Gregg Berhalter says he doesn’t regret his decision to spin the team in Sunday’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Panama, saying it was the performance, not the staff, that condemned the United States that day.
Berhalter has come under fire for making seven changes to the squad that beat Jamaica last Thursday, including key players at rest like Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi.
After the loss, Berhalter says he accepted responsibility for the decision to turn, but made it clear on Tuesday that he was not prepared to blame any of the players who entered the squad in the loss.
DECOURCY: Why it’s too much to blame Berhalter for his loss in qualifying
“One thing I want to make clear is that when I took responsibility for the result the other day, it wasn’t about player choice because we believe in every player on this team, and I don’t regret any moment to play this formation, ”said Berhalter.
“I regret our performance more and some of the attacking adjustments we could have made in this game to be more mobile, to move more, but not for the staff.
“When you look at Pepi, for example, he’s 18 and there are huge expectations on him – but there is also a huge workload placed on him.
MORE: What USMNT Can Learn From USWNT
“Before this camp, he played three 90-minute games in one week with Dallas. He played the game against Jamaica, as long as he played, and he was tired.
“So our idea is to protect an 18-year-old, give him some rest and help him recover and prepare him for another game.”
If the USMNT had won in Panama, Berhalter’s side would have found themselves in a very comfortable position atop the octagonal table.
MORE: World Cup Qualifying Standings, Schedule & Highlights
But, with the loss, the United States is now back in the field after five games as the Americans head to a crucial clash with Costa Rica in Columbus on Wednesday.
USMNT is still in second place, with eight points in five games, but it’s tied with Panama, one point ahead of Canada and just two points ahead of Wednesday’s opponent Costa Rica.
“We missed an opportunity to get at least one point in this game and it’s a regret for us,” said Berhalter. “Part of the idea was to have seven new guys in the field and make Panama pay, and we did that.