USMNT’s Gregg Berhalter defends team selection in Panama loss: ‘I don’t regret that lineup’

Gregg Berhalter says he does not regret his decision to rotate the team in Sunday’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Panama , saying that it was the performance, not the personnel, that doomed the U.S. on the day.

Berhalter has been criticized for making seven changes to the team that took down Jamaica last Thursday, including resting key players like Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi.

After the loss, Berhalter says he accepted responsibility for the decision to rotate, but he clarified on Tuesday that he was not willing to blame any of the players that stepped into the team in the defeat.

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“One thing I want to make completely clear is, when I took responsibility for the result the other day, it was not aimed at the choice of players because we believe in every single player in this squad, and I don’t regret at any moment playing that lineup,” Berhalter said.

“I regret more our performance, and some of the attacking adjustments we could have made in that game to be more mobile, to be moving more, but not personnel.

“When you look at Pepi, for example, he’s 18 years old and there’s a huge amount of expectation put on him — but there’s also been a huge workload put on him.

“Prior to this camp he’s played three 90 minute games in a week with Dallas. He played the Jamaica game, however long he played, and he was fatigued.

“So our idea is to protect an 18 year old player and give them some rest and help them recover and get him ready for another game.”

If the USMNT would have won in Panama, Berhalter’s team would have found itself in a very cozy position atop the Octagonal table.

But, with the defeat, the U.S. now finds itself back with the pack through five games as the Americans head into a pivotal clash with Costa Rica in Columbus on Wednesday.

The USMNT is still in second place, with eight points from five games, but it’s level with Panama, one point ahead of Canada and just two points ahead of Wednesday’s opponent Costa Rica

“We missed an opportunity to get, at minimum, a point in that game and that’s a regret for us,” Berhalter said. “Part of the idea was to get seven fresh guys on the field and make Panama pay, and we didn’t.”

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