Middling USA loses to Japan 2-0 in World Cup warmup

Middling USA loses to Japan 2-0 in World Cup warmup

With the World Cup approaching and final roster decisions in the offing, US soccer players put in a dismal performance in a 2-0 exhibition loss to Japan on Friday in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Daiichi Kamada scored after Weston McKennie’s draw in the 24th minute and Kaoru Mitoma added a goal in the 88th.

In their penultimate warm-up for the World Cup, the Americans failed to hit a single shot on goal and outscored 16-4, including 8-0 from shots on goal.

“Obviously really disappointing,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “I just wish we had a little bit more of a fight on us early on. I think we hurt ourselves in a lot of ways.”

The United States have one win, five losses and four draws in 10 away games since a victory in Northern Ireland in March 2021, and just one goal in their last five away games.

“We have to play with the personality. We have to play relaxed. We need to play with intensity,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said. “When we do these things, we are a very good team, but when we don’t, we are an average team.”

Berhalter plans to announce his 26-player World Cup roster on November 9. He said it was hard for him to say if the players felt pressure from the evaluation period.

“It’s not fair to say that everyone is on the block here. There are guys that have a lot of water under the bridge with this team and they’ve played a lot of good games.” Berhalter said. “We performed below expectations. We were not up to our normal standards. And that’s pretty much across the board.”

American star Christian Pulisic was not dressed due to an unspecified injury that Berhalter called “a knock.” The 14th-ranked Americans are missing Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson and Zack Steffen due to injuries, and Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup due to a torn Achilles tendon.

A series of defensive failures put pressure on Turner, who has only played one game this season for Arsenal. Turner made a pair of diving saves in the second half, off Junya Ito in the 55th and Kamada in the 65th.

Kamada scored after McKennie took a pass from Tyler Adams and hit a back pass. Hiroki Sakai ran to the ball and passed it to Ito. He passed the ball to an open Kamada, who beat Turner to the far post from about 12 yards for his sixth international goal.

No. 24 Japan was initially penalized for offside, but the goal was conceded after a video review determined that Kamada was put onside by Walker Zimmerman.

Mitoma scored his fifth international goal, turning Reggie Cannon around in the second half and bending the ball around Zimmerman to beat Turner at the far post with a right-footed shot from inside the penalty area.

“That second goal comes from a lot of frustration that things just aren’t working out for us,” Turner said. “We gave the ball away and dropped our heads and didn’t react. And they were having fun with the ball and running freely towards us.”

Jesús Ferreira had the best chance for the USA in the seventh minute, when he headed wide over the crossbar from Sergiño Dest’s cross.

The United States has one last exhibition, against 53rd-ranked Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday in Murcia, Spain. Berhalter said it was too early to determine if Pulisic would be available.

Back at the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the Americans open in Qatar against No. 19 Wales on November 21, play fifth-placed England four days later and close out the first round against No. 22 Iran on November 29.

Japan, preparing for its seventh consecutive World Cup, opens against No. 11 Germany on November 23, faces 34th-ranked Costa Rica four days later and closes the group stage against No. 6 Spain on 1 from December.

Players shouting at each other was heard during a match played before a crowd of less than 10,000 people at the 54,600-capacity Merkur Spiel-Arena.

Gio Reyna and Dest started despite not appearing in 90-minute games for their clubs this season. Reyna, fit after a leg injury ruined her 2021-22 season, hadn’t started for the US in a year. He wore the number 21 of his father, former US captain Claudio Reyna.

Josh Sargent, Jordan Morris, Cannon and Mark McKenzie came on to start the second half in place of Ferreira, Reyna, Dest and Aaron Long.

Japan plays No. 44 Ecuador on Tuesday in Düsseldorf and 43rd-ranked Canada on November 17 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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