Looking back at this international window, it feels as though we are set for one of the most wide open World Cups in a long, long time. So many big teams like France, Germany, England, and Portugal are all looking fallible. Meaning we Americans are in good company.
While we are not meant to read too much into friendlies, Saudi Arabia's second team holding us to a 0-0 draw days after we fell to Japan, 2-0, should shake us up and leave us worried. This was a severely weakened starting eleven for KSA, after all. Yet we were still unable to assert ourselves on the side oddly decked out in Newcastle's third shirt.
Here's a look at the key takeaways from our final dress rehearsals before facing Wales on Nov. 21.
PRAY FOR GIO 🙏
The biggest headline for the US coming out of both friendlies was an extremely unwelcome one, as the uber-talented, but oft-injured, Gio Reyna was subbed off after only 30 minutes against Saudi Arabia. US Soccer confirmed that this was not a planned substitution, rather a "precautionary" move, as the winger was experiencing muscle tightness.
It’s still to be determined how serious Reyna’s injury is or isn’t. Either way, your heart has to ache for the 19-year-old son of an American legend. He's had so many injuries over the course of his young career, and you could feel his frustration as he kicked the ball out of bounds to stop play before walking straight down the tunnel to the locker room, GGG trailing closely behind him. The poor kid just can not catch a break. Here's to hoping this is but a minor setback for one of America's brightest young stars.
THE STATE OF THE LEBRON JAMES OF SOCCER
After sitting out the Japan match with a knock, Christian Pulisic returned to start against Saudi Arabia. And while it was great to see him leading the charge for the US after so much frustration with his Chelsea situation, CP wasn't able to flick the switch for a team that so badly needed it.
Playing on the right wing, Puli had his opportunities, and was given space in dangerous areas of the Saudi defense. But this was in no way a classic Captain America performance. In fact, it was hard not to watch him and think he was in a different place confidence-wise, almost serving as a totem of the entire US team.
Christiano wound up playing 76 minutes of injury-free soccer (which is at least something) before being subbed off, yet what transpired at that point was arguably the most telling moment of Pulisic's, if not the US’, day. The Athletic's Sam Stejskal reported that when Pulisic came off, he threw the captain's armband to Tyler Adams before sprinting straight to the bench, high-fiving his teammates, but neglecting to dap up Berhalter.
This is where we are right now. Moments that may be nothing. Or maybe everything. A projection of our own panic.
STILL UNSETTLED UP TOP
The US managed just two shots on goal over both friendlies, so it should come as no surprise to say that our striker depth chart is no clearer than it was before the two friendlies. Gregg’s favorites Jesus Ferreira, and the cruelly freefalling Ricardo Pepi failed to make an impact. Despite being in the club form of his life, Josh Sargent was not able to take his Ginger curls onto the field against the Saudis which must have killed him. The mystery of Jordan Pefok’s absence only thickens as the Union Berlin twitter feed has essentially become a USMNT troll.
USMNT PLAYING TIME TRACKER
Below is the amount of playing time each of the 26 players in US camp received over the two friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia. If a player is listed as a starter, then the minutes listed denote how long they played (or when they were subbed off), and if a player is a “Sub”, then that is when the player started playing.
Brenden Aaronson - Japan: Starter 90’ | Saudi Arabia: Sub 76’
Kellyn Acosta - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Starter 90’
Tyler Adams - Japan: Starter 90’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 90’
Paul Arriola - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Sub 30’
Reggie Cannon - Japan: Sub 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Johnny Cardoso - Japan: Sub 67’ | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Luca de la Torre - Japan: Starter 67’ | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Sergino Dest - Japan: Starter 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 90’
Jesus Ferreira - Japan: Starter 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Sub 59’
Ethan Horvath - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Sean Johnson - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Aaron Long - Japan: Starter 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 59’
Weston McKennie - Japan: Starter 67’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 76’
Mark McKenzie - Japan: Sub 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Sub 59’
Jordan Morris - Japan: Sub 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Erik Palmer-Brown - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Ricardo Pepi - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Starter 59’
Christian Pulisic - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Starter 76’
Gio Reyna - Japan: Starter 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 30’
Josh Sargent - Japan: Sub 46’ | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
Joe Scally - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Sub 59’
Malik Tillman - Japan: Sub 67’ | Saudi Arabia: Sub 76’
Matt Turner - Japan: Starter 90’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 90’
Sam Vines - Japan: Starter 90’ | Saudi Arabia: Did not play
DeAndre Yedlin - Japan: Did not play | Saudi Arabia: Starter 59’
Walker Zimmerman - Japan: Starter 90’ | Saudi Arabia: Starter 90’
U.S. WOMEN ABROAD
Allez Lindsey! After going goal-less in 10 total appearances for Olympique Lyon last season, it’s now two goals in two matches in ‘22-23 for Lindsey Horan. After depositing this James Ward-Prowse-esque free kick in the back of the net last week, The Great Horan went and scored in her second-straight match for Lyon. This time she was on the receiving end of a set piece, heading home a cross with equal parts bravery and skill in a 3-1 win over Montpellier.
