When the USMNT ended their September pair of friendlies winless and goalless, it wasn't wholly unreasonable to sound the alarm.
They were badly outplayed and outshot (15-4) by Japan en route to a 2-0 loss, and their game vs. Saudi Arabia didn't prove much more fruitful as they were held to a 0-0 draw.
And while the window was a humbling one for the United States - who were missing several key players - time has unsurprisingly eroded that bitter taste as a now-finalized squad is six days away from competing in the World Cup.
For striker Jesús Ferreira, those games perhaps served as a tough reminder, though he knows the team has the platform to leave a better impression in Qatar.
'No matter the name, or who we're playing, there's teams that have skills and they can compete with anyone,' he told DailyMail.com on November 4 while promoting his new partnership with sports nutrition company Cheribundi.
'So obviously they were hard games that, we need to do better maybe but obviously we can't take [them] lightly and it's something we're gonna fix.'
While Ferreira emerged as a fairly safe bet to make coach Berhalter's 26-man squad, he didn't always look like a potential Qatar contributor. Just two years ago, Ferreira wrapped up a 2020 season for FC Dallas in which he notched just one goal.The next season was a marked improvement with eight, following his 18-goal explosion this year.
For Ferreira, who's played for Dallas' first team since he was just 16, the colors on his shirt have not changed. But his ability certainly has. 'Obviously as a kid you always dream about playing a World Cup, that's the biggest stage that soccer brings,' he said. 'So to be able to represent a country like the US, it's an amazing feeling.' Of course, Ferreira and his teammates aren't just happy to be merely be in Qatar, and Group B poses a tricky challenge to reach the knockouts of the tournament - which the 21-year-old said the team has set as a goal.
Wales will likely boast the best player on the field in Gareth Bale, England's athletic wingers and full-backs will test the USMNT backline, and Iran's stingy defense could be tough to break down in the last game of the group phase.
Each game's gonna bring something different, from players to formations to the way that they play, the style,' Ferreira said. 'So we have to adapt and we have to be a team that can turn around quickly.
Tactics won't be the only decision Berhalter has to make, as his lineup will likely have room for just one of Ferreira and fellow strikers Josh Sargent and Haji Wright. The latter two have used a late push to put themselves in the coach's plans.
Sargent has eight goals in England's Championship this season for Norwich City after finding himself outside of the squad for most of this year, while Wright was only capped for the first time in June.
The Antalyaspor striker has nine goals this season in the Turkish league and will look to gatecrash the starting lineup.
'The 9s that we have in our pool right now play for great teams and they're doing the job, which is scoring,' Ferreira said. 'Obviously that's our job as players, is to make the decision that coach Gregg needs to make hard. Everyone brings something different, and anyone that he does call will help the team in any way that they can.'
While the USMNT squad lacks World Cup experience - only defender DeAndre Yedlin has played on this stage before - that youthful naivete can sometimes be a blessing under intense scrutiny.
Nonetheless, this is a squad with players at some of the biggest clubs in the world, and Ferreira knows they can make a dent in Qatar. 'We know that we have talent, we have a young group that's hungry to win things and we're determined, we have goals set for ourselves and for the team.'And so obviously if we work together, we're a team that can accomplish things.'
Read the full article by Jake Nisse on Dailymail.