USMNT, its sights on Copa América, braces for friendly vs Brazil

ORLANDO — Gregg Berhalter says his mission remains steady, even after a bruising, embarrassing loss over the weekend and renewed calls from a furious fan base for his dismissal.

The United States men’s national soccer team hosted two friendlies to prepare for the Copa América. The first – a 5-1 draw against Colombia on Saturday in Landover, Md. – didn’t go well. The second, against five-time world champions Brazil, will take place on Wednesday.

Nothing could quell Berhalter’s criticism and refresh his team’s image like beating the Brazilians. But as he and his players have reiterated all year, the results of friendlies and minor tournaments are not as important as continuing to prepare the ground for this month’s Copa América and the World Cup. 2026.

“The natural tendency would be to say, ‘Okay, now it’s just about the result,’ but the reality is it’s a friendly match,” Berhalter said Tuesday. “We are preparing for a tournament. We must be courageous and continue with our plan. Obviously a lot of pressure from outside after a 5-1 home defeat, but again it’s about getting this group ready for the Copa América which is the most important thing.

Another heavy defeat wouldn’t sit well with anyone inside or outside the team, but Berhalter will ultimately be judged on how the Americans fare in the Copa América, a South American competition with 108 years of history.

For the second time, the 16-team tournament will take place at U.S. venues and include six invited nations from Concacaf, which encompasses North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

“It’s really about focusing on the performance rather than the result,” Berhalter said of the Brazil clash. “It’s the usual.”

For the sake of the team’s confidence, Berhalter’s group will need to demonstrate better business practices than on Saturday, when they conceded two early goals and then collapsed in the final 15 minutes, resulting in the the most lopsided defeat in eight years and the worst defeat at home. since 2009.

“We just got back to work, back to the lab,” said winger Tim Weah, who scored against Colombia. “And now we’re ready to try again.”

“Everyone has bad games or bad performances,” forward Brenden Aaronson said. “When you look at it, sometimes it could be the end of the world, but it’s not, and we’re ready to bounce back.”

Because the match against Brazil is not part of a major tournament, the focus is on “how we perform, regardless of the result,” Weah said.

In other words, the Americans are not as concerned about the final score as they are about a marked improvement and renewed hope heading into the Copa América, which takes place from June 20 to July 14.

Team USA’s Group C opener is June 23 against Bolivia in Arlington, Texas, followed by games against Panama on June 27 in Atlanta and group favorite Uruguay on June 1. July in Kansas City, Missouri. Two teams will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Failing to advance past the group stage would surely put Berhalter’s job in jeopardy. Asked Tuesday about job security, he said: “I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that question.” But what I would say is we view this as a building block. We see this group as a talented group, a group capable of doing good things, and we want to use the Copa América to show that.

Even at its best, Team USA would be hard-pressed to defeat Brazil, which has won 11 straight in the series since surprising the United States in the 1998 Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals. Brazil’s overall record is 18-1-0 with a goal differential of 41-12.

The squad includes three players from European champions Real Madrid – forwards Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo and defender Éder Militão – as well as Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos and Barcelona forward Raphinha .

“The message to the team is not to chase the result; (it’s) chasing a performance,” Berhalter said. “If we look at the game and we see 11 guys, 16 guys playing at a level of 8 out of 10, that will be enough. It’s about how do we perform at our highest level against teams like this?

Remarks: Midfielder Tyler Adams, the 2022 World Cup captain, was cleared to play up to 45 minutes after missing the Colombia game, Berhalter said. Adams is recovering from back and fitness issues. …

Forward Josh Sargent (foot) remains unavailable but is “progressing well” in his efforts to enter the Copa América, Berhalter said. …

A crowd of more than 53,000 people is expected at Camping World Stadium.

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