Horan wasn’t the only American on the pitch in Lyon’s win, as Celeste Boureille, the 28-year-old midfielder from San Francisco, started and played the full 90 for Montpellier.
Katie Stengel started and played the full match in Liverpool’s 3-0 loss to Everton. After scoring twice in the Reds’ season-opening win over Chelsea, the 30-year-old forward from Melbourne, Fla. was unable to find the back of the net against the Toffees. Stengel was still a part of history, as this Merseyside Derby was played in front of 27,574 fans, the most ever to watch a WSL match at Anfield.
Stengel wasn’t the only American to appear in a Women’s Super League match. Erin Simon, a 28-year-old from Oakhurst, N.J., started and played 70 minutes in Leicester City’s 2-0 loss to Aston Villa.
More updates! In France, Deja Davis, a 27-year-old from Montclair, N.J., played all 90 minutes in Le Havre’s 1-0 loss at Paris FC, while Rachel Corboz, a 26-year-old midfielder from Mobile, Ala., also went the full match in Reims’ 1-0 win at Bordeaux. Mariah Lee and Athena Kuhn both started in Huelva’s 1-0 win over Alhama CF in Spain. And in the Frauen-Bundesliga, Genesee Daughetee came on as a 75th-minute sub for FC Koln in their 1-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen, while Adrienne Jordan started in Turbine Potsdam’s 3-0 loss to MSV Duisburg.
AMERICANS ABROAD: HOW TO WATCH (Sept. 28-Oct. 4)
Now that the international break has (thankfully) run its course, regular football programming resumes across Europe and beyond. Here’s how you can watch the U.S.’s top soccer exports on TV this week.
Wednesday, Sept. 28:
Johnny Cardoso: Internacional v RB Bragantino | Brazilian Serie A (8:45 p.m. EST, Paramount+)
Friday, Sept. 30:
Ethan Horvath: Hull City v Luton Town | EFL Championship (3 p.m. EST, ESPN+)
Saturday, Oct. 1:
Christian Pulisic: Crystal Palace v Chelsea | English Premier League (10 a.m. EST, USA Network)
Gio Reyna: Koln v Borussia Dortmund | Bundesliga (9:30 a.m. EST, ESPN+)
Jordan Pefok: Frankfurt v Union Berlin | Bundesliga (9:30 a.m. EST, ESPN+)
Sergino Dest: Empoli v AC Milan | Serie A (2:45 p.m. EST, Paramount+)
Ricardo Pepi: FC Groningen v AZ Alkmaar | Dutch Eredivisie (12:45 p.m. EST, n/a)
Joe Scally: Werder Bremen v Borussia Monchengladbach | Bundesliga (12:30 P.M. EST, ESPN+)
Matt Turner: Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur | English Premier League (7:30 a.m. EST, USA Network)
Chris Richards: Crystal Palace v Chelsea | English Premier League (10 a.m. EST, USA Network)
Antonee Robinson: Fulham v Newcastle | English Premier League (10 a.m. EST, Peacock)
Josh Sargent: Blackpool v Norwich City | EFL Championship (10 a.m. EST, n/a)
Malik Tillman: Hearts v Rangers | Scottish Premiership (7:30 a.m. EST, Paramount+)
Cameron Carter-Vickers: Celtic v Motherwell | Scottish Premiership (10 a.m. EST, n/a)
Mark McKenzie: Oostende v KRC Genk | Belgian Pro League (12:15 p.m. EST, n/a)
Tim Ream: Fulham v Newcastle | English Premier League (10 a.m. EST, Peacock)
Zack Steffen: Coventry City v Middlesbrough | EFL Championship (10 a.m. EST, ESPN+)
James Sands: Hearts v Rangers | Scottish Premiership (7:30 a.m. EST, Paramount+)
Johnny Cardoso: Internacional v Santos FC | Brazilian Serie A (2 p.m. EST, Paramount+)
Sunday, Oct. 2:
Tyler Adams: Leeds v Aston Villa | English Premier League (11:30 a.m. EST, USA Network)
Brenden Aaronson: Leeds v Aston Villa | English Premier League (11:30 a.m. EST, USA Network)
Weston McKennie: Juventus v Bologna | Serie A (2:45 p.m. EST, Paramount+)
Yunus Musah: Espanyol v Valencia | La Liga (8 a.m. EST, ESPN+)
Luca de la Torre: Celta Vigo v Real Betis | La Liga (10:15 a.m. EST, ESPN+)
Sam Vines: Kortrijk v Royal Antwerp | Belgian Pro League (12:30 p.m. EST, n/a)
Erik Palmer-Brown: Troyes v Reims | Ligue 1 (9 a.m. EST, n/a)
Tim Weah: Lorient v Lille | Ligue 1 (7 a.m. EST, beIN Sports)
Tuesday, Oct. 4:
Josh Sargent: Reading v Norwich City | EFL Championship (3 p.m. EST, n/a)
Ethan Horvath: Luton Town v Huddersfield Town | EFL Championship (2:45 p.m. EST, n/a)
Malik Tillman: Liverpool v Rangers | UEFA Champions League (3 p.m. EST, Paramount+)
James Sands: Liverpool v Rangers | UEFA Champions League (3 p.m. EST, Paramount+)