USMNT held by Saudi Arabia as malaise continues

The USMNT drew 0-0 against Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain, as Gregg Berhalter’s side finished their World Cup preparations with plenty of pressure building on them.

Tyler Adams went closest to scoring for the USMNT but in truth it was a poor game in a near-empty stadium in southern Spain, as an injury-hit Saudi Arabia were dangerous on the break.

This is not the kind of performance, and result, Berhalter would have wanted after their disappointing defeat to Japan last week and it gives him plenty of questions to answer just 54 days out from the World Cup kicking off in Qatar.

Latest USMNT news

USMNT player ratings vs Saudi Arabia Giovanni Reyna exits USMNT friendly vs Saudi Arabia with apparent injury World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets,...

What we learned from Saudi Arabia vs USMNT

Confidence is low in the USMNT camp: This was not much better than the defeat to Japan and the U.S. look totally devoid of confidence on the ball. In the final third they always seemed to pick the wrong option and there were still some very bad giveaways in defense as Long, Turner and Adams were all guilty. This is a team which was playing safe and looked like a group of players who didn’t want to pick up an injury in the final game before the World Cup. There was no cutting edge and you have to feel sorry for Ricardo Pepi up top, as there was no cohesion and no rhythm to this display.

Musah, Robinson, Weah are badly missed: Berhalter referenced the starters he was missing before this game and it is clear the USMNT missed players who can keep the ball and provide quality from wide positions. Musah makes the USMNT tick in midfield and Weah and Robinson are so direct out wide that it allows midfielders to run into dangerous positions knowing they will be found. The USMNT had none of that in this game aside from Pulisic and McKennie combining and getting in a few times down the left in the first half. Pulisic in particularly went missing in the second half of this.

Saudi Arabia will be a tough nut to crack: Missing several key starters, this was a spirited display from Saudi Arabia. Herve Renard knows how to organize a team to be disciplined and dangerous on the counter and Saudi Arabia were exactly that. They’re in a very tough group with Argentina, Mexico and Poland, but they can cause a few shocks. The fact they have five more friendlies between now and the World Cup and all of their players are based domestically (with many coming from Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr) means they are very familiar playing together and are a robust unit.

Tactical focus

The USMNT looked to go long early and often and it worked to generate more chances than they did against Japan. McKennie surged in-behind the defenders, Pulisic cut in from the left and Long and Zimmerman both looked long whenever they could. Saudi Arabia were still a threat on the break and the spacing between the midfield trio and the defense remains a big issue for the USMNT as there were far too many gaps on the transition.

How to watch Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live, updates and start time

Date: Tuesday, September 27
Kick off time: 2pm ET
Where: Estadio Nuevo Condomina, Murcia, Spain
How to watch: FS1, Unimas, TUDN

Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright

  • Send in your questions for our live Q&A (click on the video above) straight after Saudi Arabia vs USMNT

  • Gio Reyna leaves game in the 30th minute, replaced by Paul Arriola

18 minutes to go. Still 0-0. Not a lot going on.

SHOT! Much better from the USMNT as sub Scally had a cross cleared, then moments later fellow sub Ferreira smashes on goal but it is saved. The subs having a great impact. That is more like it.

Scally, McKenzie and Ferreira on for the USMNT. Yedlin (who was down for a long time getting treatment following a nasty tackle), Pepi and Long off.

The USMNT have yet to get going in this second half. Saudi Arabia looking more dangerous and whipped in a few crosses.

An update on Gio Reyna: he was taken off as a precaution (per Fox Sports’ Jenny Taft) and U.S. Soccer have since said he was ‘experiencing muscle tightness’ and that was why he was taken out.

Second half is underway and no subs from either side. It has been all Saudi Arabia so far.

HALF TIME: Saudi Arabia 0-0 USMNT – Not a great half from the U.S., again. A few more chances with McKennie and Adams going close and balls over the top causing problems. However, Saudi Arabia have had a few chances and are looking decent on the counter. To sum up the USMNT’s display in a word: sloppy.

The news filtering through about Gio Reyna doesn’t sound positive, as it has been confirmed by U.S. Soccer that the substitution was not planned. All signs point to some kind of injury. Fingers crossed it is nothing serious and the U.S. were just being very, very cautious given his recent injury history.

CLOSE! Saudi Arabia almost take the lead. Walker Zimmerman and Paul Arriola make crucial blocks after substitute Haitham Asiri got in down the right and Hattan Bahebri couldn’t sort out his feet at the key moment. Huge let off.

SUB: A worrying sign for the USMNT whenever Gio Reyna goes off early in a game and heads straight down the tunnel. Given his history record, this is concerning. Paul Arriola is on. 30 minutes gone.

USMNT fans won’t be delighted with what they’ve seen so far. Sure, it’s better than the display against Japan but it couldn’t get any worse, could it?

WIDE! Tyler Adams puts a shot just wide from 25 yards out. A decent effort after some sustained U.S. pressure.

Pulisic, wearing the captain’s armband, is looking real sharp. Some surging runs in from the left and he’s popping up everywhere.

Not too much going on at the moment as the USMNT struggle to get in the final third on a regular basis.

Lovely ball over the top and McKennie controls well but his shot is straight at the goalkeeper. Still, much better from the USMNT.

A few decent runs forward from the USMNT. As Pepi and McKennie both flagged for offside. Quick passing and moving from the U.S. as that is more like it.

KICK OFF: We are underway! Straight away Saudi Arabia have a shot from the edge of the box and Turner pushes it away. Sharp start from Saudi Arabia, who are missing several key players due to injury.

