USMNT qualifies for 2024 Copa América despite 2-1 defeat marred by ‘lack of professionalism’

The 10-man U.S. men’s national team lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago on Monday in Port of Spain, but the 2024 Copa América hosts will still participate in next summer’s tournament alongside Argentina , Brazil and 13 other teams from South America and the CONCACAF region. after qualifying for the tournament with a 4-2 aggregate victory.

The one-goal loss combined with last week’s 3-0 win over the Soca Warriors in the home-and-away series was enough to send the USMNT – who reached the Copa América semi-finals in 2016 – to the last time 16 teams from the Americas competed against each other. — at the tournament which will begin next June.

Antonee “Jedi” Robinson scored the lone U.S. goal Monday, with U.S. defender Sergiño Dest sent off later in the first half after receiving two yellow cards for dissent.

“We started the game pretty well, I think,” Robinson later told the official channel. “Then, obviously, a moment of unprofessionalism played against us.”

Here are some takeaways from Monday’s game.

Game of the game

Gregg Berhalter’s team started the game off on the right foot, with Brenden Aaronson and Folarin Balogun both coming close in the first 15 minutes or so Monday night. So when USMNT left back Antonee “Jedi” Robinson scored for the second game in a row to put the visitors ahead and lead 4-0 on aggregate less than half an hour into the match On Monday at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad’s capital, it looked like the remainder of the match would be a formality.

Dest set up Robinson with a cross from the left side, and the left back dived to head the ball past Soca Warriors goalkeeper Denzil Smith:

“Our goal was actually back-to-back, which we always like,” Berhalter said. “We had a number of chances with Brendan Aaronson, Balo, with Rico (Pepi). So overall we’re happy. But I wish we had a bigger job to do because after the red card was more difficult.

Turning point

The Americans were then on track to qualify for both the Copa and the CONCACAF Nations League final in March. Then a moment of madness from Dest changed everything.

Still apparently furious over what he thought was an unintentional foul by Guatemalan referee Walter López, Dest became furious when the assistant referee called a ball that Dest was trying to kick out on the right sideline. Dest threw the ball into the balmy Caribbean night. López, naturally, immediately warned him.

But Dest continued to talk to López as his teammates tried in vain to push him away. Then he spoke again. López held up the yellow card for the second time in 30 seconds, then reached into his back pocket and showed Dest the red one. The PSV Eindhoven right-back, who started all four of the United States’ matches at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, then left the field in disgrace as defender Tim Ream and goalkeeper Matt Turner were earbuds at him as he headed to the locker room.

It was perhaps the stupidest sending off in USMNT history, and it instantly changed the complexion of the competition. It took just four minutes for the hosts to capitalize on their numerical advantage, with Reon Moore equalizing before the end of the half.

“We started very well, everything went well and then there was an unfortunate moment that put us at a very disadvantageous situation,” Berhalter said, adding that Dest apologized to his teammates at the half-time. “We need to understand that to be successful we need everyone on the field.”

Alvin Jones – whose goal near Couva in another 2-1 victory in T&T six years prevented the Americans from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup – then put the home side ahead with a shot that handcuffed Turner.

Dest will now miss the Nations League semi-final in March. Given the severity of Monday’s transgression, will Berhalter invite the 23-year-old to this camp? When asked if the suspension would factor into his decision, the coach said no.

“I don’t want this to turn into a witch hunt,” Berhalter said. “He is a young player. He is a fantastic part of his team. He will learn, he will grow. He made a stupid mistake. He knows it. He apologized to the team and we will forward.”

Key statistic

American midfielder Yunus Musah earned his 33rd United States cap on Monday, setting a new program record for appearances by a player before turning 21. The previous mark had been shared by Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan and Christian Pulisic – pretty good company for the AC Milan man. Musah celebrates his 21st birthday later this month.

What’s next for the USMNT

Monday’s match ends a rather successful but decidedly strange 2023 for Team USA. The year began with Berhalter’s future as coach in doubt following the World Cup drama involving Gio Reyna and his parents, both former national coaches. The United States beat Mexico and Canada under its second interim coach of the year, BJ Callaghan, and Berhalter was rehired as coach between those games.

He returned to the sidelines in September and officiated in four friendlies – wins against Ghana, Oman and Uzbekistan and a 3-1 loss to four-time world champions Germany – before facing T&T in two matches this month. The United States ultimately got the job done, qualifying for both the Copa and the Nations League.

Their semifinal opponent for the latter competition, which will take place in Arlington, Texas in March, has not yet been determined. But the USMNT’s objective could not be clearer: a third consecutive Nations League title.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports who has covered UNITED STATES men’s and women’s national teams at FIFA World Cups on five continents. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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