Japan beats lackluster U.S. in World Cup warmup

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma, up, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the international friendly soccer match between USA and Japan as part of the Kirin Challenge Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

With the World Cup approaching and final roster decisions looming, U.S. soccer players gave a dismal performance in a 2-0 exhibition loss to Japan on Friday in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Daichi Kamada scored following Weston McKennie’s giveaway in the 24th minute and Kaoru Mitoma added a goal in the 88th.

In their next-to-last World Cup warmup, the Americans failed to put a single shot on goal, getting outshot 16-4 — including 8-0 in efforts on target.

“Obviously really disappointing,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “I just kind of wish that we had a little more fight about us from the start. I think we hurt ourselves in a lot of ways.”

The U.S. has one win, five losses and four draws in its last 10 road games and just one goal in its last five away matches. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said subpar performances were “almost across the board.”

“We need to play with personality. We need to play relaxed. We need to play with intensity,” Berhalter said. “When we do these things, we’re a really good team, but when we don’t, we’re an average team.”

Berhalter plans to announce his 26-man World Cup roster on Nov. 9 and has said 15-20% of the spots were undecided.

“There are certainly positions and players who are probably a little tense,” defender Walker Zimmerman said. “They know that they have one or two games, one or two opportunities to show that they can make a difference in Qatar.”

American star Christian Pulisic did not dress because of an unspecified injury that Berhalter called “a knock.” The 14th-ranked Americans already were without Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson and Zack Steffen due to injuries, and Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup because of a torn Achilles.

A series of defensive breakdowns put pressure on Turner, who has played just one match this season for Arsenal. He made a pair of diving saves in the second half, on Junya Ito in the 55th and Kamada in the 65th.

Kamada scored after McKennie received the ball from Tyler Adams and underhit a backpass. Hidemasa Morita played the ball to an open Kamada, who beat Turner to the far post from about 12 yards for his sixth international goal.

“It was pretty sloppy from all of us — myself, yeah, Weston in moments,” Adams said.

No. 24 Japan initially was called for offside, but the goal was awarded after a video review determined Kamada was played onside by Zimmerman.

Mitoma scored his fifth international goal, turning around second-half sub Reggie Cannon and bending the ball around Zimmerman to beat Turner to the far post with a right-foot shot from just inside the penalty area.

“That second goal comes from a lot of frustration of things just not really working for us,” Turner said. “We give the ball away and we kind of all just drop our heads and we don’t react. And they were having joy on the ball and running freely at us.”

Jesús Ferreira had the best U.S. chance in the seventh minute, putting an short-range open header over the crossbar from a Sergiño Dest cross.

The U.S. has one last exhibition, against 53rd-ranked Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at Murcia, Spain. Berhalter said it was too soon to determine whether Pulisic will be available.

Back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the Americans open in Qatar against No. 19 Wales on Nov. 21, play fifth-ranked England four days later and close the first round against No. 22 Iran on Nov. 29.

Players’ shouts to each other were audible during a match played before a crowd of 5,149 in 54,600-capacity Merkur Spiel-Arena.

Gio Reyna and Dest started despite having not played 90-minute matches for their clubs this season. Reyna, fit following a leg injury that wrecked his 2021-22 season, had not started for the U.S. in a year. He wore the No. 21 of his father, former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna.

Josh Sargent, Jordan Morris, Cannon and Mark McKenzie entered to start the second half in place of Ferreira, Reyna, Dest and Aaron Long.

“We’re a young team and we’re going to have to go through some tough moments here and there,” Turner said. “Hopefully we can right a lot of our wrongs and ride a nice wave going into Qatar.”


Preparing for its seventh straight World Cup, Japan plays No. 44 Ecuador on Tuesday in Düsseldorf and 43rd-ranked Canada on Nov. 17 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Japan opens against No. 11 Germany on Nov. 23, meets 34th-ranked Costa Rica four days later and closes group play against No. 6 Spain on Dec. 1.