soccer

USMNT friendly loss to Japan is a World Cup wake-up call

A Friday friendly that kicked off uncharacteristically early in the US proved to be a sobering, and perhaps useful, wake-up call for the American men.

Gregg Berhalter wants his young team to play aggressively and direct, pressing the opposition into mistakes and then capitalizing with quick runs and passes behind the defense. He wants the field tilted, and to that effect, he has said repeatedly that he plans to deploy a high back line in Qatar. He expects to be on the front foot.

Sometimes, however, the opponent has other plans. Faced with a smart, energetic Japanese side that refused to allow the US to establish a foothold or play to its strengths, the Americansled and were easily beaten, 2-0, at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany. The US committed a rash of turnovers and didn’t manage a single shot on goal in what was its worst performance under Berhalter since the World Cup qualifying loss in Panama last October. That game featured a heavily-rotated squad playing in oppressive humidity. On Friday in Germany, the Americans were simply poor.

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