Gregg Berhalter knows his lineup selection and tactics both bear some responsibility for the United States men’s national team’s first-ever loss to Panama in World Cup qualifying.
He guesses. Maybe. Somewhat.
Berhalter made seven changes to the team that beat Jamaica 2-0 on Thursday and his team appeared confused and clumsy through the two changes he made at halftime and the three more that arrived after the hour mark.
The USMNT head coach said that the humid weather played a “big” role in the loss, but admitted that Panama, of course, dealt with that, too. He admitted that the game required a formation change and subs at halftime, and that they didn’t control the midfield.
And even if it didn’t work tonight and resulted in zero points, Berhalter says getting a point or three on Sunday could’ve cost them points on Wednesday.
No, there isn’t a lot of logic there, but let’s give his words the space rather than run the risk of poor paraphrasing.
“It doesn’t look like the best choice but we have to wait ’til [after the match with Costa Rica],” Berhalter said. “If we would’ve played the same players, I’m not sure we would position our game in the best way to win again on Wednesday. The conditions that we’re dealing with made it complicated. We had to make, I guess, a somewhat risky decision.”
It was risky and it really didn’t work, especially the lack of Tyler Adams until the second half, as Berhalter made big changes to the lineup at halftime for the second-straight away game.
Berhalter was worried Adams couldn’t hold up for three matches and accepted responsibility for not starting his best midfielder, but also said he expected his central midfield to enforce his plan.
He did give Yunus Musah a second-straight start, yanking him at halftime, along with Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta.
And overall, Berhalter says, a lot of his players weren’t very good.
“Looking at the game on Thursday in Austin and then the travel and the conditions here, we wanted to get fresh guys on the field,” Berhalter said. “We were hoping with this lineup we were going to get that and get mobility. We had a number of guys who performed below expectations and that’s part of it.”
The Yanks now have four points through three away qualifiers. Fortunately, they’ve taken four of six points at home.
Walker Zimmerman was the captain on the night and gave a more detailed account of what went wrong for the lineup.
“A lot of it was confidence to play with the ball, and just better game management,” Zimmerman said. “We’d get the ball and we’d immediately turn it over. Ultimately that led to them having decent runs of possession and us having to scramble back to defend.”
Adams fixes a lot of that, and did in the second half but there was still very little going forward without Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, and Weston McKennie amongst others.
But Berhalter opted for freshness in the hopes of getting a high-energy performance and that, again, did not work.
“It’s sports, it’s humans,” Berhalter said. “Our distances were too far. We didn’t have that pop. We didn’t have the legs that we wanted. We didn’t have it in duels. We needed quick ball movement.”
So why not play the regulars and play them to counter en route to a point?
Questions for another day, and Zimmerman says they won’t be asking them.
“Short-term memory. We’ve gotta move on. It’s a really quick turnaround and we’ve gotta make sure we take care of business.”