Besides Gregg Berhalter, What Else Went Wrong for USMNT in Copa America?

The USMNT crashed out of the Copa America group stage and fingers are being pointed at Gregg Berhalter. But there are plenty of blame to go around.

07/04/24  •  89 Views

International - National Teams
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Since the 2022 World Cup ended, many USMNT fans were looking ahead to this summer as the U.S. gets another chance to host the prestigious Copa America.

 

It’s arguably the biggest international tournament after the World Cup and Euros, and for the USMNT, getting a chance to compete with South American powerhouses on home soil is the opportunity players have been dreaming of since they were kids.

 

However, the USMNT got knocked out from the tournament in the group stage, finishing below Panama. It’s something even the most pessimistic fans didn’t expect.

 

Gregg Berhalter said he wants to change the way the world views American soccer. He’s changing it in a negative manner as the U.S. became the first host nation to get knocked out from the group stage since the current Copa America format was introduced in 1993.

 

It’s obvious that Berhalter should be held accountable for this massive failure, but there are other factors that contributed to this. Let’s take a look.

 

The Federation

 

It’s clear that Gregg Berhalter is not the guy to move this program forward, and many fans have been screaming this for years. 

 

During his first stint, despite winning the Nations League and the Gold Cup, the USMNT have had their struggles, particularly during away games in the World Cup qualifiers. 

 

In seven away games, they only won once— while losing to Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica.

 

The USMNT barely avoided the intercontinental playoffs, only finishing above Costa Rica by goal difference. Canada and Mexico both performed better in the qualifiers. 

 

In the World Cup, they didn’t exceed expectations either. A 0-0 draw against England was good, but a draw against Wales, a narrow 1-0 win against Iran, and a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands aren’t anything to be impressed by.

 

With the Reyna scandal and his domestic abuse resurfacing, most thought Berhalter would not be returning to the USMNT after the World Cup. They were wrong.

 

After months of sporting director search and then the head coach search, Berhalter was brought back to the USMNT last June.

 

The new sporting director Matt Crocker spoke in length about his coaching search and said he interviewed many candidates, so it’s surprising he couldn’t find anyone better than Berhalter.

 

A year later, he has seven wins, one draw, and six losses, and a disastrous Copa America campaign. 

 

If people are pointing fingers at Berhalter for this failure, and rightfully they should, fingers need to be also pointed at this federation for giving him the job again.

 

The Players

 

Berhalter failed at his job, but that doesn’t mean they players should not be taking responsibility. They too failed at their job and let the fans down.

 

In the past, the USMNT weren’t known for their talent. But they were known for their strength, grit, and the never give up attitude that caused some upsets like wins over Spain, Colombia, and Portugal.

 

This generation may be labelled as the “Golden Generation” due to many players playing in top leagues, but they have nowhere near the mental and physical toughness as the older generations. 

 

It was obvious when Tim Weah lost his head against Panama, and the whole team seemed to have lost their fight instead of trying to salvage a result in front of almost 60,000 home fans against a team much inferior on paper.

 

This wasn’t the first time the USMNT got into this type of situation. Around eight years ago, the USMNT also got a man sent off in the final group game against Paraguay.

 

Despite playing 45 minutes with 10 players, the USMNT managed to hang on against the Paraguayans desperate to score, and ended up winning 1-0.

 

Of course tactics played a part, but the older generations seems to have wanted it more on the pitch, and have competed against teams much better than them.

 

This team, however, couldn’t do the same. In the do-or-die final game against Uruguay, they never looked like a team that was going to win. Instead, Uruguay, who didn’t need to win that night, had more shots and shots on target. And they walked away with a 1-0 win.

 

Uruguay keeper Sergio Rochet didn't even have to make a big save that night. That’s how toothless the USMNT looked. Again, Berhalter’s “system” may have played a huge part, but the players never looked like they were desperate for the win.

 

What’s Next?

 

We’ve always spoken about how the USMNT never really have pressure as the general American public and media don’t seem to care much about the sport. But that’s changing slowly.

 

After this failure, many sports media people are calling for Berhalter’s head, and the players are also getting their fair share of blame.

 

This may be the biggest criticism the USMNT have gotten since the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and it may just push the Federation to pull the plug on Berhalter.

 

Currently, he has a contract until the end of the 2026 World Cup and won’t be resigning. In fact, when asked if he’s still the right person to lead the team in the World Cup after the Uruguay loss, he simply said “yes.”

 

The Federation said they will be doing a “comprehensive review” after the Copa America failure. Let’s see what the next move is.

 

One thing for sure though, as Carli Lloyd said on the FOX broadcast, Berhalter and the USMNT are looking like a couple in a toxic relationship and this may be the right time to go opposite ways.

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