Why Southampton should consider keeping Claude Puel

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It has all gone quiet at Southampton. But for how long?

[ MORE: Saints’ fans take over Milan ]

Media speculation has been rampant over the past few weeks that Claude Puel, Southampton’s first-year manager, would be shown the exit door at St Mary’s this summer amid fan unrest about the style of play and their regression from a team challenging for the top six.

But, even in these times where fans demand instant success and patience is severely lacking, is that really the right answer?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Puel, 55, delivered an eighth place finish, the fourth-straight season Southampton have finished eighth or higher, which is the first time they’ve achieved that feat in club history.

Yet many supporters point to the fact that Southampton finished just five points above Swansea City who finished in 15th place, plus they complain about Puel’s dull demeanor in his press conference as he struggles to express himself in English. He is a figure which truly divides the fanbase between those wanting him fired and those wiling to give him another chance.

Saints are a club who finished in a higher league position in seven-straight seasons before this campaign, so perhaps the vast majority of the fanbase have become too accustomed to overachieving and this reality check was always on the horizon.

A top 10 finish and a cup run should always be a superb season for a club of Southampton’s size, but fans want more. With talk of a potential Chinese takeover this summer, they want to dream that they can push for a top six finish and qualify for Europe each season and aren’t sure Puel is the right man to deliver it.

That’s fair enough, but when you dissect the entire season and the key stats which came from it, getting rid of Puel seems incredibly hasty.

He had many unfortunate obstacles to overcome in his first season in England and it’s unlikely he’ll have so much to deal with next season, and possibly beyond.

Club captain Jose Fonte was sold midway through the campaign after a disagreement with directors over his future, while leading scorer Charlie Austin (yes, he was out since December but still finished top scorer, with nine) was injured for five months and star center back Virgil Van Dijk was also injured in January as it ended his season. Along with all of this Puel had to deal with Saints’ first-ever Europa League group stage campaign and the agony of missing out on the knockout stages by one goal.

The constant chopping and changing of the team dominated Puel’s reign in the early months as he made 97 lineup changes throughout the season. Only Manchester City and Manchester United made more in the PL in 2016-17.

Perhaps one of the major criticisms was that he tinkered too much to try and keep his squad fresh as they pushed to qualify for the Europa League knockout stage, with the previous high-tempo style of play impossible to replicate across a 53-game season.

Hence the slower pace of play which frustrated many fans and perhaps failed to get the best out of a team built by Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman to play a fast, high-pressing style, which in turn led to reports of many senior players unhappy at the tactics deployed by the Frenchman.

Another big factor of the rotation was reaching the EFL Cup final where Saints, again, agonizingly came up short as they lost 3-2 to Manchester United at Wembley in a game which they should have won.

In the Premier League his team scored just 17 goals in 19 home games with no goals in any of their final five home games of the season which led to fans booing and plenty calling for Puel to be fired. But if you look a little deeper, the chances are being created but with Austin out, Manolo Gabbiadini‘s hot streak over after his initial burst and the duo of Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez failing to step up, Saints’ shot conversion rate was the lowest in the PL.

That’s right, Southampton converted just 7.47 percent of the 549 shots that had at goal, which was the seventh-highest number of shot attempts in the PL. Saints created chances but could Puel really do much about his players not converting them? It sounds simplistic, but think about it. With Austin back fit next season, plus Gabbiadini and Sofiane Boufal acclimatized to life in England, will this shot conversion rate really be this low again?

Saints also had two players in the PL’s top 18 in terms of chances created, Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond, and away from home they had the seventh best record but had the 17th best record at home, suggesting their prowess as a counter-attacking team. Had Saints scored penalty kicks against Hull City and Manchester United in two of their final three home games then they would have finished more comfortably in eighth place and had a much better home record.

Small margins.

Southampton also had the second youngest starting XI in the PL at 26 years and 169 days, with Redmond and James Ward-Prowse making their full England debuts, plus no PL club had more than Saints’ seven players in the full and U-21 England teams when they were announced at the end of the season.

As well as English talent like Sam McQueen, Ward-Prowse, Redmond and Jack Stephens improving drastically, Puel helped the likes of Oriol Romeu, Maya Yoshida and Cedric Soares reach new heights too. It shouldn’t be all doom and gloom and Puel is a man who can deliver steady progression at a club which lost its past two managers, Pochettino and Koeman, to bigger teams in the PL just when it appeared they were on the verge of great things at St Mary’s.

