USMNT analysis

Analysis & Ratings: Weah's meltdown puts the USMNT on the brink of early Copa ouster

ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks down the USMNT's nightmare in Atlanta which leaves them needing a huge effort against Uruguay just to advance out of their group. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 28, 2024
6:10 AM

THE UNITED STATES men’s national team is on the brink of failing to advance out of its group following a nightmare performance in Atlanta which saw Gregg Berhalter’s team fall to Panama 2-1. In a tournament which was met with great enthusiasm for taking place on home soil, two years ahead of a home World Cup, the U.S. team will have to get a result against Uruguay in order to advance.

When breaking down the loss to Panama, it is impossible to say anything other than this was a terrible game. Part of the reason this tournament was seen as important for the U.S. team is that it offered Berhalter’s squad a rare opportunity to test itself outside of CONCACAF in a major tournament. But instead, the U.S. team found itself playing the most stereotypically bad CONCACAF-style game. And it is the performance in that type of game which might see the team bounced early.

The performance against Bolivia wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. It was a bit sloppy, and the finishing was poor, but the result wasn’t in doubt and the U.S. team didn’t play down to the level of its opponents.

With that in mind, Berhalter used the exact same starting lineup. To be fair, the team started off playing well. Weston McKennie had a goal called back, but the U.S. team was on the front foot.

But things unraveled quickly. Matt Turner was injured in a collision with Cesar Blackman in the 12th minute. The goalkeeper from New Jersey took several minutes to get up with a leg injury (and also a banged up shoulder from the look of replays). Blackman was not issued a card on the play.

With the game still chippy and nasty, the U.S. team lost its cool in the 17th minute when VAR upgraded a Tim Weah cheap-shot to Roderick Miller from a yellow to a red. This left the U.S. team shorthanded early in the game.

The team’s quickly traded goals with Folarin Balogun scoring on a spectacular individual effort in the 22nd minute and Blackman responding minutes later.

From there, the U.S. team struggled to find the right shorthanded tactical approach and eventually opted to sit deep. But in the 83rd minute, Panama took the lead for good on a goal from José Fajardo, who spent part of 2023 in a brief, but unsuccessful stint with DC United.

From there, Panama was able to see out the win despite an 88th minute red card to Adalberto Carrasquilla of the Houston Dynamo which saw the game end 10v10.

The result left the U.S. and Panama with three points entering the final matchday. The difference, however, is that the U.S. team has to face world-power Uruguay who has six points. Meanwhile, Panama has to face a Bolivian team that isn’t mathematically eliminated at 0 points, but is realistically out due to a -7 goal differential after two games.

There is a lot to break down.


Weah is responsible


Yes, the tactics when down a man didn’t work. But that is always an uphill climb, and the goal is never to get into a situation when you’re down a man for 70 minutes. There is no excuse for Tim Weah and him losing his cool. Of course, Panama was baiting him and trying to get under his skin. But that is part of the game, not just in CONCACAF or CONMEBOL, but is places like Italy too where Weah plays his trade.

Weah, 24, is rarely like that and it was a surprise that he was not able to control himself with the game still 0-0. Afterward he apologized.

“Today, I let my team and my country down,” Weah said. “A moment of frustration led to an irreversible consequence, and for that, I am deeply sorry to my teammates, coaches, family and our fans.  Moving forward, I am committed to learning from this experience, not allowing an opponent to provoke me, and working to regain the trust and respect of my team and supporters. No matter what I will always fight for my team and my country till the day I'm no longer needed or capable to !! sincerely apologize to everyone My love for this team goes beyond just football and I'm so sad and angry at myself for putting my brothers through what they went through tonight.”

Weah finished with one of the worst shifts in recent USMNT history. In addition to his 18th minute red card, he had just one touch (where he was dispossessed), he was 0/2 in ground duels, and 0/1 in aerials.

Weah is now out for the pivotal game against Uruguay, and he is the person most responsible for putting the U.S. team in a bad position at this Copa America. He turned a needed but likely win into a loss. It was the biggest letdown for a U.S. player since Michael Orozco’s 5th minute red card against Nigeria in the group stage finale against Nigeria.

The fallout for this red card remains to be seen. Will there be any lingering trust issues? How will this affect Weah’s confidence?


Losing their cool again


Another issue with the Weah red card is that it is the second time in five competitive games where the U.S. team has lost its cool, picked up a red card, and put his team in a bad position. Last November, it was Sergino Dest who was sent off in a 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago in the Nations League. The U.S. team still easily advanced on aggregate, but Dest was then gone for the Nations League semifinal. His replacement, Joe Scally, struggled filling in and the U.S. team needed a miracle to advance.

But now with the U.S. team staring at an early exit largely because of the red card, it begs the question why are we seeing multiple U.S. players (core USMNT players, to be specific) lose their cool? These are players who have now been with the team for more than an entire cycle. They have played in big games, they have played in CONCACAF, and they are no longer very young. Why are we seeing players lose their cool as they grow up?


