The United States came into a Friday morning friendly against Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany hoping to tune up for the 2022 World Cup, which begins in just two months.
Instead, the USMNT departs Germany with more questions than answers after a resounding 2-0 defeat that saw Japan emerge as the clear better side over the 90 minutes of play. Weston McKennie and the U.S. midfield were overrun, while the U.S. back line was pressed into oblivion by the Samurai Blue forwards.
Ultimately, they conceded twice at the back while failing to register a single shot on target in the attack.
It’s a worrying performance from a team that wants to play a high-tempo, possessional style of play. Instead of a cutting edge progressing the ball through the midfield, the United States failed to trouble Japan at all with flair, instead themselves troubled by the incisive nature of Junya Ito and Takefusa Kubo.
Gregg Berhalter will now be left to pick up the pieces from this disappointing and worrying performance with the World Cup just eight weeks away. While the U.S. desperately tried to assert its style of play on the pitch, the Stars & Stripes were instead soundly beaten by an opponent who found life all too easy in the attacking third.
The Sporting News followed the USA vs Japan match live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happened.
USA vs. Japan final score
24th min — JPN — Daichi Kamada
88th min — JPN — Kaoru Mitoma
USA vs. Japan post-match analysis
Gregg Berhalter asks for more “personality” from USMNT
In his post-match interview on the pitch with ESPN reporter Sam Borden, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was asked what he saw from the team today. The boss replied that he wanted more “personality” from the team, which is an accurate way of describing what the U.S. lacked against Japan.
There was no cutting edge, no attacking flair, no confidence on the ball, and no creativity in progression from the United States, who failed to trouble the Japan back line on many occasions. By the full-time whistle, the United States had failed to produce a single shot on target across the entirety of the match.
Berhalter says on ESPN that the USMNT hurt themselves, poor mistakes and that the US lacked personality vs Japan.
He’s right. Japan brought the🥚🥚.
— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) September 23, 2022
Japan high press troubled USMNT midfielders & defenders
The difference in the match was the 4-4-2 press from Japan that gave U.S. defenders and midfielders fits the entire match. The press, which didn’t require Japanese players to run themselves ragged, still managed to pressure players like Walker Zimmerman, Luca de la Torre, and Weston McKennie, who failed to adequately deal with the pressure.
At best, the USMNT were forced to play the ball backwards, with very few options forward as their attackers were choked out of the match. At worst, they played bad passes and turned the ball over, giving Japan countless chances on the counter. It was a worrying performance in possession from the U.S. that will give fans nightmares with the World Cup just weeks away.
— The Analyst US (@OptaAnalystUS) September 23, 2022
USA vs. Japan live updates, highlights from friendly
FULL-TIME: USA 0-2 Japan
There’s no stoppage time, and the better team emerges victorious. The United States was well-beaten on the day, with a complete inability to move the ball forward and bring the U.S. attackers into the game.
Japan, meanwhile, looked hungry for the World Cup. They pressed with precision, troubling the U.S. midfielders and defenders when on the ball, forcing them backwards and cutting off the American attackers. When they turned the U.S. over, they carved the U.S. to pieces on the counter.
88th min: GOAL! JAPAN! The United States is carved open again, and Matt Turner can do nothing about this one. It’s Kaoru Mitoma who slices Reggie Cannon to pieces and then takes one touch onto his right, rifling a curling shot past Zimmerman and past Turner into the back of the net. It’s a deserved second from the side that’s been better throughout the entire match. This one’s over.
81st min: Chance, USA! It’s the first real attacking play for the U.S. in recent memory, and Brendon Aaronson nearly equalizes, but rifles wide. His pressing forces a rare Japan turnover in the attacking half, and the Samurai Blue just barely manage to track back and force the Leeds United man to fire an off-balance shot that misses the target. It’s a good chance from Aaronson, but the solo opportunity needs more help from teammates.
76th min: Chance, Japan! It’s another save from Matt Turner, who tips a laser beam over the bar! A cutback from the left side of the penalty area finds a WIDE OPEN Ritsu Doan, who was completely unmarked trailing the play, and his howitzer from the top of the 18-yard box is tipped acrobatically over by a leaping Turner. The U.S. goalkeeper is having a fantastic match!
70th min: There’s another dangerous buildup for Japan, with substitute Kaoru Mitoma rifling a shot, but it’s blocked well by a U.S. defender before it can reach Matt Turner and the goal frame. The Asian side continues to look good progressing the ball into dangerous areas, while the U.S. just cannot get a significant foothold in the match.
Moments later, Reggie Cannon makes a critical block on Mitoma, but he’s down injured. It looks like Mitoma went flying over top of Cannon on the challenge, but he’s up and looking to continue.