Another reason to keep the faith, for at least another season, is the fact that wherever Puel has been he has delivered improved results beyond his first season. There’s a hope he can do that at Southampton, especially without the extra rigors of European action next season.

He took charge of AS Monaco in January 1999 and they won the French title in May 2000. He took charge of Lille in 2002 and improved them from 14th to 10th to 2nd place finishes in his first three seasons at the club. Puel spent six seasons at Lille and helped the likes of Eden Hazard and Yohan Cabaye break into the team.

In 2008 he took charge of Lyon and in his second full season he took the French outfit to the UEFA Champions League semifinal for just the first time in club history, plus Hugo Lloris and others broke through under his guidance. In 2012 he took charge of Nice and in his first season he led them to fourth in Ligue 1 (their highest Ligue 1 finish since 1976), then did it once again in 2015-16 with 17th and 11th place finishes in-between. The Nice team he left behind last season just finished third in Ligue 1.

All of this proves that Puel can improve teams, if he’s given time.

What is Saints’ alternative to Puel? Some reports suggest Marco Silva would be the main man but he appears to be joining Watford after impressing at Hull City, while the names of Slavisa Jokanovic and Alan Pardew have also been mentioned as potential replacements.

Do Southampton really want to become a club know for hiring and firing managers after a season which presented plenty of challenges but still ended up with a top half finish, a decent run in Europe and a EFL Cup final appearance?

If Saints put faith in Puel, he may just surprise everyone. Of course, like every manager, he needs a bit of luck to drop his way but fans calling for his head should think clearly about what the alternative would be.

USMNT held by Saudi Arabia as malaise continues

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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.

[ MORE: Player ratings out of 10 ]

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.


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, UnimasTUDN


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?

UEFA Nations League: Schedule, how to watch, stream, TV, standings

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UEFA Nations League champions France will not go back-to-back, and Portugal is battling with Spain in its bid to return to the throne room, highlighting the odds that a new Nations League winner will be crowned at the end of third edition of the tournament.

[ LIVE: European Nations League hub — Scores, stats ]

England and Wales are no longer top-tier sides after their relegations to UEFA Nations League B. England didn’t win a single one of their six group games (0W-3D-3L) as Gareth Southgate’s side finished bottom of Group A3. Italy won at Hungary in their final game in Group 3 to reach the semifinal rounds, which won’t really make up for not making the World Cup but could give Roberto Mancini’s side some silverware.

France lost to Denmark and just remained in League A as Austria were relegated, with Croatia pipping the Danes to a place in the semifinal round by winning Group A1.

Group A4 is the opposite sort of fight, Belgium and the Netherlands have both played very well but the Dutch triumphed down the stretch (thanks to a 1-0 win as Virgil van Dijk scored the lone goal in Amsterdam) to advance to the semifinal round.

While all eyes went to Group A2 as Portugal hosted Spain on the final day and a win or a draw for Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. would’ve put him two wins from another trophy. Would Portugal join Croatia, Italy, and the Netherlands in the semis? That’s an unshiny nope for CR7 and Co., thanks to Alvaro Morata.


UEFA Nations League live: How to watch, stream links

When: June 1, 2022 – March 26, 2024
How to watch: Fox Sports Live, Fubo TV


UEFA Nations League A, Group 1

Croatia– 4-1-1, 13 pts [ADVANCED]
Denmark — 4-0-2, 12 pts
France — 1-2-3, 5 pts
Austria — 1-1-4, 4 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Thursday
France 2-0 Austria
Croatia 2-1 Denmark

Sunday
Denmark 2-0 France
Austria 1-3 Croatia

UEFA Nations League A, Group 2

Spain — 3-2-1, 11 pts [ADVANCED]
Portugal — 3-1-2, 10 pts
Switzerland — 3-0-3, 9 pts
Czech Republic — 1-1-4, 4 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Saturday
Czech Republic 0-4 Portugal
Spain 1-2 Switzerland

