Home Sports Gregg Berhalter faces questions about USMNT job after Copa América failure

Gregg Berhalter faces questions about USMNT job after Copa América failure

0
22


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — About 90 minutes after the U.S. men’s national soccer team crashed out of Copa América on Monday night, the U.S. Soccer Federation issued a statement expressing immense disappointment.

“Our tournament performance fell short of our expectations. We must do better. We will be conducting a comprehensive review of our performance in Copa América and how best to improve the team and results as we look towards the 2026 World Cup.”

Coach Gregg Berhalter was not mentioned. For all intents and purposes, it was about him.

The U.S. players, for the most part, are not going to change. This is a national team, not a club. There are no transfers and trades. Coaches, they change.

The U.S. failure at Copa América — the most important competition until the World Cup comes to North American shores — was Berhalter’s failure.

He was tasked with getting the most out of a roster gushing with youthful promise and primed to take the next step in the Americans’ drive to the 2026 World Cup. Instead, they fell on their faces. No one expected the U.S. team to win Copa América or even get close to the final, but to not get out of the group stage? Woof.

The U.S. squad finished behind not just Uruguay but Panama. FIFA’s rankings are not the most accurate reflection of a team’s quality. Preposterously, the No. 11 United States is three slots higher than Uruguay. But the list also places Panama 32 slots behind the United States. And, yes, the early red card on Tim Weah on Thursday in Atlanta changed everything, yet the shorthanded Americans still took the lead and were minutes from a draw before conceding a late goal.

The lone U.S. victory over these eight stressful days came against Bolivia, South America’s weakest program. Two goals in the first half against Bolivia, then one in the final 2½ matches — that was it. The Americans played fairly well Monday against a championship contender but were neither menacing nor efficient in the final third of the field.

“We didn’t want our journey to end like this so soon,” midfielder Weston McKennie said. “None of us know what we’re going to do now since we’re out of the tournament. Nobody had any plans because that wasn’t the expectation.”

When the final whistle sounded and players fell to their knees or on their backs, it felt like another missed opportunity in a big moment for the program — following the 2022 World Cup’s round of 16 against the Netherlands, 2014’s round of 16 vs. Belgium and 2010’s round of 16 vs. Ghana.

Expectations with the current group are soaring because almost the entire roster is employed in Europe, some players by big clubs and many in top-five leagues. This so-called golden generation, though, is losing its glow.

“You want to keep moving the team forward, and I feel like we have,” Berhalter said. “It’s not something where you say, ‘Okay, this program is doomed.’ It’s not the case at all. It was a poor performance. We didn’t get the results we expected, and we need to get better.”

The expectation was not only to advance but to display maturity, flash some skills and show the soccer world what’s in store for opponents two summers from now. American soccer is on the rise — just you wait!

Copa América provided the platform to play heavyweight opponents in an ultracompetitive tournament setting. But after three games, it’s over. The only high-end opponent was Uruguay. By failing to advance, the Americans missed a chance to play Brazil or Colombia in the quarterfinals.

They will now go back to playing in mandatory regional competitions and periodic friendlies, starting in September against Canada and New Zealand.

“We got time to improve until then,” captain Christian Pulisic said of the 2026 World Cup. “I think everyone has to take a step back and we need to find our identity again. … I’m not exactly sure what’s missing.”

Goalkeeper Matt Turner said, “We have to showcase that we are getting better.”

It will largely fall on USSF sporting director Matt Crocker to determine whether Berhalter is the right man to lead that effort. The evaluation process might be completed within a week, people familiar with the process said.

It was Crocker who, 13 months ago and new to the job, surprised almost everyone when he rehired Berhalter for a second term — despite ugly off-field episodes in the wake of the 2022 World Cup. Berhalter’s contract runs through 2026; should the USSF fire him, it would be on the hook for a hefty settlement.

When Berhalter was rehired, players were effusive in their support. He had built a strong-knit group, invited dozens of new players and introduced high-pressure tactics that yielded positive developments.

Even in defeat Monday — in what might have been Berhalter’s final game — the players continued to speak highly of him.

“He supported us during tough times,” midfielder Tyler Adams said, “and we will support him now as well.”

They also took responsibility for individual mistakes that marred the match against Panama and, in an ominous afternoon two weeks before Copa América, a 5-1 calamity against Colombia.

“We have all the faith” in Berhalter, defender Tim Ream said. “It’s not just on him; it’s on us as players as well.”

Attacker Gio Reyna, who clashed with Berhalter over playing time at the 2022 World Cup, said: “The staff can only do so much. The players had to take initiative on the field. At the end of the day, the players didn’t do enough.”

McKennie said the players would “run through a brick wall for him.”

That is all well and good, but with the World Cup creeping closer, Crocker and the USSF must ask themselves: Is this team improving? Copa América provided an unequivocal answer.



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here