USMNT vs. Saudi Arabia instant reaction: 5 questions, 5 answers

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  • How did the U.S. men’s national team play against Saudi Arabia in their final game before the World Cup? Let’s talk about that

Let’s talk about USMNT 0-0 Saudi Arabia, shall we?

I’m sharing my quick thoughts on the United States’ last match before the World Cup in the form of answers to five specific questions. We’ll also have a more detailed piece out soon on some of the key tactics, performances, and takeaways from the game.

Here we go.

What’s your one sentence reaction to that game?

The U.S. look uninspired ahead of their first World Cup game in almost a decade.

Can you give me a little more than that?

Compared to Japan, Saudi Arabia posed a very different challenge for the United States.

After dominating the ball for the opening 10 minutes, Saudi Arabia shifted to a lower defensive block, with plenty of space behind their backline. The U.S. weren’t under a ton of pressure on the ball, outside of occasional short spells. They had time and space to make decisions – and they made some fine decisions in this game. But they still had trouble creating chances.

It wasn’t a terrible performance from the United States, but failing to impose themselves on one of the weakest teams who will be at the World Cup is a troubling sign.

Reyna coming off after 30 minutes with muscle tightness didn’t help things, either. Gregg Berhalter subbed on Paul Arriola in Reyna’s place and the U.S. struggled to build and pick their opponents apart with technically challenged players in every line of their 4-3-3 shape.

Whose stock is up for the World Cup?

Aaron Long and DeAndre Yedlin. 

Hear me out. I don’t think Long or Yedlin played well against Saudi Arabia. Yedlin, in particular, stood out to me as being poor on the right side. But, the fact that Yedlin and Sergiño Dest started in the two fullback spots over Joe Scally (who played well in his minutes off the bench at right back) and Sam Vines is telling. And the fact that Long started over Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie simply confirms what Berhalter already told us with his initial roster announcement for September.

Long is going to the World Cup. And Yedlin is, too.

Who played poorly?

I mentioned Yedlin already, so I’ll switch over to Kellyn Acosta here. Playing on the right side of central midfield, Acosta added very, very little for the United States against Saudi Arabia. 

Based off of what we’ve seen from Acosta in the past, he’s not a good fit for one of Berhalter’s dual No. 8s against a more compact defense. He lacks the on-ball quality to really help the USMNT break teams down. 

Did Berhalter use any new tactics?

Nothing new in this game.

The USMNT used a 4-3-3 in defense, trying to funnel Saudi Arabia’s possession into wide areas before trapping on the wing. We saw a 4-3-3 in possession, too, with a slight imbalance as Weston McKennie pushed forward and targeted space in behind the opposition’s backline.