The USMNT caused more new questions to be asked than they could answer in a 2-0 defeat to Japan on Friday, with head coach Gregg Berhalter and midfielder Tyler Adams left to explain their shortcomings after the game.
Japan proved a difficult test just 59 days before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the USMNT had very few, if any, correct answers. Chiefly, the Yanks’ inability to progress the ball up the field in a meaningful way, which resulted in just four shots (zero on target).
Clearly, there was much for Berhalter and Co., to explain…
Gregg Berhalter: “I didn’t see a lot of personality tonight”
“It was a really competitive match. I think we ended up hurting ourselves a little bit too much in the game with silly giveaways. And we want a little more personality in the match. Give Japan a lot of credit: Good team, competitive team, they pressed well, but we can do better.
“For some reason, I didn’t see a lot of personality with that performance tonight.”
“We’ve got work to do. We clearly need to improve, but overall really good experience for this team.”
On the reason for the struggles, and if the pressure is growing heavy on the USMNT already — via ESPN…
I don’t know if the proximity of the World Cup has anything to do with it, but the guys didn’t look fresh, and from a physical output we just looked a step behind,” said Berhalter. “And then it’s difficult, a team like Japan will punish you.
“The adjustment in the second half helped give us more control of the game, gave us more passes between the lines. But in the first half, I think it was just the lack of comfort on the ball, silly giveaways.
“We built the opponent up after a decent start, but then it started snowballing and giving some balls away and it wasn’t what we envisioned.
Tyler Adams: “We didn’t reach our standard today … played into their hands”
On failing to meet expectations and perform in an important moment…
“It’s definitely a tough one to take. I mean, you come here wanting to treat it like a group-stage game at the World Cup, in preparation for the World Cup, and we didn’t reach our standard today.
“We faced a talented team but in the end, it felt like we almost played into their hands. We had a little bit of frustration seep in. And you could just tell the team was off, a little late to tackles, late receiving the ball, finding solutions, being dangerous and creating chances like we normally do so. It’s a learning experience at the end of the day, and something that we got to take on the chin for the next game.”
On the USMNT game plan, and why it didn’t work — via ESPN…
“I think that some of the teams in CONCACAF — you know, the Mexicos and Hondurases — they’ve pressed us, and we found solutions. We just needed to find solutions earlier on. I think that we had a match plan and I think it would’ve been effective if we stuck to our game plan.
“But, sometimes I just felt that maybe we just started to search for individual solutions instead of sticking together, sticking to the match plan, staying disciplined in our game plan. And you saw Japan — they did that well. They had one game plan and it was effective.”
“In the beginning, it was: if the wingers were pressing narrow, then we were gonna find the solutions in the overlap; we would get Sergiño [Dest] and Sam [Vines] the ball and find the channel down the line. If they were pressing wide, then me and Weston [McKennie] and Luca [de la Torre] should have found space on the ball.
“We just didn’t find those solutions early on. I think we rushed things and forced things, and that caused a lot of turnovers in dangerous areas.”
On the USMNT facing a team of Japan’s quality ahead of the World Cup…
“You have to give credit to Japan, they’re such a talented team. I played against a bunch of those guys in the Bundesliga before and they have quality all over the field, and they showed it tonight.
“So credit to their game plan, it worked. But it didn’t feel like we executed our match plan going into the game. We can’t just start to waver and do our own things and allow individuality to creep into the team. We need to stick together as a team at the end of the day and we didn’t do that.”