Almost time: USA enter Japan duel with 180 minutes before the World Cup

Understandably, fans and pundits are already debating decisions like leaving out Pefok, or whether to start Jesus Ferreira vs. Josh Sargent up top instead. Or if Brenden Aaronson should be slotted into a No. 8 role alongside McKennie instead of on the right wing, to make sure the Leeds United standout is on the pitch given other flank options like Gio Reyna, Malik Tillman or Paul Arriola. Or whether anyone else in the player pool can replicate what Antonee “Jedi” Robinson has brought to the left back position, with Sam Vines looking to impress.

As important as those finer points of Berhalter’s roster and lineup selection are, Adams suggested that Berhalter’s overarching concepts reduce the extent of adaptation when changes become inevitable, as they already are.

“One of the keys to our team is our depth. You already see, based off of the players that are here, all of them can play at any given moment, they can really offer something different,” said the holding midfielder. “We have a system, and although, yeah, we have individual quality all over the field and [roster spots] one through 26, there’s all different types of qualities, when you come into the system, you have to know your role and you have to know your job on the day and for who we’re playing against.”

One of Asia’s elite sides for a quarter-century and counting, Japan have qualified for seven consecutive World Cups and this autumn must chart a course out of a ferocious Group E alongside Germany, Spain and Costa Rica. Their technical, up-tempo blend of possession and pressing will undoubtedly ask difficult questions of the USMNT on both sides of the ball.

That leads to useful lessons for the players, and data points for Berhalter as he mulls his final roster decisions.

“We’re trying to put together the best possible team that can perform at our best levels at the World Cup. And for that, we pick players that fit the way we want to play and the way we are, and our team culture. And so there’s not one easy answer for that,” said the coach.

“We take the decisions very seriously. We deliberate continuously. And we feel bad for guys and happy for other guys. It’s an emotional process where we care for each and every one of our players in our player pool. Every player that’s ever stepped on the field or stepped on a training field for us since we’ve been involved in 2019, we care for. And they’re never easy conversations. But in the end, we’re trying to do what we feel is best for the team – and the team is always going to be the most important thing.”

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