US World Cup worries grow with scoreless draw vs. Saudi Arabia

The United States ended its World Cup tuneup matches in unimpressive fashion, playing a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia at Murcia, Spain. Oft-injured Gio Reyna left in the 30th minute because of muscle tightness.

Christian Pulisic returned to the depleted U.S. lineup after missing Friday’s 2-0 loss to No. 24 Japan with an unspecified injury. That was one of four lineup changes by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter. Ricardo Pepi was inserted at forward in a final audition for the 26-man World Cup roster. But he had a team-low 13 touches and no shots against the 53rd-ranked Saudis before Jesús Ferreira replaced him in the 59th minute.

The United States ended its World Cup tuneup matches in unimpressive fashion, playing 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 U.S. lineup after missing Friday’s 2-0 loss to No. 24 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 U.S. has rebuilt with among the world’s youngest rosters in 56 matches under Berhalter. The Americans open against No. 19 Wales on Nov. 21, face fifth-ranked England on Black Friday and play No. 22 Iran on Nov. 29 in the toughest of the eight groups by ranking.

The U.S. was 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 Nov. 13 and more injuries are possible.

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

Reyna, the 19-year-old son of former U.S. 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.

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Wearing its new blue tie-dye style uniforms, the U.S. 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 is in a World Cup group with No. 3 Argentina, 26th-ranked Poland and No. 12 Mexico.