USMNT analysis

Breaking down the USMNT collapse in DC. What happened? What's Next

The U.S. team was run off the field by Colombia in DC after the guest enjoyed a strong start and an emphatic finish en route to a 5-1. It's a result that will create pessimism for the U.S. team ahead of the Copa America and leave Gregg Berhalter searching for answers quickly. ASN's Brian Sciaretta gives his thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 09, 2024
11:00 AM

THE UNITED STATES men’s national team is in a bad place heading into hosting the prestigious Copa America following an embarrassing 5-1 loss to Colombia on Saturday in Landover, Md. There really weren’t any positives to take from this game. Instead, the only question is how the U.S. team will respond? Will the team dig deep after getting a wake-up call? Or, will the team enter a tailspin?

Of course, Colombia is an excellent team which hasn’t lost in 22 games and has beaten some very good teams during that stretch. Unfortunately for the U.S. team, CONCACAF can provide a false sense of positivity, a problem that becomes magnified when Mexico is in a bad place as well.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter rolled out about as strong of a lineup as possible given the injury to Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest along with the extremely limited season from Tyler Adams. But even with a strong lineup, there were still a lot of concerns.

Is Johnny Cardoso ready for a starting midfield job after a good move to Real Betis? He has yet to have this level of responsibility yet with the USMNT. Joe Scally had an up and down season for Borussia Monchengladbach, but could he help replace Sergino Dest? Folarin Balogun saw his production drop big time in Ligue 1 at Monaco, but could he finally develop good chemistry with the USMNT, which had been lacking? Is Tim Ream still a starter as his 37th birthday approaches? Gio Reyna is coming off his third straight season of less than 650 club minutes. Can he be the driver of an attack against a good team? Tim Weah similarly only played 1300 minutes for Juventus. He’s been a USMNT starter for years but is he in the needed rhythm? Then you have Matt Turner who Nottingham Forest was determined to replace this season after importing two expensive keepers. Now a backup at Forest, is Turner ready?

 Winning the Nations League and having players attached to big and prestigious clubs might have provided a false sense of security over how good this team really is. But when you look at the amont of players who are both comfortable with the USMNT and who are in good form at the club level, there are too many question marks to be very confident against a talented team that is also playing very well.

Despite all that, the result and the performance was worse than expected – especially the last 15 minutes when the U.S. team suffered a combination of giving up and not learning any lesson from the first 75 minutes when it was clear the U.S. team needed to respect Colombia more as the U.S. pushed for an equalizer. It was during this time when Colombia scored their final three goals.

Without a doubt, Colombia was brilliant and in command. They scored the first two goals early and the final three goals late. The in-between saw the U.S. have their chances and stretches where they controlled the run of play. But it was nothing Colombia couldn’t manage before finding another gear.

As is often the case with great teams, they don’t need to be at their best for all 90 minutes. Instead, they have stretches where they overwhelm. And the U.S. team were overwhelmed.

Here are some thoughts about the U.S. team’s tough outing.



Total team defense lacking 

The U.S. team’s defense was bad. This was the worst thing that went wrong for the Americans on the day. There was no sense of urgency among the U.S. team when they didn’t have the ball. The team took unnecessary risks with the ball and when they lost it, they were not prepared to be in a proper defensive shape.

They left way too much space, were too casual with the ball and were dispossessed, and once dispossessed, did not get back into shape defensively quick enough. The central defenders were not good, but the U.S. team lost this game because of the total team defense – especially in the midfield and on the wings. The central defenders were often hung out to dry and put in bad positions.

From the starting lineup, McKennie, Reyna, and Cardoso especially struggled on the defensive side while Malik Tillman and Yunus Musah were offered no improvement defensively. There was too much ball watching and a lack of urgency in closing down on players with the ball.

Offensively, the U.S. team scored once, hit the post another time, and had a few other chances. But against very good teams, that matters little unless the defensive effort is there.


Not clinical


Yes, it is true that if the U.S. team took advantage of a few close chances when the game was close that it could have been different. The game was within reach until the 77th minute. Colombia also missed some very good chances that could have made the score even worse. But the U.S. team needs to be more clinical when faced against teams with more talent, and nobody can change the fact Colombia has more talent that the U.S. team right now.

The U.S. team still does not get enough production out of the No. 9 position but Balogun’s problems are linked with Monaco as well. It’s true that Balogun had an assist and nearly had a goal as well. But his entire year at Monaco was plagued by near-misses.  His chemistry with the U.S. team remains a concern.


Nightmare for final 15 minutes


The final 15 minutes were horrific from the U.S. team. The U.S. team was within reach up to that point (although still far behind the quality of Colombia). But the last time the U.S. had such a poor stretch was against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier in 2016 that led to Jurgen Klinsmann getting fired.

As Berhalter said after the game, it was a lack of respect for the opponent and the sport. It was very strong words, and the players who were on the field at that time – especially the substitutes – could be in a tough spot for playing time at the Copa America.




One of the criticisms of the team at the 2022 World Cup was how little of the 26-man roster the team used. The starting lineup changed only slightly, and the starters were tired by the knockout stage.

Fast forward 18 months later, how much different are things? Injuries have forced Tyler Adams and Sergino Dest. Chris Richards is healthy. But the changes to the team are not significant. The biggest additions to the team have been Johnny Cardoso, Malik Tillman, and Folarin Balogun and none of them have convinced for the USMNT despite having club success over the past two seasons.

The problem for the U.S. team is that it has been largely stagnant since the World Cup. It’s mostly the same players. Berhalter used 17 players against Colombia. Of those 17, 12 were on the 2022 World Cup team. Of the five that didn’t make the World Cup team, four were part of the overall player pool leading up to the World Cup (Cardoso, Pepi, and Tillman were among the last cut while Richards didn’t make the team because of an injury). Only Balogun has been added to the pool.

