(MENAFN- Gulf Times)
United States coach Gregg Berhalter warned his team they must improve at the World Cup after wrapping up their pre-tournament preparations with a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia in Spain yesterday. After a chastening 2-0 defeat to Japan last Friday, Berhalter's side again failed to make an impression in their final game before they open their World Cup campaign against Wales in Qatar on November 21. The Americans registered just two shots on target in 180 minutes against Japan and the Saudis, with not even the return of Chelsea's Christian Pulisic enhancing their attacking threat on Tuesday.
Berhalter said although he believed the US performance was an improvement on the Japan defeat, his team still lacked confidence.“It was improved, but we're not as confident as I'd like,” Berhalter said.“We're playing tentative. You see the connections were just not there like we want. The effort was great, the intensity was great, especially towards the end of the game. We kept pushing, kept trying to score. I can't fault the effort but we need to keep improving.”
The US coach believes anxiety about making the final squad for Qatar had affected players over the final two friendlies.“I think in general it's nervy times,” he said.“People are worried about being on the roster. It's a difficult moment. But having said that we need to go out there together and play.”
Tuesday's game in Murcia, southern Spain, saw Saudi Arabia carve out the better chances only to be denied by the USA's Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner. Berhalter had called on his team to show“personality” after being outplayed by Japan in Germany last Friday.
But once again the US struggled to build attacking momentum against the Saudis, who finished above Japan in their successful World Cup qualifying campaign. Saudi Arabia, who face Argentina, Poland and Mexico in the first round in Qatar, almost took the lead after just 25 seconds when Sultan al-Ghanam shot from outside the area to force a good save from Turner.
The US were limited to a handful of half-chances during the opening 45 minutes but despite Pulisic's return were ineffective in front of goal. Saudi Arabia meanwhile should have scored in the 33rd minute, but Hattan Bahebri took too long to get a shot off from close range and saw his effort blocked by a desperate lunge from US defender Walker Zimmerman.
The USA's best chance came in the 61st minute when Jesus Ferreira, who had replaced Ricardo Pepi just two minutes earlier, darted onto a pass from Paul Arriola and shot straight at Saudi goalkeeper Mohamed al-Rubaie. That was as good as it got for the US, however, and the Americans had the ever alert Turner to be thankful for 20 minutes from time when the goalkeeper saved smartly from Asiri Haitham's rasping shot.
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