MURCIA, Spain -- United States men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter said there "weren't many players who performed up to their level" in the just concluded international window, the last before the start of the 2022 World Cup.
While the performance marked an improvement over the 2-0 defeat to Japan last Friday, a lack of precision in the attacking third meant the U.S. generated just two shots on goal and just 0.28 expected goals.
All told, there is little in the way of optimism heading into the World Cup, which for the U.S. starts on Nov. 21 with a match against Wales.
"There's not many players that performed up to their normal levels in this camp, and that's just how it is," Berhalter said at his postgame press conference.
"And it's our job to get them confident so they can perform up to their normal levels. So you can ask about [the performance of the] center backs or full backs or forwards, anyone you want to ask. I'd say we were below our normal levels."
With the World Cup being held in late fall, there is plenty about the run-up to the tournament that isn't normal. Instead of having an extended camp leading into the World Cup, all of the teams involved will have as little as a week to prepare after players are released by their clubs.
Berhalter has said he will announce his World Cup roster on Nov. 9, and he feels that in the just concluded camp there was an added a sense of anxiety as some players tried to jockey for a spot on the final roster.
"I feel for them. It's a difficult situation to be in," he said. "Everyone's fighting for roster spots and instead of coming out and really performing like the team we know we are, we lacked a little confidence in that.
"I think that hurt performance. There were certainly spaces to take advantage of today and we didn't do that enough."
That has done little to dispel concerns that the U.S. isn't playing at its best, even as it copes with injuries to the likes of midfielder Yunus Musah, left back Antonee Robinson and center back Chris Richards.
Gio Reyna, who has spent much of the last 13 months injured, pulled himself out of the game as a precaution after 30 minutes when he felt tightness in his hamstring.
And while the U.S. enjoyed more possession against the Saudis, and worked the ball up the field with greater consistency, the final pass was lacking too often. That was true of Pulisic, who showed some flashes of attacking verve, but couldn't turn those moments into clear chances.
"We were just off on a number of plays, and I think that has to do with the confidence of the group," said Berhalter.
"But what I told them was, these next weeks, used it to prepare, go back to your clubs, play your games, get strong, get fit and and come to Qatar with an open mindset and the idea that we want to compete there."
Berhalter added that he and the staff did acquire some "clarity" about certain players.
"I think things became pretty clear," he said, though he declined to elaborate on what those were.