The United States Men’s National Team touched down in Germany this week as they gear up for a crucial pair of friendlies in their World Cup preparations.
Gregg Berhalter’s side face Japan in Dusseldorf on Friday before heading to Murcia, Spain, to play Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in the USMNT’s final pair of fixtures before their World Cup return against Wales in November.
For some, it’s another chance to work their way into Berhalter’s starting plans, while for others, it’s simply about impressing enough just to make the plane.
One thing is for sure: everybody is looking to their best foot forward to prove the Stars and Stripes have what it takes to compete at this level despite not playing a World Cup match since 2014.
“None of us have a lot of World Cup experience. People can hit on us for that or think that that is a disadvantage,” Nashville SC center-back Walker Zimmerman told reporters on Tuesday. “But I also know how eager we are to get out there and prove to people what we have in this group.”
While the pressure of a World Cup match cannot be replicated, these two friendlies offer the US a chance to face similar opposition to that which they’ll have to contend with in Qatar – perhaps with the exception of England.
Japan, for example, are ranked 24th in the world, just five places behind Wales and two adrift of Iran. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat Japan in World Cup qualifying and sit 53rd in FIFA’s rankings.
“These are two more games to get valuable experience to prepare for the teams and the types of players you might find in the World Cup. So we’re controlling what we can control,” said Zimmerman.
“We can’t control the opponent. But there’s certainly ways that we can improve, whether it’s Concacaf or European friendlies. So we’re looking at these two games, certainly as building blocks to play against some really good competition and make sure that we’re fine-tuning what we need to heading into November.”
Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.