Gregg Berhalter on the Brink

With the ‘Golden Generation’ in jeopardy, coach faces criticism and uncertainty after Copa América setback
Panama v United States - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024
Panama v United States - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024 / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

When the final whistle blew on Thursday night, the stadium fell silent. This wasn’t just any loss; it was one of those defeats that reverberates. The United States fell to Panama 2-1 in the Copa América, a result that left the nation stunned and fans wondering: what happened to the “Golden Generation”? Gregg Berhalter, the team’s head coach, is in the eye of the storm, and his seat is hotter than ever.

The U.S. had everything going for them. A win against Panama would have secured a spot in the knockout stage. But, like a suspense movie script, it all unraveled. The Panamanians, dominating possession with a staggering 73.6%, 13 shots, and nine chances created, showed they were there to fight. And fight they did. Matt Turner, the reliable American goalkeeper, suffered a leg injury in the first half. It was a blow. Ethan Horvath stepped in but couldn’t withstand the Panamanian onslaught.

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Now, the situation is tense. To avoid elimination, the U.S. must beat Uruguay on Monday and hope for a bit of celestial help. Feels like a soap opera scene, doesn’t it? The pressure on Berhalter is immense. And rightfully so. This was the third time the U.S. lost to Panama in 27 encounters, with two of those losses under his command. Coincidence? Maybe, but the history doesn’t favor him.

There were plenty of mistakes. Tim Ream, the veteran defender, committed an offside penalty that nullified a Weston McKennie goal early in the game. As if that wasn’t enough, Tim Weah got a red card, leaving the team a man down for the rest of the match. The defense looked like a roofless house, vulnerable and exposed. For a team ranked 11th in the FIFA world rankings, the expectation was for a much better performance. And it’s fair to demand that. After all, we’re talking about the cream of American soccer, a squad dubbed the “Golden Generation.”

But where’s the shine of this generation? Christian Pulisic is undoubtedly talented, but he can’t carry the team alone. It feels like something’s missing to unlock this team’s full potential.

Gregg Berhalter, of course, still has a chance to redeem himself. If the U.S. can bounce back and secure a spot in the knockout stage, he might save his job. But confidence in his leadership is shaken. Three losses in 2024, matching the total in 2023, is a clear sign that something’s off. And it’s not just a matter of bad luck or coincidence.

The question lingering in the air is: how long will the American federation wait for a turnaround? The fans are impatient, and rightly so. They want results; they want to see the promise of this generation fulfilled. There’s no more room for excuses or justifications. The team needs to prove itself, and it needs to do it now.

The loss to Panama was a gut punch, one of those hits that make you rethink your entire strategy. But it’s also a learning opportunity, a chance to correct the course and come back stronger. And that’s what’s expected from the U.S. now.

Gregg Berhalter is in a dilemma. He knows his future is at stake. The criticism is heavy, and he’s aware of it. But he also knows he has a talented squad capable of turning things around. The question is whether he can make the necessary adjustments in time.