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U.S. Men's National Team eliminated in Kansas City

Copa America Soccer United States Uruguay
Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 01, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The United States was eliminated from the Copa America with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay on a Mathías Olivera's questionable second-half goal on Monday night, a defeat that will increase pressure on the U.S. Soccer Federation to remove coach Gregg Berhalter before the 2026 World Cup.

Uruguay scored in the 66th minute when Nicolas De La Cruz swung a free kick in front of the U.S. goal. Matt Turner parried a header by Ronald Araújo, who outjumped defender Tim Ream, but the rebound went right to Mathias Olivera and he tapped the ball in with his left foot.

Olivera appeared to be offside on the initial header but the goal stood after a video review.

Using a lineup of players entirely from European clubs, Berhalter and the U.S. hoped to show the team had advanced since its round-of-16 elimination against the Netherlands at the 2026 World Cup. Instead, the U.S. opened with a 2-0 loss to lowly Bolivia and were upset 2-1 by Panama.

Three minutes before Uruguay scored, the U.S. was in position to advance when Bruno Miranda tied the score for Bolivia against Panama in a game that started simultaneously in Orlando, Florida. But Panama went on to a 3-1 victory and claimed the second spot in Group C behind Uruguay.

Berhalter was rehired in June 2023 and given a contract through the 2026, which the U.S. will co-host with Canada and Mexico. But despite a lineup that included Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, the U.S. failed to even match its last Copa America appearance, when it lost to Argentina in the 2016 quarterfinals.

The U.S. next plays September friendlies against Canada and New Zealand.

Uruguay played without coach Marcelo Biesla, suspended for sending his team out late for the second half of its first two games. Diego Reyes and Pablo Quiroga were in charge on a mild but humid night in Kansas City.

Berhalter and the Americans knew their situation was dire — Pulisic at one point said they would need to play “the best game of our lives” to advance — and they looked like a team with nothing to lose for most of the first half.

It was one marked by physical play and questionable calls.

Folarin Balogun, who had two goals already in the tournament, bore the brunt of several challenges. He was left calling for help after a collision with Uruguayan goalkeeper Sergio Rochet, then was left rolling on the field after Araújo’s challenge later in the half. Balogun eventually had to leave with a hip pointer and Ricardo Pepi took his place.

Uruguay lost Maximilliano Araújo earlier in the half after a scary collision with Ream near the U.S. goal. He had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, though he was able to move his arms before heading up the tunnel.

In the middle of the chaos was 32-year-old Peruvian referee Kevin Ortega, who made several questionable calls that hurt the U.S.

The first came when Ortega began to pull a yellow card and stop play, then allowed it to continue — while still holding the card — as Uruguay nearly scored on an attack. The second came when the U.S. had a clear advantage after a hand ball on Uruguay, but the Peruvian referee eventually blew his whistle and called the play back for a free kick.

Uruguay started to apply more pressure midway through the second half, then had the Americans in desperation mode after Olivera found the back of the net. And while the U.S. had a few good runs, and a couple of good opportunities in the box, a team that had such big expectations was unable to find the two goals it needed — or even one.