USMNT vs. Saudi Arabia score: USA limp to scoreless draw in last friendly ahead of November’s World Cup

In the team’s final match before the World Cup, the United States drew 0-0 with Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on Tuesday behind a strong showing from Matt Turner in net as he battles for the number one shirt.

It was a chance for the United States to enter Qatar with momentum but with Gio Reyna leaving after only 30 minutes of action as a precaution and another disappointing showing from Ricardo Pepi, more questions than answers remain. The expectation was that Christian Pulisic’s return to the lineup would see the attack improve from their 2-0 loss to Japan, and while it did statistically, with seven shots, four on target, it wasn’t good enough to secure a victory over Saudi Arabia.

The match started brightly with the trio of Sergino Dest, Weston Mckennie and Christian Pulisic making inventive runs but outside of the trio, the attack was nowhere to be found. Pepi was unable to check his runs to stay onside or get onto the end of crosses in the air while the loss of Dest’s crossing ability on the right was drastic with DeAndre Yedlin deputizing there.

After the match, Berhalter was happy with the performance but not the execution, saying that timing was an issue. With the amount of rotation that the team has faced, there hasn’t been much time for his best lineup to gel together which clearly contributed to Pepi’s issues with getting on the end of runs during the match. Key cogs like Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Gio Reyna, Antonee Robinson, and Yunus Musah have all missed time during the last few international windows so it’s fair for the team’s timing to be off but it also shows how fragile their depth pieces are with only 55 days to go until the World Cup.

Next, the US faces Wales in their Group B opener on Nov. 21 at 2 pm ET.

Here are a few takeaways from the match:

Learn from mistakes, don’t dwell on them

After only registering two shots on target in 180 minutes of soccer during this international break, you couldn’t ask for a flatter showing from the national team attackers. But there is time to improve before kicking off the World Cup against Wales in November in Qatar. If players like Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest, and Luca de la Torre can use this camp as inspiration to kick on and earn starting spots at their respective clubs, things could be quite different a few months from now. Combined, the trio has only played 536 minutes this season for club and country, which is fewer minutes than Tyler Adams has logged for Leeds United (540) this season. Berhalter needs his best players actually playing minutes before the World Cup because the preparation time between coming together for camp and kicking off against Wales won’t be enough time to get up to speed when it comes to decision making. That can only come via minutes that they need to earn at their respective clubs.

Stock down for depth options

Over these two matches, it has become crystal clear that the depth options on the national team aren’t good enough if regulars go down. There is depth in attack if someone like Josh Sargent is called upon instead of Pepi but after the primary trio in midfield, no one has stepped up. Berhalter has been reluctant to use Reyna and Aaronson in deeper positions and he still hasn’t given Jordan Pefok a fair run as a backup forward to have a change of pace heading into Qatar. When Berhalter’s plan relies on starting players that he has admitted that he may not have at the World Cup, it is reasonable to be concerned if the team will make it out of the group stage. The best managers are able to tweak things when their system isn’t working but Berhalter has shown reluctance to make those shifts and the players won’t make them without him making the call.

What a difference midfield balance makes

While the attack wasn’t great, the defense did their job stopping Saudi Arabia in key spots. Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman were more confident at the back knowing that the midfield wouldn’t get overrun while Dest and Yedlin also made key stops on the flanks. Acosta and Adams provide a security blanket for the defense but then have the added issue that they stifle the build up in attack. The team needs Robinson back as soon as possible because Yedlin’s crosses were more likely to connect with a Saudi Arabia defender than a United States attacker but he did the job when called upon in defense. It won’t be pretty but it feels like Berhatler’s back line of Robinson, Long, Zimmerman and Dest is set leaving three positions open ahead of the World Cup. Those are keeper where Turner leads, forward where Ferreira leads and the right wing where it seems like Tim Weah may have an advantage.

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