Anthems ring around the stadium in Murcia in front of a very small crowd which looks like being less than 1,000. Can the USMNT respond to that heavy defeat against Japan? We are about to find out.

Tick-tock! Kick off is almost here and this is the final chance for players to impress Gregg Berhalter ahead of the World Cup. Will it be another nervy, error-strewn display form the Stars and Stripes? Or will the likes of Pulisic, Adams and McKennie stand tall and really lead this young team to a much-needed win and, perhaps more importantly, a positive display?

As we approach kick off, the general reaction to team news focuses on Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman once again starting together at center back. This probably shows that Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie are way down the pecking order in that position and the injured duo of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards are well ahead of them. Also, watching Pulisic and Reyna on the wings could be fun, especially if they’re allowed to drift inside at will.

The team news is in from sunny southern Spain, as the beautiful Estadio Nuevo Condomina is the setting for the USMNT’s final game before the World Cup kicks off.

For the USMNT, Matt Turner starts in goal once again with Zimmerman and Long at center back. DeAndre Yedlin comes in at right back, with Sergino Dest switching over to left back. Ricardo Pepi comes in for Jesus Ferreira up top, Christian Pulisic replaces Brenden Aaronson out wide and Kellyn Acosta is in for Luca de la Torre in midfield.

Gregg Berhalter has gone a lot stronger with this starting lineup than we thought he might. Is that showing the pressure is on him to get a positive result? Perhaps.

Below is the Saudi Arabian starting lineup, as their entire roster is from their domestic league and for any USMNT fans underestimating them, Saudi Arabia finished above Japan in World Cup qualifying.

Saudi Arabia vs USMNT head-to-head record

This will be the seventh meeting between the Yanks and Green Falcons, but the first since 1999 against a national team representing political issues for the United States. Saudi Arabia won two of the first four but the Yanks claimed home soil wins in a 1995 friendly and the 1999 Confederations Cup. All of the on-field mentions above mean absolutely nothing for Tuesday but they are fun to note on a pre-match preview (Upside-down smile face emoji).

The lowdown on Saudi Arabia

This is a very Saudi Arabia experienced side, one that went 13W-4D-1L in World Cup qualifying and have experience in a lot of 1-0 contests including recent Spain-based friendly losses to Colombia and Venezuela. The team will also feel at home in Murcia, where it played those matches and where it had a scoreless tangle with Ecuador four days prior to this tilt. Ecuador outshot the Saudis 11-5 and had 60 percent of the ball but all that will get you an argument that you deserved better than a solitary point that comes from a real match. If you want to see your Yanks break down a sound team, Tuesday’s a good chance.

Key storylines

Let’s be very fair to Berhalter, who has a young team and has overseen some memorable and downright awesome triumphs in CONCACAF: There are injuries right now — Christian Pulisic was rested with a knock on Friday — and the coach does not have access to Timothy Weah, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Chris Richards.

But his judgment is being questioned with Fulham captain Tim Ream, Union Berlin center forward Jordan Pefok, and Benfica back John Brooks healthy and ready to contribute but sitting at home. Berhalter has questioned their fits in the system and also said something nebulous about the team not expressing its “personality” versus Japan and that sounds pretty bad when the system looks awful.

USMNT team news, injuries, lineup

This is easily the most interesting lineup in some time for the USMNT after Berhalter gave starting looks to some of his lynchpins and got a mixed bag of results, none of which were exceptional aside from goalkeeper Matt Turner (and even he was not at his best in possession on an admittedly poor pitch in Dusseldorf) and Brenden Aaronson if we’re being judicious in the name of optimism. But really, all of the front three were ghosts. Much of is down to the eight men behind them, though, and forgiving glances can be cast at Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna. Jesus Ferreira is not included after missing a chance that would and could be called a sitter if he didn’t have to jump to head it (We kid, but it’s dark humor).

Aaron Long was very poor and Walker Zimmerman uncharacteristically poor next to him, while youngster Sam Vines had a rough first half before Berhalter adjusted his usage from left back to left wing back with emphasis on the wing part. Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are often the heartbeat of this team but both looked a mix of cavalier and junior varsity. That won’t happen often, and very rarely will occur at the same time.

Here’s what to watch from Berhalter’s lineup choices, presuming he doesn’t change his formation.

  • If Matt Turner starts — and then stays healthy and relatively blunder-free at Arsenal — forget about anyone else starting the World Cup opener in Qatar. If it’s Ethan Horvath or presumed No. 3 Sean Johnson, well, anything’s possible.

  • We’ll see Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but will it be Luca de la Torre completing the midfield trio? Will Kellyn Acosta or Johnny Cardoso arrive to move McKennie into a different role? Will Malik Tillman get his chance to start? Or will Giovanni Reyna be played in position (please?)?

  • Ricardo Pepi: The way Josh Sargent was plugged into the front three in the second half, it seems like FC Dallas star Ferreira and alum Pepi were meant to trade starts.

  • Christian Pulisic will start on the wing. How does he look, both in form and body language?

  • Sergino Dest and Sam Vines were the fullbacks versus Japan, with Reggie Cannon coming off the bench. Will it be Joe Scally and DeAndre Yedlin to start? Will Dest swap to left back? Antonee Robinson and Dest are the favorites to start in Qatar, but is the latter’s spot on the right now in question?

  • Much of U.S. Soccer, us included, considered this break to be a bunch of center backs bidding to play next to Walker Zimmerman in Qatar. Will it be Zimmerman plus one on Tuesday or something else?

USMNT held by Saudi Arabia as malaise continues originally appeared on NBCSports.com