USMNT vs. Japan live updates: Christian Pulisic misses pre-World Cup friendly with minor injury

The U.S. men's national team is 180 minutes away from Qatar. The World Cup, of course, is still two months away, but the USMNT plays its final two friendlies ahead of the tournament this week and next — beginning with a Friday match against Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The game kicks off at 8:26 a.m. ET on ESPN2, TUDN, UniMás and ESPN+. In one sense, it is an important dress rehearsal. But it has been marred somewhat by injuries. In addition to ailments that kept Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Antonee Robinson, Chris Richards and others out of this week's training camp, Christian Pulisic picked up a "knock" in training this week, per U.S. Soccer, and will not feature against Japan.

Pulisic is considered "day-to-day," and could suit up next week. His absence is largely precautionary; if this were a World Cup game, he would be playing.

In his stead, Gio Reyna and Brenden Aaronson get significant opportunities to start on the wings, and stake claims to a starting spot in Qatar.

For the latest updates, highlights and analysis from the match, you can follow along with Yahoo Sports right here.

What to watch in U.S. vs. Japan

While much of the analysis (and fan outrage) last week centered on head coach Gregg Berhalter's decisions at the fringe of his 26-man roster, these 90 minutes against Japan will largely be used to fine-tune a more important group: the starting 11 and several substitutes who'll likely play key roles in Qatar.

To that end, the two big questions Berhalter must answer: Who will start alongside Christian Pulisic in attack? And who will partner Walker Zimmerman in defense?

Injuries have complicated both questions. With Pulisic, Weah and Musah out, the U.S. will trial something of a Plan B against Japan.

Chris Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers, two strong candidates to start at center back, pulled out of this final training camp due to injury. So Aaron Long will form an all-MLS tandem with Zimmerman at the heart of the U.S. defense. They will have to prove that, as a duo, they have enough recovery speed to function in the Berhalter's high-pressing system.

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