Preview: USMNT Concludes World Cup Preparations With Friendly Against Saudi Arabia In Murcia, SpainKickoff from Estadio Nueva Condomina Set for Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, UniMás, TUDN
CHICAGO (Sept. 26, 2022) – With less than two months remaining ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the U.S. Men’s National Team will play its final preparation match during the September window against fellow World Cup finalist Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain.
One of six AFC teams to qualify for Qatar, the Green Falcons posted impressive numbers during the World Cup Qualifying run, finishing first in both their second and third round groups with a combined 13-1-4 record, having edged Japan in the Third Round, Group B standings. All their players compete in the domestic league, with Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari each recording seven goals in qualifying. The USA fell to Japan 2-0 on Friday in the team’s penultimate tune-up while Saudi Arabia opened the window with a 0-0 draw against Ecuador on the same day.
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION - SEPTEMBER TRAINING CAMP
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 19/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Sergiño Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 18/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 28/3), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 9/0), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes/FRA; 4/0), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 2/0), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL; 9/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 74/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 32/3)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 52/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 31/1), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 4/0), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 36/9), Malik Tillman (Rangers/SCO; 3/0)
FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 23/6), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 47/10), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 14/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen/NED; 11/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 51/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 13/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/3)
THE DUEL IN DÜSSELDORF
The USA opened its September window in Düsseldorf, Germany against Japan on Friday, falling to the Samurai Blue 2-0 despite a Budweiser Man of the Match performance from goalkeeper Matt Turner in which he made six impressive saves. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter had the opportunity to observe 17 players in all, with a few making their first national team appearances in months. Midfielder Gio Reyna and defender Sam Vines made their first starts in more than a year, and second half substitutes Josh Sargent, Jonny Cardoso and Mark McKenzie made their first appearances of 2022. Following the match, defender Reggie Cannon was diagnosed with a left groin strain which is expected to sideline him for a few weeks.
Since the initial announcement of the USMNT roster, three changes have been made. Midfielder Johnny Cardoso was added to the squad after Yunus Musah was diagnosed with a minor groin injury. Central defenders Mark McKenzie and Erik Palmer-Brown were called up after minor injuries sidelined central defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards.
USA SCHEDULE - SEPTEMBER INTERNATIONAL WINDOW
Friday, Sept. 23
Düsseldorf Arena; Düsseldorf, Germany
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Estadio Nueva Condomina; Murcia, Spain
FS1, UniMás, TUDN
COMPETING FOR A SPOT IN QATAR
The USMNT returns to the World Cup on Nov. 21, 2022 and its matches this month against Japan and Saudi Arabia come just under two months before the USA faces Wales to kick off its campaign in Qatar. The two games will serve as the USA’s final opportunities to prepare ahead of the World Cup. Drawn alongside Wales, England and IR Iran in Group B, the USMNT will compete in the strongest overall group in Qatar, with the four nations holding an average rank of 15 according to the August 2022 FIFA World Ranking.
As the USA gets ready for Qatar, the USMNT player pool is competing for spots on the 26-player World Cup roster. The players currently in camp will try to leave their best impression with head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff before the final World Cup squad is named on Nov. 9.
“The roster is not set. All these players are in consideration,” Berhalter said. “We’re monitoring them (the players not called into camp) and we’re evaluating this 26 in this camp. We’re having ongoing conversations with guys in the camp and not in the camp because we know that things can change really quickly.”
After qualifying, the USMNT launched into World Cup preparation by using its four open friendly match dates to challenge itself against fellow tournament participants, lining up opponents from three different confederations (AFC, CAF, CONMEBOL).
Including June’s 3-0 win against Morocco and scoreless draw against 13th-ranked Uruguay, the USMNT will have faced four different World Cup teams prior to traveling to Qatar in November.
Facing two teams from the Asian Football Confederation marks a new challenge for the USMNT. Twenty-one players will have the chance to make their first international appearances against an AFC nation during this window’s matches vs. Japan and Saudi Arabia.
NEW CLUB HOMES ABROAD
Since the USMNT last gathered in June, a number of players on the roster have switched clubs and are making strides at their new homes. In England, the duo of Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams left the Red Bull family – from Salzburg and Leipzig, respectively – and made the jump to the English Premier League, where both have become regular starters at Leeds United. Matt Turner officially made the move to Arsenal in the Premier League after agreeing to a deal in February, while Ethan Horvath is now minding the net at Luton Town in the English League Championship following his time at Nottingham Forest.
