World Cup worries mount for USA after draw with Saudis in final Qatar tune-up

The United States ended their World Cup tune-up matches in unimpressive fashion, playing to a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night at Murcia, Spain, that saw oft-injured Gio Reyna come off in the 30th minute because of muscle tightness.

Christian Pulisic returned to the depleted US lineup after missing Friday’s 2-0 loss to Japan with an unspecified injury, among four changes by coach Gregg Berhalter.

Ricardo Pepi, inserted at forward in a final audition for the 26-man World Cup roster, had a team-low 13 touches and no shots against the 53rd-ranked Saudis before Jesús Ferreira replaced him in the 59th minute.

The 14th-ranked Americans were slightly more threatening than Friday, managing two shots on target after getting none against the Japanese. The two results augur poorly for their return to the World Cup and will do little to quiet criticism of Berhalter, who left Jordan Pefok, John Brooks and Tim Ream off this roster.

After missing the 2018 tournament, the US have rebuilt with among the world’s youngest rosters in 56 matches under Berhalter. The Americans open against Wales on 21 November, face England on Black Friday and play 22nd-ranked Iran on 29 November in the toughest of the eight groups by ranking.

The US 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 tendon. Because the Cup has been jammed into the middle of the European season by Fifa to avoid Qatar’s summer heat, players have club matches through 13 November and more injuries are possible.

Berhalter plans to announce his 26-man roster on 9 November.

Reyna, the 19-year-old son of former US captain Claudio Reyna, is a constant injury concern. His 2021-22 season was wrecked by leg ailments and Borussia Dortmund has limited his playing time this season to 247 minutes.

DeAndre Yedlin started at right back, Sergiño Dest moved to the left, Kellyn Acosta replaced Luca de la Torre in midfield and Pulisic took over from Brenden Aaronson.

Yedlin limped off in the 59th minute after Saud Abdulhamid’s lunging tackle and was replaced by Joe Scally.

Pulisic and Weston McKennie played until the 75th, when Aaronson entered in central midfield and Malik Tillman took over a flank.

Estadio Nueva Condomina, with a capacity of about 31,000, was mostly empty and teammates could be heard shouting instructions. A spectator ran onto the field during the first half and approached Dest before being stopped by security.

Wearing their new blue tie-dye style uniforms, the US was tested just 24 seconds in. Matt Turner dived to his left to save a long-range shot by Sultan Al-Ghannam. Turner made a fine block on Haitham Asiri’s point-blank shot in the 70th minute after second-half sub Mark McKenzie was stripped of the ball.

Saudi Arabia are in a World Cup group with No 3 Argentina, 26th-ranked Poland and No 12 Mexico.