USMNT Copa America review: Who's to blame? Should Berhalter be fired?

USMNT Copa America review: Who's to blame? Should Berhalter be fired?


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. men's national team program has seen many dark days in its history. We're talking about a team that took 40 years to make it through World Cup qualification. An early exit from the 2024 Copa America doesn't quite reach the level of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but it could easily be placed in the top five worst moments.

The US was hosting the tournament, had the massive support of American fans, and was placed in a group that was manageable. And yet the US somehow managed to squander all of these advantages and were eliminated in the group stage.

Worse still, there is no competitive play outside of Concacaf until the 2026 World Cup, raising major concerns about how much the U.S. will be tested in that tournament. Clearly, the U.S. men's national team is not headed in the right direction, so what's next?

Jeff Carlisle and Jeff Kassouff have been covering the USMNT every step of its all-too-short Copa America campaign, and they're examining where things went wrong.


Who is most to blame for the USMNT’s early exit?

Carlisle: Suffice it to say that a lot of people are responsible for this. First let's talk about Berhalter.

This team has shown little in terms of progress since the start of the 2026 cycle. When the last cycle ended, the pain points were a reliable starting striker and more overall creativity, especially in midfield. Berhalter was able to recruit a real No. 9 Folarin Balogun (more about him later), and he brokered a rapprochement with Gio Renna that was geared at least partially to addressing the issue of creativity. The team's accumulated experience was expected to help in this area as well.

Still, the team hasn't improved much. Attack still seems overly dependent Christian Pulisic To create a moment of magic. The apparent lack of chance creation remains a huge issue, compounded by a lack of discipline and some questionable defending. And that's before anyone points out that the US created 26 chances in its three games, with 15 of them coming against BoliviaPossibly the worst team of the tournament.

Berhalter himself has admitted that the US doesn't always show the intensity it needs, especially against higher ranked opponents. Whatever message Berhalter is sending on this issue, it's not getting through to people. When that happens, it's time to look the other way.

That being said, there is a lot of responsibility on the players as well. Berhalter didn't fail to convert some chances against Bolivia. He didn't get sent off against Panama or struggle to create scoring chances against Uruguay.

Tim Weah getting red carded proved to be a huge turning point in the tournament — it's hard to imagine the U.S. losing if he didn't commit that offense. That being said, there are a number of U.S. players who haven't been able to carry themselves since the World Cup. Some of that is due to injury, such as concussions. Tyler AdamsOther players, such as Reyna and Weah, have found themselves in sub-optimal playing environments. This has been an important development. The bulk of player improvement happens with clubs, not the national team.

Now the effects are being felt with an early exit from the Copa America. The term “Golden Generation” should be avoided until this group really achieves something. The earliest that can happen is the next World Cup.

Kassouf: That's a great point about the so-called “Golden Generation,” Jeff, and the players have to accept this performance, as you said. The tone of the players after the game shows that as well. Tyler Adams mentioned that he likes the pressure, but all 11 players have to be able to handle it. matt turner He spoke of the need to maintain a more consistent intensity in training and games.

Something is not right with this group. I hate the story of a team lacking “fight” — players at this level rarely lack motivation. They do seem to lack urgency, though — but do they simply lack clear direction?

That's where Berhalter comes in. U.S. Soccer and sporting director Matt Crocker will conduct their own review to figure out what went wrong at the Copa America, and they need to get their assessment right. Nothing happens in a vacuum — the tactics, the Weah red card, the poor performances of top players. It's all interconnected, but change is needed, and that requires Crocker to determine what exactly needs to be improved.


Do you think U.S. Soccer will retain Berhalter as head coach? Needed Do they keep it?

Kassouf: Whenever this conversation takes place, I will begin by acknowledging two commonalities: discussing this is an acceptable occupational risk of coaching, and never forgetting that we are talking about human beings.

Should they? I think the answer is yes as recent performances show a decline and rigidity to tactics that aren't working. In regards to the Nations League win, we're now seeing how bad things are for Mexico, and the USMNT hasn't been performing well lately. This is also true for the Copa America, but also — as Berhalter mentioned after the loss to Uruguay — the loss to Colombia in preparation for the tournament.

Will they keep him? I'd say the chances are less than zero, which is more likely than some people believe. U.S. Soccer has been pretty pragmatic in the past (to be fair, that's how we got here), but Crocker is still new enough to not be a completely open book.

Another important question about potentially firing Berhalter is who would replace him? And who could get the team back on track in two years – and be the right man for a World Cup on home soil in 2026? A lack of clarity in these answers could lead to lingering thoughts about keeping Berhalter, but it appears we have crossed the line of no return.