Ref lost control


Yes, Weah’s red card was deserved but referee Ivan Barton had a shockingly bad performance. In large part, he lost control of the game early by not giving cards to set the tone. Blackman was recklessly out of control in his collision with Turner but was not given cards. There were also times when USMNT players were fouled from behind on dangerous counterattacks and Barton either called no foul or just blew his whistle for a simple foul. He needed to show cards.

Barton did not show Panama a card until Eduardo Guerrero 45th minute yellow and then again until Carrasquilla's red in the 88th. He initially awarded Panama a red card in the second half for a foul by Cameron Carter-Vickers, but VAR showed it wasn't even close.

After the game, Berhalter acknowledged this was a concern with Barton ahead of the game but his team did not adjust well knowing his tendencies in advance.


It’s part of soccer. All referees are different, and the USMNT should have known what to expect from a CONCACAF referee from El Salvador. It’s unfortunate that the game can devolve into so bad as last night, but that’s the reality.


Tactics with 10 men


The team’s tactics with 10 men did not work. For the rest of the first half, it was a 4-4-1 with Christian Pulisic shifting back in the midfield.

But, honestly, that 4-4-1 was better than what happened in the second half when the team added Carter-Vickers to go with a 5-3-1. The result of that was that the U.S. team played back and was only left with attacking out wide.

The U.S. was able to muster very few chances with this formation. The best chance came late when Weston McKennie’s cross found Ricardo Pepi whose header from close range was hit weakly on target.

The tactical change down a man is on Berhalter. It’s never an easy thing for a manager to make these type adjustments, but the U.S. team probably could have played more with Panama despite being down a man. Instead, the 5-3-1 saw the team pinned back. Johnny Cardoso and Weston McKennie just could not get on the ball nearly enough.

In the entire second half, Cardoso had just 13 touches. McKennie had 26 touches while playing the entire 90 minutes. In the first half, Gio Reyna had 12 touches. It was complete suffocation of the central midfield.

From there, the U.S. team needed someone to step up and make a big play. But on this day, no one did.

Playing down a man for an extended period is never an easy situation for a manager, but it went very wrong for Berhalter.


Player Ratings

The starters


Matt Turner: The Nottingham Forest goalkeeper was never the same after his injury in the 12th minute. He was slow to react on Panama’s goal and had to be subbed out at halftime. Rating: 4.5

Antonee Robinson: Forced the turnover and assisted on Balogun’s goal but his crossing was off and wasn’t great at clearing the ball when the U.S. team was pressed deep down a man. Rating: 5.5

Chris Richards: The Crystal Palace defender had a few tough moments with his passing but was good in the air. Rating: 5.0

Tim Ream: Wasn’t effective as an emergency defender pinned back. That’s not his style and it showed. Rating: 4.5

Joe Scally: He wasn’t sharp with his passing, but still set up Balogun for an early chances and worked very hard to win balls and fight hard defensively. Rating: 6.0

Tyler Adams: Was very useful helping to limit Panama’s chances for most of the first half. The team missed him when he was gone. Rating: 5.5

Weston McKennie: He didn’t get on the ball that much, but he did set up Ricardo Pepi in the 81st minute for the team’s best chance after Balogun’s goal. Rating: 5.5

Gio Reyna: The Dortmund playmaker was invisible once the team went down a man. Only part of that is on him. Rating: 4.5

Christian Pulisic: The AC Milan winger was defended heavily by Panama but Pulisic still managed to create a few very good chances. Rating: 6.0

Tim Weah: The Juventus winger/wingback had a very poor 17 minutes where he was dispossessed on his only touch and lost each of his duels. Then he had the selfish red card in the 18th minute. An absolute nightmare that cost the team any chance. Rating: 1.0

Folarin Balogun: He had a brilliant goal and was part of anything dangerous the U.S. team musted down a man. Rating: 7.0


The substitutes

Ethan Horvath: It would have been a big save, but it was possible for Horvath to have stopped the winner. But the Cardiff City goalkeeper appeared rusty. Rating: 5.0

Cameron Carter-Vickers: A very bad 45-minute shift from CCV who was beaten on the winner and completed just three passes. Rating: 4.0

Johnny Cardoso: He worked hard defensively but wasn’t useful in possession or in getting the ball forward in counterattacks. Rating: 4.5

Ricardo Pepi: He had a chance in the 81st but couldn’t get enough on a header. Other than that, he didn’t do much in his 18-minute shift. Rating: 4.5

Josh Sargent: It was too late for the Norwich City forward to make an impact. He played four minutes plus stoppage time and had two touches. Rating: NR.


The coach


Gregg Berhalter: The USMNT manager had an effective game plan to start, and the team was on the front foot for the first 15 minutes. But things went south quickly. His 10-man tactics didn’t work in the second half and the team didn’t respond to his warnings about Barton as an official. This loss is mostly on Weah and some poor individual moments, but Berhalter wasn’t able to lead an uphill charge. Rating: 5.0


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