The USMNT looked far from ready for the World Cup in a 2-0 loss to Japan in a Friday morning friendly, and alarms bells are ringing – not just for the loss, but for the substandard play of a team that will face the biggest tournament in international play in just under two months, and that is looking to establish itself as a team to watch in preparation of the 2026 World Cup, which they’re set to host.
It wasn’t just that Japan was better, which they were. It’s that they were dominant. The US midfield seems to have no idea how to contain the attack and the defense was even more overwhelmed. To add insult to injury, they could muster absolutely nothing on offense, finishing the game without a single shot on target.
Just let that sink in. No shots on target at all in ninety minutes. Two goals against that could have easily been more. And eight weeks to go until the World Cup. That’s actually not just concerning, the right word might just be disaster.
Gregg Berhalter might take solace in the fact that the USMNT played without their best player, Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic, who was injured during training. No details were given about Pulisic’s injury, and the USFF didn’t disclose whether he will be available for Tuesday’s friendly against Saudi Arabia, which will be played in Murcia, Spain.
But Pulisic or not, the USMNT has to play better than they did against Japan, and they have at times during qualifying for the World Cup. It’s true that CONCACAF qualifying isn’t exactly the most competitive, and the US and Mexico, the favorites, struggled at times while facing opponents that, on paper, were inferior. Both ultimately qualified, but their struggles meant that fans and opposing teams alike were paying attention to the last few friendlies to get an idea of how the USMNT will look in the World Cup.
Unless this is a long con on the USMNT part, the answer is not so well, which leaves them in a precarious position going into group play in the World Cup, which will see them face England, Iran, and Wales. On paper, the USMNT is at least a favorite to advance to the knockout stages. In reality? If the team doesn’t find a way to defend, much less score, a very quick World Cup exit might be in their future.