Sergiño Dest jumped from one European powerhouse to another, leaving Barcelona for defending Serie A champion AC Milan. With his appearance in Milan’s UEFA Champions League opener, he became the first U.S. international to play for three different clubs in the competition.
Luca de la Torre jumped from Eredivisie side Heracles to Celta Vigo in Spain’s La Liga. Cameron Carter-Vickers made his loan to Scottish Premier League champion Celtic permanent, while Malik Tillman joined up with crosstown rival Rangers. Both have joined Dest in Champions League competition. Forward Ricardo Pepi has gone on loan to the high-scoring Dutch Eredivisie where he now lines up for FC Groningen and tallied his first goal last weekend.
A number of players have earned calls back to the USMNT after some time away from international duty. Forward Josh Sargent returns for the first time since the USA’s opening World Cup qualifying matches in September 2021. The 22-year-old striker has scored six goals in ten matches for Norwich City so far this season, tying him for second in the EFL Championship scoring race.
A member of the 2021 Gold Cup championship side, outside back Sam Vines receives his first call-up since last November. Vines has started all nine matches for Belgian Jupiler League leaders Royal Antwerp, registering one goal along the way to a perfect 9-0-0 start.
Ricardo Pepi and Gio Reyna are back with the team for the first time since the March qualifiers, while Sergiño Dest were last with the squad during the January/February qualifying window.
“YOUNGEST TEAM IN THE WORLD” CONTINUES TO GAIN EXPERIENCE
The USMNT was by far the youngest team to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, garnering valuable experience going through the rigors of World Cup qualifying. Through 14 qualifiers, the USA Starting XI came in at an average of 23.82, almost two years younger than the next closest team, Ghana at 25.67. Together, the 31 teams averaged a Starting XI age of 27.5 through qualifying, nearly four full years older than head coach Gregg Berhalter’s side.
● BY THE NUMBERS: The USMNT’s 2022 World Cup Qualifying Run
From the available data for qualified teams, the USMNT played 10 of the 11 youngest lineups worldwide during the recently concluded qualifying cycle, with all 14 lineups falling in the 23 youngest Starting XIs in the world dating back to October 2020. After its successful qualifying campaign, each match is another opportunity for the young USMNT player pool to gain experience against top-flight competition.
LAST TIME OUT
The USMNT kicked off its Qatar prep with four matches during the June international window: two friendlies against fellow World Cup finalists Morocco and Uruguay plus the start of its Concacaf Nations League title defense hosting Grenada and playing at El Salvador.
The USA earned its first-ever win against Morocco to kick off the slate, topping the Atlas Lions 3-0 in Cincinnati. A skillful run by Christian Pulisic set up Brenden Aaronson for the game’s opening goal, while Tim Weah doubled the lead just six minutes later. USMNT debutant Haji Wright capped the scoring by converting a second-half penalty. In Kansas City, the USA played No. 13-ranked Uruguay to a scoreless draw as goalkeeper Sean Johnson and the U.S. defense shut down La Celeste.
The U.S. kicked off its second Nations League campaign with a bang, as four goals from forward Jesús Ferreira sparked a 5-0 win against Grenada in Austin. On the road in El Salvador, the USMNT battled in driving rain to a 1-1 draw on a dramatic late equalizer from forward Jordan Morris.
USA ROSTER NOTES
- The roster features players who ply their trade in 11 different countries: USA (8), England (6), Belgium (2), Germany (2), Italy (2), Brazil (1), France (1), Netherlands (1), Portugal (1), Scotland (1) and Spain (1)
- Six players have already participated in European club competition this season. Sergiño Dest (AC Milan), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Malik Tillman (Rangers) played for their clubs in the UEFA Champions League last week, while Matt Turner made his Arsenal debut in the club’s opening UEFA Europa League match.
- Nine U.S. players competed in the most recent week of UCL matches, setting a record for a single matchday in the competition.
- Seven players returned to the USMNT roster after not taking part in the team’s June gathering: Johnny Cardoso, Sergiño Dest, Mark McKenzie, Ricardo Pepi, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent and Sam Vines.