Sometimes change and turnover is good. If not, things can become stale – even with a young team. But has the U.S. team built up enough depth for there to be turnover? Are enough players pushing through?

This is particularly true right now at a time when an honest look at the players reveals that many did not enter this camp on the heels of good seasons.

Of the 17 players who played in this game, only Pulisic, McKennie, Richards, Robinson, Cardoso (counting his 2023 season in Brazil), Tillman, Carter-Vickers, and Wright had seasons where they played well over the balance of a 2000+ season. Of those eight players, only three played more than 45 minutes against Colombia.

The U.S. team really can use the Olympic team to churn out players who can push and provide competition among the broader USMNT player pool. That would allow Berhalter to select from a broader pool of players who are playing well at a particular time as opposed to calling up the same group regardless of form.



The starters

Matt Turner: He only made one save, a very good one on James Rodriguez in the second half, but was mostly hung out to dry. Rating: 4.5

Antonee Robinson: Usually one of the U.S. team’s most automatic players was at fault for the first goal. He had a few nice moments where he created chances for Balogun and Pulisic but defensively had a tough game. Rating: 5.0

Tim Ream: The Fulham centerback had botched clearance that led to the second Colombian goal and was slow to react other times. But he luckily left in the 62nd minute before the team collapsed. Rating: 5.0

Chris Richards: The Crystal Palace central defender didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but wasn’t great either. Rating: 4.5

Joe Scally: The Borussia Monchengladbach was invisible for most of the match, which was probably a good thing compared with his teammates. Rating: 4.5

Weston McKennie: The USMNT mainstay wasn’t able to have a positive influence on either side of the ball but he left in the 71st with the game still in reach. Rating: 4.5

Gio Reyna: The Nottingham Forest attacking mid had a few very nice moments that helped the U.S. create a few rare dangerous chances. But it was far from enough. Rating: 5.5

Johnny Cardoso: If this start was an audition to be an option to replace Tyler Adams, it was not a positive statement. Despite a strong season with Real Betis, Cardoso is still looking for a breakthrough with the USMNT. In this case, he also struggled on the defensive side of the ball and was not good in possession. Rating: 4.0

Tim Weah: the veteran winger from Juventus scored the only USMNT goal on a very impressive play that also saw him involved in the buildup on the play. His most significant blemish was when he lost the ball on Colombia’s fourth goal. Rating: 6.0

Christian Pulisic: The U.S. team’s captain hit the post off a header in the first half and had a few nice moments in his otherwise forgettable 45 minutes. Rating: 5.0

Folarin Balogun: the U.S. attacker struggled with his chemistry at times as evident by him not getting nearly enough touches (17 touches in 72 minutes), but still assisted on Weah’s goal and saw a good early chance go wide. Rating: 4.5




Haji Wright: The Coventry winger came on to start the second half and brought a little bit of life into the game early in the half with some dangerous chances – including a header going just over the crossbar. But he faded later in the game. Rating: 5.0

Cameron Carter-Vickers: The Celtic central defender had a nightmare after coming into the game in the 62nd minute. In his first minutes of action, his mistake gifted Colombia a great chance. Then his bad pass led to Colombia’s fourth goal. Rating: 3.5

Malik Tillman: The PSV attacker also came into the game in the 62nd minute and had a poor performance – especially on the defensive end. He was part of the team’s defensive collapse late. Rating: 3.5

Yunus Musah: The AC Milan midfielder was also not up to the speed defensively after entering in the 71st minute. He was also dispossessed twice. Rating: 3.5

Ricardo Pepi: The PSV forward replaced Balogun in the 71st minute but couldn’t get involved. He had no shots, one half-chance, and seven touches in his 19 minutes. Rating: 4.0

Luca de la Torre: The Celta Vigo midfielder came into the game in the 83rd minute amid the collapse but was a non-factor. Rating: NR


Looking forward


I typically don’t give managers ratings in friendlies since there are various priorities at play. Managers are trying to give players chances (often with predetermined substitutes), experiment, and are often not making decisions to solely achieve the result.

But Berhalter has created a situation where a pre-tournament friendly has given rise to questions and concerns when the goal should have been about building confidence and fine-tuning the squad. Was this a confidence crusher? Are some players just not ready for a major tournament like the Copa America? Is Berhalter going to lose confidence in players and go back to a World Cup situation where he heavily relies on his starters and limited bench players?

That’s not good.

If you’re going to be an optimist, the one good thing is that the game was within reach before a series of substitutions struggled on the defensive side. If the game had mattered, players like McKennie, Ream, and Pulisic wouldn’t have come out. Also, Robinson has earned the benefit of the doubt. He made bad mistake on the first goal, but he’s been so consistently good for years that there should be confidence that he won’t be mistake prone in the Copa.

The big concern for Berhalter needs to be why the expected upgrades in the team – specifically Cardoso and Tillman – are not working out. Players like Balogun and Reyna came into this camp as wild cards given their uneven club seasons. But Cardoso and Tillman have been really good the past year, but both have been far off their club form with the USMNT. That becomes a challenge heading into the Copa America.

Berhatler has to see how much he can get from wild cards like Reyna and Tyler Adams while determining if Cardoso and Tiillman can be trusted in big Copa minutes. Then, are there any other options he can use?  

Next up for the USMNT is Brazil. Yes, it is just a friendly. But the team needs both answers to questions and a performance that can give them momentum entering a major tournament on home soil – where Berhalter and the team can ill afford things to go poorly.

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