Summary, analysis of the friendly before the World Cup

Summary, analysis of the friendly before the World Cup

Christian Pulisic will play for the United States men’s team in their penultimate pre-World Cup friendly against Japan on Friday. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The US men’s team is 180 minutes from Qatar. Of course, the World Cup is still two months away, but the USMNT plays its last two friendlies before the tournament this week and next, beginning with a Friday game against Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The game begins at 8:26 am ET on ESPN2, TUDN, UniMás and ESPN+. In a sense, it is an important dress rehearsal. But it has been clouded a bit by injuries. In addition to the ailments that kept Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Antonee Robinson, Chris Richards and others out of this week’s training camp, Christian Pulisic took a “bump” in training this week, according to US Soccer, and will not play. against Japan.

Pulisic is considered “everyday” and could get dressed next week. His absence is largely a precaution; if this were a World Cup match in November, he would be playing.

Instead, Gio Reyna and Brenden Aaronson get significant opportunities to start on the wings and perhaps claim a starting spot in Qatar.

For the latest game updates, recaps, and analysis, you can follow along with Yahoo Sports right here.

What to watch in USA vs. Japan

While much of the analysis (and fan outrage) last week focused on head coach Gregg Berhalter’s decisions on the sidelines of his 26-man roster, these 90 minutes against Japan will go a long way toward fine-tuning a most important group: the 11 starters. and several alternates likely to play key roles in Qatar.

To do this, the two big questions that Berhalter must answer: Who will start alongside Pulisic in attack? And who will join Walker Zimmerman on defense?

Injuries have complicated both issues. With Pulisic, Weah and Musah out, the US will try something of a Plan B in the attacking third against Japan.

In the back, Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers, two strong candidates to start at center back, withdrew from this final training camp due to injury. So Aaron Long will form an MLS tandem with Zimmerman at the heart of the American defense. They will have to prove that, as a duo, they have enough recovery speed to function in Berhalter’s high-pressure system.

USMNT lineup vs. Japan

The entire US team that will line up in a 4-3-3 against Japan is as follows (back to front, left to right):

Matt Turner; Sam Vines, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Sergiño Dest; Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Weston McKennie; Gio Reyna, Jesus Ferreira, Brenden Aaronson.

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