- The USA will face Saudi Arabia for the seventh time in its history and for the first time since 1999.
- The nations last met on Aug. 3, 1999 in Guadalajara, Mexico, during the FIFA Confederations Cup. The USA won that match 2-0 behind goals from Paul Bravo and current USMNT general manager Brian McBride.
- Nine players on this roster were born after the last time the USA faced Saudi Arabia (Aug. 3, 1999): Brenden Aaronson, Sergiño Dest, Jesús Ferreira, Gio Reyna, Johnny Cardoso, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent, Joe Scally, Malik Tillman.
- The USA is 3-2-1 all-time against Saudi Arabia, scoring nine goals while conceding eight.
- USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter made his international debut against Saudi Arabia on Oct. 19, 1994 in Dahran. The USA lost that match 2-1.
- Tuesday’s match vs. Saudi Arabia is just the USA’s third against Asian opposition since head coach Gregg Berhalter took over in January 2019. The first came against Qatar in the semifinal of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, where the U.S. topped this year’s World Cup host 1-0 on a late goal, while the second came on Friday in the team’s 2-0 loss against Japan in an international friendly.
SAUDI ARABIA ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Mohammed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal; 36/0), Fawaz Al-Qarni (Al-Shabab; 10/0), Mohammed Al Rubaie (Al-Ahli; 0/0), Nawaf Al-Aqidi (Al-Nassr, 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Hassan Tambakti (Al-Shabab; 13/0); Abdullah Madu (Al-Nassr; 11/0); Ahmed Bamsaud (Al-Ittihad; 0/0); Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Hilal; 15/0); Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal; 69/2); Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr; 12/1); Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al-Hilal; 30/2); Sultan Al-Ghanam (Al-Nassr; 21/0)
MIDFIELDERS (11): Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal; 68/8); Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab; 35/4); Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal; 65/17); Nawaf Al-Abed (Al-Shabab; 48/8); Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr; 7/1); Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr; 13/2); Nasser Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal; 6/3); Awad Al-Nashri (Al-Ittihad; 0/0); Riyadh Sharahili (Abha; 0/0); Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal; 31/1), Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al-Shabab; 70/17)
FORWARDS (3): Firas al-Buraikan (Al-Fateh; 22/6), Haroune Camara (Al-Ittihad; 9/0), Haitham Asiri (Al-Ahli; 3/0)
IN FOCUS: SAUDI ARABIA
- The Green Falcons booked their ticket to Qatar on the penultimate matchday of Asian Football Confederation qualifying. Saudi Arabia finished atop Group B with a 7-2-1 record against the likes of Japan, Australia, Oman, China and Vietnam. Forward Saleh Al-Shehri scored four of Saudi Arabia’s 12 goals during the third round of qualifying.
- Herve Renard, 53, assumed the coaching responsibilities for Saudi Arabia in July 2019. Just two months later, he guided the Saudis in their first qualifying match for Qatar, registering a 2-2 draw at Yemen. The team won its second round AFC qualifying group with a 6-0-2 mark and Renard has recorded the most victories (18) as a foreign-born manager in team history.
- Renard selected 26 domestic-based players for these two friendlies, with the entire roster coming from seven teams in the Saudi Professional League.
- Saudi Arabia opened the September window with a 0-0 draw against Ecuador on Friday.
- Defending champion Al-Hilal leads the way with eight players in the squad, followed by Al-Nassr (six), current league leader Al-Shabab (five), Al-Ittihad (three), Al-Ahli (two), Abha (one) and Al-Fateh (one).
- Midfielder Fahad Al-Muwallad is the most capped player with 70 appearances, followed by defender Yasser Al-Shahrani (69) and midfielders Salman Al-Faraj (68) and Salem Al-Dawsari (65). Al-Faraj is also the team’s oldest player at 33. Al-Muwallad and Al-Dawsari are tied for the most goals scored on the roster with 17 each.
- Al-Dawsari scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time of the Saudis’ 2-1 win against Egypt in the teams’ final group stage match of the 2018 World Cup. It was Saudi Arabia's first World Cup victory since its 1-0 victory vs. Belgium in 1994. Al-Faraj converted a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time in that match to equalize and set the stage for the late winner.
- The three forwards called up have a total of 31 international caps, with Firas Al-Buraikan netting all six goals.