KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The line of questioning was inevitable. Following the first group stage exit of a Copa América host, ashen-faced U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter stepped to the podium in the aftermath on Monday’s tournament-ending 1-0 loss to Uruguay and was asked bluntly if he believes he’s the right person to lead the Americans into the World Cup on home soil two years from now.

“Yes,” Berhalter said.

That decision isn’t up to him. Less than a year after the 50-year-old who qualified the USMNT for the 2022 World Cup and reached the second round with the youngest starting lineup of any participant in Qatar retook the reigns of the national team, Berhalter’s future at the helm of the squad is now very much in doubt.

“Our tournament performance fell short of our expectations,” Berhalter’s boss and U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker said in a statement sent to FOX Sports and other outlets about 90 minutes after the defeat. “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.”

Crocker’s words were similar to the ones he offered last summer after the defending World Cup champion U.S. women’s national team suffered their earliest ever exit from that competition. A week or so later, the federation announced that it had “mutually parted ways” with USWNT boss Vlatko Andonovski.

Let’s be real: Andonovski was fired. And as far as many American fans are concerned, Berhalter should face an identical fate. The cold hard reality of top-level soccer is that it’s a results business, and when a team fails spectacularly on the global stage as the women did last year and the men did this summer, the coach is usually the first one to go. That’s even more true in the international game than in a club setting. The players are the players on national teams; they need a passport to represent their country. Coaches, on the other hand, can come from anywhere. And when things go sideways, a change at the top is often the easiest move to make.

So it might seem that Crocker’s decision is inevitable even if it’s not immediate. Sticking with Berhalter, whose rehiring was controversial anyway following the drama with Gio Reyna and his family that exploded into public view after the last World Cup, seems untenable on the surface.

Gregg Berhalter: Do the USMNT need to find a new manager after SHOCKING exit? | Copa Tonight

A soccer fanatic, Berhalter understands full well that most coaches can’t and don’t survive a failure like the one the U.S. men just experienced, even though he was right when he said after Monday’s defeat that “when you’re in tournament football, there’s very little that separates success from failure.” A day earlier, pre-Euro 2024 favorites England needed a stoppage time bicycle kick from superstar midfielder Jude Bellingham to eke past Slovakia in the Round of 16.

As hard as they fought against a Celeste side that may well go on to hoist this Copa in Miami later this month, there was no late magic for the Americans at Arrowhead Stadium, and no good fortune in terms of the result between Panama and Bolivia, with the latter failing to secure the win that would’ve saved the U.S. despite Monday’s loss. Luck seemed to be against the U.S. all tournament. But they also didn’t help themselves.

“I don’t think this tournament really had anything to do with the staff or the tactics or the way we play,” Reyna told reporters afterward. “I think it was more individual mistakes. The staff can only do so much.

“At the end of the day, the players didn’t do enough to go through.”

The buck stops with the boss, though. And by Berhalter’s own admission, his team simply wasn’t good enough. They didn’t deserve to advance. They managed only three goals in three games. Even if you throw out the 72 minutes they played short a man after Tim Weah’s red card in what turned out to be a fatal loss to Panama last week, that’s not going to win many games. Scoring was an issue at the World Cup, too. In Qatar, the U.S. had three goals in four matches.

The problem for Crocker is this: If he does decide to go in a different direction, who does he hire? Berhalter beat out former Bundesliga and Premier League manager Jesse Marsch for the job last June, but Marsch is no longer available after being snapped up by Canada last month and promptly leading them into the Copa América quarterfinals. There’s not a lot of obvious candidates who would be definitely be better than Berhalter and who would also take the job. There’s risk involved with making a change, too.

“We didn’t we didn’t get the results we wanted in this tournament and that hurts,” U.S. captain Christian Pulisic said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re a bad team or we haven’t improved.”

Pulisic was one of the key leaders that lobbied for Berhalter’s return last summer. The players got their wish. This time, even he seemed to acknowledge the uncertain future when asked if he still has faith that Berhlater is the right man to continue at the U.S. helm.

“Look, we have a good relationship with him,” he said. “Whatever the next step looks like, it’s not my job to decide.”

United States ELIMINATED from 2024 Copa América after loss to Uruguay | Copa América 2024

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports who has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at FIFA World Cups on five continents. Follow him at @ByDougMcIntyre.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience

United States

Copa América

Get more from Copa América Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more

Source link