65th min: Chance, Japan! Matt Turner with another excellent save! It’s off yet another bad turnover by a U.S. defender, with Mark McKenzie looking to feed a ball through and sending it right to a Japanese attacker. What a great stop by the Arsenal man, who looks in great form!
Gregg Berhalter is set to make another two changes, bringing on Johnny Cardoso and Malik Tillman. McKennie and de la Torre come off.
— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) September 23, 2022
60th min: Luca de la Torre is given a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the attacking half. A heavy touch saw the ball get away from him as two Japan defenders gave chase, and he upended a third challenger after the ball got away. It’s a deserved yellow, but still leaves questions about the earlier challenge from Ito a few minutes prior.
54th min: Brenden Aaronson is left in a heap on the ground after a challenge with Ito on the left touchline. Replay shows a very, very nasty tackle from Ito, who leaps and plants his studs directly onto Aaronson’s calf. One could easily argue that’s enough for a straight red card, but somehow not even a yellow is shown. There’s VAR in this match, but it does not intervene. A head-scratching moment, and Ito is a very, very lucky man.
Ito studs-up raking Aaronson’s entire calf is not even a yellow? In a friendly?? Gtfo. We’ve gone to war over less. pic.twitter.com/P2RcjTGtIM
— Sam’s Army Podcast (@samsarmy) September 23, 2022
51st min: The U.S. has looked much better in the opening minutes of the second half. After a good spell of possession in the Japan half down the right, Brenden Aaronson attempts a cheeky back-heel that nearly feeds Weston McKennie in.
It’s clear that Gregg Berhalter has asked his players to be intentionally higher up the pitch and pin Japan further back. Early on, it’s looking like a positive change.
46th min: There are four substitutions coming on for the U.S. as we get the second half under way. It’s hard to tell which of these are pre-planned, and which are reactionary to the first-half performance. Either way, a big chance for the guys coming on to show they can turn the tide of the match.
Mark McKenzie, Reggie Cannon, Jordan Morris, and Josh Sargent will be coming on. They’ll replace Aaron Long, Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, and Jesus Ferreira.
You’ll note that none of those players are named “Christian Pulisic” who is missing due to a knock in training. It’s shown.
#USMNT first-half touches…
🇺🇸 The Pulisic-shaped hole is back!
🇯🇵 Japan had 82 attacking-third touches, to 42 for the U.S. pic.twitter.com/DTtOvq56SA
— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) September 23, 2022
HALFTIME: USA 0-1 Japan
A total mess over the first 45 minutes from the United States. Constant giveaways from the U.S. put Matt Turner under pressure in the U.S. net. Turner was the only positive through the opening half, which is a silver lining to an otherwise extremely poor first half. Taylor Twellman said on the ESPN broadcast that the U.S. coughed up 28 turnovers in their own defensive half through the first 35 minutes, which is a totally unacceptable rate.
For Japan, the wingers Takefusa Kubo and Junya Ito were a menace up and down the field, especially Ito who played a host of dangerous through-balls that broke the U.S. back line on the counter.
Overall, the U.S. will feel lucky to be down just a single goal, and it’s up to Gregg Berhalter to turn things around after the break. The tactics just aren’t being executed at the moment.
Japan’s press isn’t complicated.
They’re pressing out of a 4-4-2 with a narrow front 2, funneling the ball to the US center backs, and then forcing Long and Zimmerman to distribute.
So far, the CBs have struggled, the spacing is off, and the USMNT hasn’t been able to build.
— Joseph Lowery (@joeclowery) September 23, 2022
Backline wide open, midfield turning ball over and no possession in attack. Yeah, not great so far.#USMNT
— Maximiliano Bretos (@MaxBretosSports) September 23, 2022
44th min: Finally, a moment of danger created by the U.S. up front as Sam Vines feeds Gio Reyna on the overlap, but his cross is cleared. Promising, but the U.S. will need much more than that to break down the Japan back line and get back level.
40th min: Brenden Aaronson has taken a number of lumps in this match, down holding his back after taking a charging knee on the right flank. Eventually, he’s up, and the U.S. has a dangerous set-piece opportunity from near the right touchline. It’ll be Reyna with the deep delivery…he goes to the far post for Zimmerman, who is excellent in the air, but his header back into the mixer is cleared.
35th min: The U.S. are trying to play out of the back, and it’s been a complete disaster. Zimmerman and Long are both completely unsure of what to do every time a Japanese attacker presses them in possession. There are no options at all. The two center-backs are completely off the mark with their passes, putting each other under pressure and unable to find an option further forward. A total tactical nightmare.
The #USMNT has been sloppy and careless through the first half hour here in Dusseldorf. Way too many giveaways in the middle of the field. Poor touches. Bad decisions.
— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) September 23, 2022
27th min: Goodness gracious, Japan are right back into the attack after the restart. Matt Turner comes out to smother the attempted through-ball assist, but it’s just too easy right now for Japan to carve the U.S. to pieces.
24th min: GOAL! JAPAN! The Japanese believe they have the opener, but the offside flag nullifies the chance! Ito has the ball in the back of the net, AGAIN after a midfield loss of possession. Kamada is all alone on the back post, and he delivers a curling ball into the back of the net. The flag denies the chance, but apparently — much to the surprise of the ESPN crew — there is a VAR review. After the check…it’s a goal!
McKennie gives the ball away in midfield, Dest was high up the pitch, and Zimmerman couldn’t recover to mark the open man at the far post.
Japan strikes first with a finish to the bottom corner! pic.twitter.com/qKVzVOzMoV
— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) September 23, 2022
23rd min: Chance, Japan! The Asian side comes close again, as Ito sends in a nifty ball to Maeda on the doorstep, but it’s just inches out of reach as Maeda went sliding to reach it. He’d gotten free from his defensive mark and would have had an opportunity to score from a tight angle had he been able to make contact.
18th min: Goodness, more last-ditch defending needed by the United States. It’s another giveaway in the defensive half, this time by Luca de la Torre, who looks lost in midfield through the opening 20 minutes. It takes just two passes to get Japan into a dangerous position, but shepherded away at the last second by Zimmerman.
Luca de la Torre is having a really poor first 20 minutes for the #USMNT. He’s completely off the pace, has been muscled off the ball multiple times, and seems constantly under pressure while in possession. He’s very unsure while being pressed.
— Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) September 23, 2022
13th min: Chance, Japan! The turnovers continue to plague the U.S. center-backs. This time it’s Walker Zimmerman who passes the ball right to Kubo in the U.S. defensive third. Kubo instantly breaks and finds Daichi Kamada, whose shot is saved very well by Matt Turner. A great sign for the U.S. goalkeeping situation that Turner can get down for that reflex save, but YIKES from Zimmerman.
A very shaky start from the U.S. overall.
— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) September 23, 2022
10th min: There are significant concerns with the pitch in Dusseldorf, being relayed by the ESPN broadcast crew. The pitch is extremely slow, and color analyst Taylor Twellman said he could see the players were struggling it in warmups before the match. There are already significant divots in the pitch just 10 minutes into the match, and Jon Champion mentions that he thinks it’s been cut poorly.
This field is a bummer. #JPNvUSA
— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) September 23, 2022
8th min: Chance, USA! The U.S. builds forward well down the right through Sergino Dest, and the cross reaches Jesus Ferreira. The striker heads over the bar. It’s a poor effort from the FC Dallas man, who should have put the U.S. in front early with its first real effort on goal.
4th min: The U.S. is asserting possessional dominance early in this match. Aside from the one early counter, Japan has hardly sniffed the ball through the opening five minutes. McKennie wins a foul on the right flank, then Luca de la Torre is wrestled off the ball for Japan to regain a footing in the game.
2nd min: Tough start for the aforementioned Long, who gives the ball away on the left flank and it results in a Japan counter-attack. The eventual shot is right into the waiting arms of Matt Turner, and the U.S. get away with an early mistake. Long will have to be better in possession to impress the coaches.
1st min: The match is under way in Dusseldorf! Big day for a number of U.S. players looking to earn spots on the World Cup roster, but likely none bigger than for Aaron Long who has a chance to earn a place at center-back.
Pre-Match: USMNT vs. Japan (kickoff at 2:26pm local CEST)
8 mins to kick: ESPN just ran a package on Gio Reyna on their broadcast, an honest chat with Sam Borden about his injury struggles, including the mental health side of his fight to return to the field. It was an enlightening and emotional discussion, just two days after forward Jesus Ferreira spoke to the media about his own mental health journey in the sporting world.
Thankfully, it looks like Reyna is all smiles now as he makes his first start in over a year. The trip for the 19-year-old from Dortmund to Dusseldorf is a quick one, just over an hour. You can get all the latest USMNT injury news here.
34 mins to kick: The U.S. doesn’t play friendlies on neutral sites very often. They’ve played matches in Europe before, but usually on the road at an opponent’s home field, such as against Wales, Northern Ireland, or Switzerland over the last few years.
— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) September 23, 2022
45 mins to kick: The Japan lineup is out, and there are some wrinkles for the opponent today as well. No Furuhashi in the starting lineup as his Celtic teammate Daizen Maeda starts up top. Arsenal full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu starts as part of a back three, while Takefusa Kubo plays the No. 10 role.
60 mins to kick: The USMNT lineup is out and there’s no Christian Pulisic after he took a knock in training earlier this week, and he misses out as a precaution. Instead, Brenden Aaronson moves over to the left, while Gio Reyna starts on the right wing.