Tuesday
Portugal 0-1 Spain
Switzerland 2-1 Czech Republic

UEFA Nations League A, Group 3

Italy — 3-2-1, 11 pts [ADVANCED]
Hungary — 3-1-2, 10 pts
Germany — 1-4-1, 7 pts
England — 0-3-3, 3 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Friday
Italy 1-0 England
Germany 0-1 Hungary

Monday
England 3-3 Germany
Hungary 0-2 Italy

UEFA Nations League A, Group 4

Netherlands — 5-1-0, 16 pts [ADVANCED]
Belgium — 3-1-2, 10 pts
Poland — 2-1-3, 7 pts
Wales — 0-1-5, 1 pt [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Thursday
Poland 0-2 Netherlands
Belgium 2-1 Wales

Sunday
Netherlands 1-0 Belgium
Wales 0-1 Poland

Top 26 players in the USMNT player pool + World Cup roster projection

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Today’s the day we do it: We admit that it is no longer mentally sound to pretend the actual USMNT player pool rankings could match Gregg Berhalter’s preferences for the national team.

Whether you believe him when it comes to the importance of form, versatility, and performances in the shirt — as well as whether he adheres to those criteria, it’s virtually impossible to figure out what’s going on in his head.

Given two friendlies against fellow World Cup entrants to sort out his center backs and center forwards, let’s break down the minutes and starts handed out.

[ MORE: Saudi Arabia vs USMNT analysis, recap ]

At center back, Walker Zimmerman started both games as expected and went 180 minutes. Injuries to Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards cost Berhalter the chance to evaluate them during this camp, and the USMNT boss handed two starts to Aaron Long.

Long has neither been starter-level strong in his performances for the USMNT and hasn’t starred for Red Bulls, but he still chewed up 104 of a possible 180 minutes next to Zimmerman, doing things like this:

Mark McKenzie got all of the minutes in Long’s place, meaning Erik Palmer-Brown is either hurt or his club Troyes now hates the USMNT for bringing him out for the glory of training and warm-ups. To be fair, Berhalter only used one goalkeeper as well.

As for center forwards, they were starved this week. Berhalter handed a start to Jesus Ferreira against Japan and he had the best chance of the bunch, thudding a header over the goal on the States’ best scoring chance of either game. Josh Sargent got the second half of the game.

Ricardo Pepi only had 13 touches in a half-plus versus Saudi Arabia. Ferreira came in and got 10. Put that on the rest of the team, yes, but it only serves to accent Ferreira’s miss versus Japan while Jordan Pefok and Haji Wright just shrugged from their homes in Berlin and Antalya.

And so we’re in a place where what we see from players, whether in the USMNT shirt or from video and stats abroad, just doesn’t fit into the parameters set forth by the USMNT boss.

BUT… we’ve committed to weighing the top 25 players in the USMNT pool from time-to-time. We’ll do that now, but they are simply what we see. Below that we’ll make our best guess as to what Berhalter will do for his 26-man World Cup roster.


Top 26 players in the USMNT player pool right now

Before we go any further with this list, here’s a reminder of how we sort the talent with some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward at the World Cup.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously, Paxton Aaronson is a better long-term prospect than Jordan Morris, but the Seattle Sounders forward is currently better prepared for the stage than the Philadelphia Union youngster.
  • Finally, if you’re breaking a tie between players… ask which you’d be more upset to hear was unavailable for a USMNT camp.
  1. Tyler Adams, Leeds United (2)
  2. Yunus Musah, Valencia (3)
  3. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (4)
  4. Brenden Aaronson, Leeds United (5)
  5. Antonee Robinson, Fulham (7)
  6. Jordan Pefok, Union Berlin (6)
  7. Weston McKennie, Juventus (1)
  8. Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC (9)
  9. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (8)
  10. Timothy Weah, Lille (14)
  11. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic (16)
  12. Chris Richards, Crystal Palace (11)
  13. Sergino Dest, AC Milan (10)
  14. Tim Ream, Fulham (17)
  15. John Brooks, Benfica (NR)
  16. Josh Sargent, Norwich City (12)
  17. Joe Scally, Borussia Monchengladbach (18)
  18. Matt Turner, Arsenal (21)
  19. Luca de la Torre, Celta Vigo (22)
  20. Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas (13)
  21. DeAndre Yedlin, Inter Miami (NR)
  22. Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal (23)
  23. Haji Wright, Antalyaspor (19)
  24. Gianluca Busio, Venezia (NR)
  25. Kellyn Acosta, LAFC (25)
  26. Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes (15)

