough and in dangerous areas. His early pass to play Dest into space was a thing of beauty. Reyna was off at the break as he works back to full fitness.
Berhalter's side was completely outplayed in the first half. The Yanks were a liability playing out of the back and committed turnover after turnover, putting themselves on the back foot. To Berhalter's credit, his halftime substitutions and shift to a back three at least provided a bit more defensive stability, but the lack of any sustained productivity in the final third is a big concern just 90 minutes of game action before their World Cup opener.
Sargent couldn't translate his red-hot form with Norwich to the international stage, at least not in his 45-minute shift. He moved well off the ball and was an improved presence up front, but didn't manage a single shot.
The FC Dallas product was brought on at the break, and spent the second half largely as a right center-back in a back three. Cannon got turned inside out by Kaoru Mitoma on his 88th-minute goal.
The Internacional midfielder, added to the squad as Yunus Musah's injury replacement, looked lost for much of his 23-minute shift. His defensive positioning was suspect and he couldn't elevate the team's performance in possession.
McKenzie was brought on at halftime, and the US looked stronger defensively once he got on the field. The Philadelphia Union product's distribution was an improvement and for the most part, he dealt well with Japan's attack.
Tillman couldn't bring any kind of attacking spark to the match and struggled to find any openings in Japan's defense. It was the Rangers man's third USMNT cap after filing a one-time switch of association from Germany.