Gio Reyna was taken out after 30 minutes due to precautionary reasons. (Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
There are two ways to look at the U.S. men’s national team’s scoreless draw with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
If you are an optimist, there were no defensive errors that led to goals, which was the case in the 2-0 loss to Japan on Friday.
If you are a pessimist, the Americans finished their two World Cup warm-up matches without a goal. Not something that head coach Gregg Berhalter wanted to see prior to the competition.
Moreover, the USA, even with Christian Pulisic in the Starting XI, could not solve the Saudis’ defense. The squad took seven shots and placed four on target, quite an improvement over the previous encounter, but could not crack the scoreboard a virtually empty at Estadio Nueva Condomina in Murcia, Spain.
Pulisic, however, never was much of a threat in getting his second start for club (Chelsea) and country this season.
Ricardo Pepi, given the start at striker, had a disappointing match and Gio Reyna played but 30 minutes as he left the action as a precaution. Paul Arriola replaced him.
Matt Turner, who saved the Japan match from getting out of hand, had another solid performance, recording the shutout. He made an excellent case to the No. 1 goalkeeper in Qatar. In fact, only 24 seconds after the opening kickoff, Turner was called into action when he saved Sultan Al-Ghanam’s attempt from outside the penalty area.
Just past the half-hour mark, the Saudi’s had perhaps their best chance of the half. Haitham Mohammed Asiri took a short pass into the box before he crossed from the end line to find Hatan Sultan Bahbri in the middle of the penalty area. His shot from close range was blocked by DeAndre Yedlin and Zimmerman. The rebound fell to Nasser Essa Al-Dawsari, who mishit a shot as Turner was recovering.
The USA’s best opportunity came in the 61st minute when Jesus Ferreira, who had replaced Pepi two minutes earlier, ran onto a pass from Arriola and shot straight at goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Rubaie.
On another optimistic note, the backline, including center backs Walter Zimmerman and Aaron Long, show a marked improvement over the previous contest. Both players looked more confident in this encounter. It certainly didn’t hurt that midfielders Tyler Adams and Kellyn Acosta played well in front of them.
The Americans winless in seven consecutive matches on foreign soil. They have lost to Panama, Canada, Costa Rica, and Japan while drawing Jamaica, Mexico, El Salvador and Saudi Arabia.
The USMNT has 55 days until its next match, which happens to be its World Cup Group B opener against Wales on foreign soil in Qatar on Nov. 21 at 2 p.m.
There is plenty to work on.