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Scally shines as Pepi flounders: USMNT winners and losers after draw with Saudi Arabia

12:04 AM GMT+4 28/09/2022
Ricardo Pepi USMNT 2022
It was the U.S. men's national team's final match before the World Cup, and boy was it a dud.

After being easily swatted away by Japan in their first game of the window, the U.S. were equally as poor against Saudi Arabia in a match that ended as a 0-0 draw.

It was a game devoid of anything. It had no goals, no big moments, no promising sequences. The one memorable thing from this content will be a potential injury to a key star.

The point is, this wasn't what the USMNT needed right now as the World Cup draws near.

The clock is ticking. The tournament is just 55 days away and, once again, Berhalter's side didn't look ready.

Here's a look at the winners and losers from the USMNT's draw with Saudi Arabia:

  • Turner USMNT 2022

    Winner: Matt Turner

    It's time to call off this goalkeeper competition. Matt Turner's done more than enough.

    The Arsenal goalkeeper was faultless once again on Tuesday, much like he was on Friday against Japan. His shot-stopping ability is unmatched by any goalkeeper in this player pool and, despite a relative lack of minutes on the club level, he looks as sharp as ever.

    For much of the past year, Turner has seemingly been behind Zack Steffen in this race, but there's no conceivable metric where Steffen appears better right now. You can talk about potential or experience or ability with the ball at feet all you want, but the eye test is really, really easy here.

    Turner should be the guy, and this was just another example of why.

  • Scally USMNT Saudi Arabia 2022

    Winner: Joe Scally

    We may look back at this performance as the one that got Scally onto the plane to Qatar.

    The Borussia Monchengladbach defender was the best player on the field after he came into the game for what was his third USMNT cap.

    Since his breakthrough in Germany, Scally has been hailed for his defensive ability, and that was on display. So too was his ability to get forward as he whipped in several dangerous crosses from the right side.

    Given his versatility and the fact that Sam Vines didn't exactly seize his moment against Japan, Scally seems to be in a good spot. He can serve as a backup on the left or the right, which is always valuable in a World Cup setting.

    Scally was one of the few players to boost his stock this camp, and it may just be enough to seal his spot.

  • Pefok USMNT 2022

    Winner: The snubs

    A case of addition by subtraction for several USMNT hopefuls.

    Those held out of this camp will be looking on with optimism after two lackluster performances. From centerbacks like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards to a striker in Jordan Pefok, it's clear that spots are still up for grabs.

    Aaron Long failed to convince in defense, leaving the role of Walker Zimmerman's partner wide open. And, given the lack of anything in the U.S. attack, Pefok should feel that a few more goals in the Bundesliga will be enough to get him on the plane.

    It may be too late for him, but there's even hope for someone like Tim Ream to get back into the mix.

    Either way, it's clear that there are still holes in this U.S. team, and those holes may just get filled by players that didn't play in Spain or Germany this week.

  • Reyna USMNT 2022

    Loser: Gio Reyna

    The Borussia Dortmund star can't catch a break.

    He'd been eased into the lineup with his club, but was handed his second straight start for the USMNT on Tuesday. And, after 30 minutes, we all saw a familiar sight: a clearly frustrated Reyna subbed out and marching towards the tunnel.

    It remains to be seen if this will impact Reyna long-term, although U.S. Soccer said it was precautionary, but it is certainly frustrating. We've seen so little of Reyna in a USMNT jersey over the last year or so and, with the World Cup just weeks away, he was robbed of another chance to build any sort of chemistry with his attacking teammates.

    The USMNT will now hope that Reyna's injury isn't another bad one and that his World Cup dreams won't be impacted in any way.

  • Pepi USMNT Honduras 2022

    Loser: Ricardo Pepi

    If that was Pepi's big audition, you couldn't blame the USMNT from looking elsewhere.

    Pepi was held largely quiet throughout his time on the field as he never provided anything remotely dangerous.

    As pointed out by Clint Dempsey on the FOX broadcast, Pepi's desire to be a part of the game often takes him out of it. He drops into spaces to get touches and attempts to set up his teammates but, in doing so, he takes himself out of positions to do anything truly productive.

    In total, he had just 13 touches, very few, if any, of which were memorable or useful. It wasn't all his fault, as he wasn't exactly provided with Kevin De Bruyne-like service, but he needed something more.

    The fact is that, right now, Pepi is not the best striker the USMNT has. And there's a pretty good chance he isn't one of the three best either as we head towards the World Cup.

  • Berhalter USMNT 2022

    Loser: Optimism and momentum

    In a traditional World Cup year, there would be some sort of send-off for the USMNT. There'd be a series of friendly matches in front on home soil in front of a raucous crowd eager to will their team towards the World Cup.

    Well, there was none of that this time around as the USMNT's World Cup send-off felt like a thud.

    Starting with the performances, neither of which were particularly inspiring. Of course, friendly results don't really matter, but it would have been nice to see something, anything, to be excited about. There was no attacking flair, no memorable moments or sequences.

    The best thing, in all likelihood, is that no one got seriously injured.

    And then there was the atmosphere. Rather than playing in front of big crowds designed to simulate a World Cup, the U.S. played in empty stadiums that seemed designed to simulate a Covid-era lockdown game. There was no juice in the stands and certainly none on the field as both games were, essentially, lifeless.

    In theory, none of this matters, but there is a real lack of momentum right now as the World Cup draws closer.