The United States will go to the World Cup, and not just because of the Americans’ injuries.
The United States played to a 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain, on Tuesday night, which was somewhat remarkable and dangerous.
After going scoreless in a 2-0 loss to No. 24 Japan on Friday, the United States managed just two against the 53rd-ranked Saudis in the Americans’ final tune-up game. The United States have won one, lost three and drawn three of their last seven games against World Cup-affiliated nations, with six shutouts.
“We’re playing a makeshift game,” USA coach Greg Berhalter said. He plans to announce his 26-man squad for the World Cup on November 9. “It’s a time of anxiety. People are worried about whether they’re on the list or not, and it’s a difficult moment.
The two results will do little to quiet Berhalter’s criticism, which left Jordan Peacock, John Brooks and Tim Ream off that list.
Forwards Ricardo Pepi, Jess Ferreira and Josh Sargent have combined for five touches in the opposition penalty area over the course of two matches, according to Opta.
“We had a better performance than last game,” Pepi said. “We all have to go back to our clubs, mind our own business, and we’re all ready.”
The much-injured Gio Reyna was taken off in the 30th minute with muscle stiffness. Christian Plessic was among four changes, returning to a depleted United States lineup after missing Friday with an undisclosed injury.
Pepi had a team-low 13 touches and no shots before Ferreira replaced him in the 59th minute.
“It was tough for Ricardo. He didn’t serve much. He didn’t get many chances,” Berhalter said. “So it’s really hard to evaluate players when they don’t get opportunities.”
After missing the 2018 tournament, the United States rebuilt under Berhalter with the world’s youngest players in 56 matches. The Americans face No. 19 Wales on Nov. 21, No. 5 England on Black Friday and No. 22 Iran on Nov. 29 in a tough group of eight.
Team USA was without Weah, Younes Moses, Chris Richards, Anthony Robinson and Zach Stephens due to injuries, and Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup with a torn Achilles tendon. Because the Cup is jammed by FIFA in the middle of the European season to avoid Qatar’s summer heat, players have until Nov. 13 to play for the club and could be injured more.
Reyna, the 19-year-old son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna, is an ongoing health concern. His 2021–22 season was marred by foot ailments, and Borussia Dortmund limited his playing time to 247 minutes this season.
Deandre Yedlin started at right-back, Sergio Aguero moved to the left, Kelly Acosta replaced Luca de la Torre in the middle and Plessic took over from Brendan Aronson on the left.
Yedlin scored in the 59th minute after a long tackle by Saud Abdul Hameed and was replaced by Joe Scully.
Polsek and Weston McKinney played until the 75th, when Aaronson entered center field and Malik Tillman took over.
There were only 364 fans in the Estadio Nueva Condomina, which has a capacity of around 31,000, and teammates could be heard shouting instructions. A spectator ran onto the field during the first half and approached the desk before being stopped by security.
Dressed in their new blue tie-dye style uniform, the United States took the test in just 24 seconds. Matt Turner dived to his left to save a long-range shot by Sultan Al Ghanim. Turner made a good block on Haytham Asiri’s point-blank shot in the 70th minute. Mark McKenzie was sent off after the second half.
Saudi Arabia, which defeated the United States 10-7, is third in the World Cup group, followed by Argentina, 26th Poland and 12th Mexico.