Carlisle: As I wrote after the game, no, they should not keep Berhalter. Jeff has already touched on a lot of the reasons, but I remember being surprised when he returned because of (1) the Gio Reyna episode and its potential impact on the locker room, (2) the revelation of the domestic violence incident, as well as the fact that (3) historically, second rotations have not worked out well for the USMNT. The last item on that list is coming up.

There seems to be a kind of comfort in the camp that isn't healthy. Besides Balogun, who has actually played well enough to earn a spot in the lineup? There doesn't seem to be as much competition for spots. Discipline has also been lacking – since the last World Cup, four different USMNT players have been kicked out – and that proved costly again in the Copa.

Overall, this team hasn’t improved enough this cycle for Berhalter to continue. In fact, the team appears to be going backwards.

As for whether U.S. Soccer will keep Berhalter, there is speculation that they will. But for how long? Until the fall friendlies? Even longer? Now is the time to act. While it may seem like the U.S. has time before the 2026 World Cup, two years in international soccer is not as long as it seems. This is not a time to patiently deliberate.

The question of a possible replacement for Berhalter is relevant. One of the reasons Crocker was hired was his international connections. Now it's time to get on the phone.


Which American player impressed you the most?

Carlisle: I can only think of two: Balogun and Christian Pulisic.

Balogun is showing the kind of ability that excited people when he first joined the team, but which only surfaced for a few periods after that. He has been a constant threat this tournament, no matter the opponent, and has scored his goals well. He was impressive against a very physical Uruguayan side before having to leave the game due to injury. This is perhaps the most encouraging sign to come out of the Copa.

Pulisic has also been impressive, getting the US off to a great start against Bolivia and looking dangerous on the ball for the rest of the tournament. He has also emerged as a team leader, although he is more of a quiet captain than a vocal one. The only problem is that the technique to mimic him is not there.

Kassouf: Everyone agrees. Balogun was the best player in a difficult role against Panama when the USMNT was short a player. Pulisic was the player on the line, consistently chasing down every ball and showing the urgency required in such situations. After that, it was really a mixed bag of performances – and even at that, neither Balogun nor Pulisic were 100% “on”.

game

1:59

Moreno explains what USMNT did wrong against Uruguay

Alejandro Moreno believes the United States got their tactics wrong against Uruguay in a crucial Copa America group stage match.


Which American player disappointed the most?

Kassouf: I agree with the team sentiment expressed by the players over the last few days in saying that the blame for the tournament is not solely on one person – but it's impossible to watch this tournament and not think it's going in a different direction. Timothy Weh Don’t be tempted by a silly red card.

His exit in the 18th minute of play against Panama on Thursday was worse than anything he or any other player has done on the field in this tournament. It derailed the entire Copa America for the USMNT.

We can talk about a number of disappointing performances and poor timing that led to poor play. The Americans were also very careless with ball possession at times, starting with falling at the back. chris richards and sometimes, Tim ReamEven in a 2-0 win over Bolivia early in the tournament. That set the tone for the issues that continued against Panama. Ironically, they both rectified that issue to a large extent against Uruguay, but the damage had already been done earlier in the tournament.

Carlisle: The only thing I can add is that the midfield was disappointing, with average to below average performances. Tyler Adams' fitness remains an issue, affecting his availability. Of course, the red card against Panama affects things, but that doesn't mean the defense won't be affected.

Weston McKennie He was quiet on both sides of the ball during the tournament. His passing percentage in the attacking third at the Copa America was 54.5%. Last season with Juventus it was 83.3%. His tackle/duels/aerial percentages were 0%/20%/16.7%. Really quiet.


Is this the right group of players to move forward, or does this team need a change?

Carlisle: It's not as if Berhalter or any other manager can call up new players, though he has tapped the dual-national market effectively in the past. He has mostly stayed with the pool of players he has. But one player from the team's core who wasn't making any kind of case for more playing time was Johnny CardosoAnd he has blown hot and cold with the USMNT.

Tim Ream has been a consistent contributor for the US over the last two years. But at the age of 36, it's time to look for alternatives. Mark McKenzie And Miles Robinson Haven't seen you for even a minute in the past one month Cameron Carter-Vickers That the play was played only sporadically suggests Berhalter didn't feel he had an alternative. But an alternative had to be found.

Kassouf: Now this team is in a really weird position. Two years isn't really a long time to replace the roster with new, young players before a World Cup on home soil. And as per the “Golden Generation” talk, this is already a group full of talent at its peak. At its core, this is the group. Now it's about achieving more than that.


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