USMNT loses to Uruguay, crashes out of Copa América

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. men’s national team crashed out of the 2024 Copa América here on Monday after losing a full-blooded fight.

It squared up to Uruguay, Group C’s most powerful puncher. For an hour, it neutralized one of the Copa’s most impressive contenders thus far. It endured bruising physical duels. In moments, it looked capable of winning.

What it needed, though, was to score.

Over 90 tense and frantic minutes here at Arrowhead Stadium, it never did.

Instead, it conceded a controversial second-half goal to Uruguay’s Mathías Olivera — which appeared to be offside, but was confirmed by a video review — and lost 1-0.

Panama, playing simultaneously, beat Bolivia 3-1, leaving the Americans in a distant third place and eliminated.

At the final whistle, some players sunk to the ground; others keeled over at the waist; others just stood there, defeated and dumbfounded.

In the end, though, it was their previous match that cost them. They arrived in Kansas City wounded and reeling, beaten by Panama and pushed to the brink in Group C. A week ago, it appeared so simple; suddenly, failure lurked in the bowels of Arrowhead, ready to pounce if the U.S. couldn’t beat Uruguay, a flyweight giant of the sport.

“We have to go and play the best game of our lives,” Christian Pulisic said Thursday.

On the eve of the Uruguay showdown, he amended that statement; it was hyperbolic; “maybe I was a bit emotional,” he said. But the size of the task and the stakes were clear. “We have to play a really strong game,” Pulisic said.

Thirty hours later, they tried.

In some respects, they did.

But Uruguay was stronger. Uruguay is stronger. Uruguay was the team that grew into Monday’s game in the second half and forced the U.S. to fade. Uruguay was the team less perturbed by the physicality.

The first half was forceful and occasionally unhinged. Crunching tackles floored several players. Two — Uruguay’s Maxi Araujo and U.S. striker Folarin Balogun — exited with injuries after scary collisions.

It was also littered with sketchy refereeing. On one occasion, official Kevin Ortega whistled for a foul on U.S. defender Chris Richards, and whipped out a yellow card — then tucked it away to allow Uruguay to play advantage. The resulting chance nearly yielded an opening goal, but Tim Ream scrambled back to clear.

The U.S., in general, matched Uruguay’s intensity — which was no easy feat. The Americans were better for the opening 30 minutes, a minor victory on its own given the strength of Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguayan team.

But, as has been the case far too often under head coach Gregg Berhalter, they couldn’t find a goal. They created just 0.3 Expected Goals to Uruguay’s 1.3.

“I mean, we had a good start and brought a lot of energy,” Pulisic said postgame, “but at the end of the day, just not enough quality. I felt like we gave it everything, but we just couldn’t find the solutions to score.”

Once Panama scored in the 22nd minute against Bolivia in Group C’s other match, the U.S. had to conjure some quality; it had to create something.

For a few brief second-half minutes, Bolivia gave the USMNT life. The Bolivians equalized against Panama. Had both games ended in a draw, the U.S. would have snuck through to the knockout rounds on goal differential.

But less than a minute after Bolivia’s goal was confirmed by a video review, the U.S. conceded on a set piece.

Panama later scored a second to go back ahead, and then a third.

Uruguay maintained control, saw out its 1-0 win, and sent U.S. players trudging toward their locker room to confront failure, toward Copa América exits.

They trudged, crestfallen, shattered, despondent, earlier than anyone expected. Many had been asked in the preceding weeks about expectations and benchmarks for the Copa; external assumptions were that a quarterfinal berth would be acceptable and a semifinal successful, but some players went further: Why not try to win it?

Few seemed to even consider a group-stage flop. It was so far beneath the USMNT’s apparently inflated sense of self. And it would so clearly constitute colossal disappointment.

But it happened, and now all eyes will turn to what happens next. They’ll turn to U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker, and to Berhalter. A majority of fans and pundits now seem to agree that he should be fired. Will he be? If so, who will replace him? And if not, how will he and the USMNT respond?

A mostly-under-23 team will head to the Paris Olympics later this month. But for the full USMNT, the next 18 months will be relatively barren. There will be monotonous, low-profile friendlies. There will be tiresome regional competitions.

This Copa America failure will hang over all of them, because this was the tournament that was supposed to elevate the program; this was its stepping stone toward the 2026 World Cup in North America. Instead, the U.S. will enter 2026 with approximately zero evidence that it can hang with the elite of international soccer and contend.

Here’s how the match played out in real-time:

LIVE COVERAGE IS OVER72 updates

  • Full-time: United States 0-1 Uruguay

    The USMNT has officially been eliminated from the Copa América. Uruguay wins Group C and Panama finishes second.

  • 90′ 6 minutes of extra time added

  • 89′ Substitutions

    Uruguay subs in Luis Suarez for Darwin Nunez andSebastian Caceres for Manuel Ugarte. Gregg Berhalter replaces Tim Ream with Malik Tillman.

  • 79′ Substitution

    Haji Wright replaces Joe Scally for USMNT.

  • Official attendance at Arrowhead Stadium: 55,460

  • 72′ Substitution

    Gregg Berhalter subs in Josh Sargent for Yunus Musah.

  • GOAL CONFIRMED

  • 66′ Uruguay scores but it’s being reviewed!

    Mathías Olivera heads in a rebound and Uruguay takes the lead, but a review is underway

  • BOLIVIA HAS SCORED, THE U.S. SITS 2ND IN THE GROUP

  • Uruguay beginning to impose itself on the game

    A few “nearly” moments for La Celeste early in this second half. They’ve established themselves as the better team here. U.S. needs to keep up (and, ya know, find a goal)

  • 50′ Matias Vina’s header goes wide

  • Back underway…

    With more scrums and full-blooded challenges.

    Weston McKennie creates the first half-chance of the second half for himself, but skies it way over the bar from 20 yards away, off balance.

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