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Captain Pulisic couldn’t help USMNT to victory over Saudi Arabia in final World Cup prep

The final Qatar warm up will be quickly forgotten as the men played out a scoreless, and fan-less, draw in the friendly in Murcia, Spain.

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Saudi Arabia v United States - Estadio Nueva Condomina, Murcia, Spain - September 27, 2022 Christian Pulisic and Johnny of the U.S. with Saudi Arabia's Nawaf Alaqidi after the match REUTERS/Pablo Morano

The U.S. men’s national team played to a scoreless draw in a friendly with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Murcia, Spain, in its final match before the 2022 World Cup. The USMNT opens Group B play in Qatar against Wales on Nov. 21. The 26-man roster must be submitted by Nov. 13.

US end preparations with drab draw

In normal World Cup years, national teams would schedule friendlies just weeks before their first match. But with the tournament moved from the summer to November to lessen the impact of the heat in Qatar, many domestic leagues will be in competition until less than two weeks prior to the World Cup.

The U.S. looked for a better effort to rebound from a 2-0 loss to Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Friday. Coach Gregg Berhalter said after that defeat, “We got our butts kicked and we’re not proud of it ... We played poorly.”

With the return of star forward Christian Pulisic from injury, the U.S. looked threatening early against Saudi Arabia, even though it had to deal with a bouncing shot in the first 24 seconds by Sultan Al Ghannam that Matt Turner saved. After the U.S. failed to put a shot on target against Japan, Weston McKennie rectified that with a drive at goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Rubaie in the ninth minute. Each team generated five shots, one on target, in the first half in a near-empty, sterile stadium.

Oft-injured forward Gio Reyna of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund exited as a precautionary measure in the 30th minute because of muscle tightness. Paul Arriola replaced him. The U.S. nearly broke through in the 61st minute when Arriola fed Jesus Ferreira, who had just entered the game, for a shot in the center of the box but Al-Rubaie was up to the task.

With 20 minutes left, Turner stopped a long try by Haitham Asiri, but the second half was otherwise lethargic. Each keeper finished with two saves.