Predicting Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT roster for World Cup*

*if tournament started today

Goalkeepers (3): Zack Steffen, Middlesbrough; Matt Turner, Arsenal; Sean Johnson, NYCFC. Last man out: Ethan Horvath, Luton Town

Defenders (8): Sergino Dest, AC Milan; Antonee Robinson, Fulham; DeAndre Yedlin, Inter Miami; Joe Scally, Borussia Monchengladbach; Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC; Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls; Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic; Chris Richards, Crystal Palace. Last man out: Tim Ream, Fulham

Midfielders (8): Tyler Adams, Leeds; Weston McKennie, Juventus; Luca de la Torre, Celta Vigo; Yunus Musah, Valencia; Kellyn Acosta, LAFC; Malik Tillman, Rangers; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; James Sands, Rangers.

Forwards (7): Christian Pulisic, Chelsea; Brenden Aaronson, Leeds; Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund; Timothy Weah, Lille; Paul Arriola, FC Dallas; Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas; Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders.

USMNT player ratings vs Saudi Arabia

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The best thing we can say about the United States men’s national team’s performances in two final World Cup warmups this month?

Maybe Gregg Berhalter’s just trying not to show his hand to group foes?

[ MORE: What we learned from Japan vs USA | Player ratings ]

A non-descript, sloppy, and unadjusted USMNT again looked poor and left fans with very little hope in a team less than two months from playing Wales, England, and Iran in Qatar.

The Yanks are now winless in seven-straight games on foreign soil, losing to Panama, Canada, Costa Rica, and Japan while drawing Jamaica, Mexico, El Salvador, and Saudi Arabia.


How has USMNT fared in final pre-World Cup matches before last three tournaments?

2006 – lost to Morocco 1-0, beat Venezuela 2-0, beat Latvia 1-0

Failed to advance from group stage

2010 – lost to Czechia 4-2, beat Turkey 2-1, beat Australia 3-1

Lost to Ghana in Round of 16

2014 – beat Azerbaijan 2-0, Turkey 2-1, Nigeria 2-1, and Ghana 2-1.

Lost to Belgium in Round of 16.

2018 – did not qualify

2020 – lost to Japan 2-0, drew Saudi Arabia 0-0


USMNT player ratings vs Saudi Arabia

Matt Turner: 6.5– A good if not great shot stopper, his footwork might be what costs him a starting spot to Zach Steffen.

Sergino Dest: 6 — A defensive liability at times, he was a bit better than usual in his own end but Saudi Arabia is not Roberto Carlos-era Brazil.

Aaron Long (Off 59′): 4.5 — Nothing against the player, but if he’s playing in Qatar the coach has different eyes, cameras, screens, and metrics than the rest of us.

Walker Zimmerman: 5.5 — Solving who to put next to the Nashville SC star is Mission No. 1. Left out to dry next to a similar but inferior CB in Long.

DeAndre Yedlin (Off 59′): 6.5 — Physical, bright, and savvy.  Hopefully his injury isn’t too bad.

Tyler Adams: 6.5 — Asked to play out of his strength in a one-man holding role, but also takes too many risks with the ball. Got n

Kellyn Acosta: 5 — Too sloppy with his touch, consistently, to be a World Cup regular, but good for the squad.

Weston McKennie: 4 — A turnover machine for two games, often in the worst parts of the field for a man of his position.

Christian Pulisic( On 76′): 5 — Blanked.

Ricardo Pepi (Off 59′): 5 — Starved of touches.

Giovanni Reyna (Off 30′): 5 — Another incredibly frustrating early end to a first team appearance for one of the nation’s brightest prospects.

Substitutions

Paul Arriola (On 30′): 5.5 — Drew a foul or two.

Joe Scally (On 59′): 7 — Only a half-hour sample size, but looked the man best-equipped for his boss’ plan.

Jesus Ferreira (On 59′): 6 — Got a shot off and was an upgrade on Pepi.

Mark McKenzie (On 59′): 6 — Steady enough.

Malik Tillman (On 76′): N/A —

Brenden Aaronson (On 76′): N/A —