On Monday, the U.S. Men’s National Team, comprised of 10 members, experienced a 2-1 defeat against Trinidad and Tobago at the Port of Spain.
Despite the setback, they secured qualification for the 2024 Copa America. Their upcoming challenge involves facing off against squads from Argentina, Brazil, South America, and 13 other teams representing the CONCACAF region in the tournament scheduled for the next summer.
Securing qualification with a 4-2 overall win in the tournament, the team had enough in the tank to send USMNT packing with a combined goal victory in the previous week’s 3-0 win against the Soca Warriors in the home and home series.
Securing this triumph held significant importance, especially considering that the most recent instance of the U.S. participating in a 16-team format dates back to the semi-finals of the 2016 Copa America.
Anthony “Jedi” Robinson scored the only goal on Monday, taking advantage of a situation where American defender Sergiño Dest was sent off in the first half after receiving two yellow cards for dissent.
“I think we started the game really well,” Robinson later told the official broadcaster. Subsequently, a lapse in professionalism clearly worked to our disadvantage.
The game kicked off with a front foot from Greg Berhalter’s team, with both Brendan Aaronson and Folarin Balogun coming close in the first 15 minutes.
So, when USMNT scored another goal through Anthony “Jedi” Robinson in less than half an hour in Monday’s match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in the Trinidadian capital, it seemed like the rest of the match would be a formality.
Dest set up Robinson with a inspired cross from the left, and a dove headed the ball past the Soca Warriors’ keeper Denzil Smith on the left side:
Berhalter highlighted, “Our aim centered on orchestrating a play between fullbacks, a tactic we routinely endorse.”
“We’ve seen Brenden Aaronson, Balogun, Riqui [Pepi] with many opportunities.
Thus, on the whole, I find satisfaction in this outcome. But I wish we had a bigger part of the game because it was more challenging after the red card.”
The American team was on course to advance in both the Copa and the CONCACAF Nations League final in March. Then, a moment of madness from Dest changed everything.
Dest is still visibly upset about what he believes was an unjust dismissal by Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez. Dest was furious when the assistant referee called a ball out of bounds as Dest was attempting to keep it in play.
Dest booted the ball into the Caribbean night in frustration. Lopez, it seems, cautioned him immediately.
But Dest continued talking to Lopez as his teammates tried to lead him away. Then, he said a few more things. Lopez showed a second yellow card 30 seconds later, then reached into his back pocket and showed Dest the red card.
The right-back from PSV Eindhoven, who initiated play in all four matches for the U.S. squad—
at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, then defected Tim Ream and goalkeeper Matt Turner signaled him to go to the dressing room, and he left the field in disgrace.
It was perhaps the most foolish sending-off in USMNT history and changed the complexion of the competition immediately. The home team needed only four minutes to take advantage of their numerical superiority, with Rion Mur getting them level just before halftime.
We initiated the game quite well, with everything unfolding seamlessly, but then an unfortunate incident occurred, plunging us into considerable adversity,” remarked Berhalter. He added that Dest apologized to his teammates at halftime.
Recognizing that success hinges on having every team member actively involved on the field is crucial for our progress.
Alvin Jones—whose six-year, 2-1 win in Kuva ended the Americans’ qualification for the 2018 World Cup—then put the home team ahead with a shot that got past Turner with the help of a deflection.
Dest won’t play in the Nations League semifinals in March now. Will Berhalter invite the 23-year-old to that camp in light of Monday’s transgression? Asked whether the ban would impact his decision, the coach suggested it wouldn’t.
Berhalter expressed, “I prefer to avoid this evolving into a spectacle of illusions.” “He is a young player.
He constitutes an excellent element within our team, constantly evolving and expanding his knowledge. He made a foolish mistake. He knows it. He extended his apologies to the team, and now we forge ahead.
American midfielder Yunus Musah won his 33rd American cap on Monday, setting a new program record for appearances by a player under 21.
Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and Christian Pulisic jointly held the prior record—a noteworthy association for the player from AC Milan. Musah is set to commemorate his 21st birthday in the coming weeks.
What Lies Ahead for the USMNT?
Monday’s game will be mostly successful but undoubtedly strange for the American team in 2023. The year started with uncertainty over Berhalter’s future as a coach after the World Cup drama involving Gio Reyna and his parents, both former national team players.
America defeated Mexico and Canada under interim coach B.J. Callaghan between those games. After those matches, Berhalter was reappointed as coach, replacing Callaghan.
Making a comeback to the coaching role in September, he guided the team through four exhibition matches—claiming victories over Ghana, Oman, and Uzbekistan, along with a 3-1 defeat to the four-time World Cup champions, Germany.
This month, before facing T and T in two legs, the U.S. played two T and T matches.
Finally, the U.S. advanced in both the Copa and the Nations League, completing the job.