Christian Pulisic is off today’s roster because of a knock he took in training earlier this week. He will be evaluated day-to-day for his availability to play against Saudi Arabia on Sept. 27 in Murcia, Spain.
— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) September 23, 2022
90 mins to kick: Get to know Japan forward Kyogo Furuhashi. He’s one of three Celtic players on the Japanese squad, including Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda.
🇯🇵 @Kyogo_Furuhashi‘s Japan are action this afternoon against USA!
Our number 8️⃣ is up next to take on ‘This or That’ 🙆♂️
IRN BRU or Ramune❓
World Cup or Champions League❓
Iniesta or Hatate❓
Agree with Kyogo, Celts? 🍀 pic.twitter.com/0AU9mSRMJw
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) September 23, 2022
120 minutes to kickoff: While the United States are missing Yunus Musah for this international window, the “MMA” midfield has developed a critical — and quite frankly, fun — base of chemistry. That was never more evident than yesterday during the pre-match press conference, where Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams were in a playful mood, answering a number of questions in a jovial manner.
It’s fun for fans to see the players so open and comfortable, and it’s a great sign that the team has fostered a culture of comfort that allows the players to be themselves. Fans will hope that materializes on the field as well, as players feel able to express themselves on and off the ball.
USA vs. Japan lineups
Matt Turner plays in goal behind the center-back pairing of Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman. Sam Vines is in for the injured Antonee Robinson at left-back, while Luca de la Torre starts for the injured Yunus Musah in midfield. Up front, there’s no Tim Weah on the roster due to injury, meaning Brenden Aaronson and Gio Reyna will see time on the wings with Christian Pulisic off the roster after picking up a knock in training.
USA starting lineup (4-3-3): 1-Turner (GK) — 2-Dest, 3-Zimmerman (capt.), 5-Long, 6-Vines — 8-McKennie, 4-Adams, 14-De la Torre — 11-Aaronson, 9-Ferreira, 21-Reyna.
USA subs (14): 18-Horvath (GK), 25-S. Johnson (GK), 20-Cannon, 16-McKenzie, 12-Palmer-Brown, 26-Scally, 22-Yedlin, 23-Acosta, 15-Cardoso, 17-Tillman, 7-Arriola, 13-Morris, 19-Pepi, 24-Sargent
Japan head coach Hijime Moriyasu will hope to use the match to help him decide on his two starting winger positions. The competition to claim the right wing involves Junya Ito and Ritsu Doan with Ito getting the start, while Eintracht’s Daichi Kamada gets a chance to show what he can do on the left with Takumi Minamino and Kaoru Mitoma the others in contention. Takefusa Kubo projects to line up in a more central attacking role in this game.
Schalke’s 34-year-old Maya Yoshida, likely in his final World Cup cycle, will be relied upon to marshal the backline especially with Borussia Monchengladbach defender Ko Itakura suffering a partial MCL tear that has thrown his World Cup participation in doubt. Other center-back candidates for the final roster include Huddersfield Town starter Yuta Nakayama, who will instead have a chance to show his tactical flexibility at left back.
Japan starting lineup (4-2-3-1, right to left): 12-Gonda (GK) — 19-Sakai, 16-Tomiyasu, 22-Yoshida, 20-Nakayama — 6-Endo, 13-Morita — 14-Ito, 11-Kubo, 15-Kamada — 25-Maeda
Japan subs (15): Schmidt (GK), Tani (GK), Yamane, Taniguchi, Nagatomo, H. Ito, Shibasaki, Haraguchi, Tanaka, Mitoma, Doan, Soma, Minamino, Furuhashi, Machino
USA vs. Japan TV channel, live stream
|Date||Friday, Sept. 21||Friday, Sept. 21|
|Time||8:26 a.m. ET||9:26 p.m. JST|
|TV channel||ESPN2, TUDN, Unimas||Fuji TV|
USA: Friday’s pre-World Cup friendly from Dusseldorf, Germany will be broadcast in both English (ESPN2) and Spanish (TUDN, UniMas) in the USA with both channels streaming on fuboTV.
Japan: In Japan, the friendly match can be found on Fuji TV, where most Japan national team games are broadcast, including the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
USA vs. Japan betting odds
Odds via Caesars in USA and Sports Interaction in Canada.
The betting options for this international friendly are understandably limited, given that it’s hard to know exactly how each team will approach the game. It’s likely that both sides won’t start their best players from the beginning as the head coaches look to give fringe players a final chance to earn World Cup roster spots.
Japan are the slight favorite, as the team that dominated Asian World Cup qualifying, and a squad that is thought to be improved on the one that reached the Round of 16 in the 2018 World Cup and had Belgium on the ropes.
to score Y / N
|-115 / -115||-122 / -127|
|Over / Under
|+115 / -145||+115 / -154|