The United States men's national team needs a positive performance in Tuesday's friendly against Saudi Arabia.
The match in Murcia, Spain is the second of two games for the Americans in the September international window. But they fell flat in a 2-0 loss to Japan on Friday.
Only goalkeeper Matt Turner came away from the defeat with a good review, and the result did more harm to the USMNT's hype going into the 2022 FIFA World Cup than help.
Gregg Berhalter's team needs an impressive outing against its fellow World Cup qualifier to ease some nerves within the fanbase that the team can live up to the minimum expectation of getting out of Group B, which also includes England, Wales and Iran.
The USMNT chose to play Saudi Arabia so it could get used to how a Western Asian team plays in preparation for Iran. The same could be said about Saudi Arabia and a North American squad since it will face Mexico in its final Group C game in Qatar.
USMNT vs. Saudi Arabia Info
Date: Tuesday, September 27
Start Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, UniMas
Live Stream: FoxSports.com and Fox Sports app
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USMNT Needs Bounce-Back Performance
The 2-0 loss to Japan was frustrating in so many ways for the Americans.
Japan took the game to the USMNT and might have scored four or five goals if Turner had not excelled in net.
The center-back pairing of Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long gave away possession too easily on many occasions, and the midfield lacked the cohesion to keep the ball and generate chances.
The one key chance the Americans had was hit over the bar by Jesus Ferreira, and that naturally spurred an argument as to whether any of the other strikers in the talent pool would have finished the chance.
Friday's defeat was a wake-up call to the USMNT in a rare match outside of CONCACAF. The formation of the Nations League and World Cup qualification over the last two years have kept the Americans within their own region for a majority of their contests.
They are expected to beat all teams in CONCACAF, and to their credit, they have for the most part. But they need a result against a nation outside North America to quell the skepticism that emanated from the fanbase after the Japan loss.
Saudi Arabia is 53rd in the FIFA World Rankings, while the USMNT comes into the match in 14th place.
Saudi Arabia has not scored in its last three friendlies, all of which came against South American opposition. It played to a scoreless draw with Ecuador on Friday and lost 1-0 to both Colombia and Venezuela in June.
The Saudis have not scored multiple goals in any of their games in 2022, but they also haven't been blown out in any match this year. Their largest loss was a 2-0 defeat to Japan in February in World Cup qualifying.
Berhalter's squad needs a strong performance, and likely a win, to ease any of the concerns that came out of Friday's match.
The USMNT could be in for a grind based on Saudi Arabia's recent results, but that could be a good thing for a team that has four multi-goal victories in 2022.
Striker Situation Still Unresolved
Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi and Josh Sargent appear to be the USMNT's strikers headed for Qatar.
Jordan Pefok, who has played well with Union Berlin in the Bundesliga, is out of the picture, so it is down to the trio on the current roster to put goals in the back of the net.
Ferreira had a golden chance to score in the first half against Japan, but he sent a header over the crossbar. The missed opportunity did not help Berhalter's decision at the position since Pefok is strong in the air.
Ferreira, Pepi and Sargent have 15 goals between them on the international level. Until recently, Ferreira was the only one with a stable situation at the club level.
Sargent started to get playing time up top in the English Championship with Norwich City and Pepi got a loan move to FC Groningen in the Netherlands from Augsburg in the Bundesliga to help him get games.
Ferreira was not helped by the lack of chances created by the midfielders on Friday, but the argument against him is that he has to finish the one clear-cut opportunity he gets because that may be the case in the World Cup.
The USMNT midfield missed the injured Yunus Musah and Christian Pulisic. Their absences hurt with buildup play in the middle of the park and chance creation.
Every part of the American lineup has to play better on Tuesday, but if any of the strikers fail to score again, it will leave doubt as to whether the right players will be headed to Qatar.
Prediction: USMNT 1, Saudi Arabia 1.
Most of Saudi Arabia's games this year have been low-scoring affairs and a similar result is likely on Tuesday.
The USMNT has an imperfect product up top, but it should focus on sharpening its defensive abilities first after gifting Japan plenty of scoring opportunities on Friday.
The American defense is not perfect and a goal concession seems likely. A goal can be scored as long as the USMNT possesses some type of attacking buildup play and find a rhythm moving forward.
After all, nothing can be worse than the 2-0 loss to Japan in which the Americans looked far from a World Cup qualifier.