United States men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter took the blame for Sunday's 1-0 defeat against Panama in World Cup qualifying.
Berhalter made the surprising decision to switch up his starting XI, and changed seven starters from Thursday's 2-0 home win over Jamaica.
The USMNT already faced early challenges, going into the game without Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Antonee Robinson and Weston McKennie before the head coach benched leaders Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams for the first half.
New features Gyasi Zardes, Kellyn Acosta, Tim Weah and Sebastian Lletget lead the attack in the starting line up, supported by regulars Paul Arriola and Yunus Musah.
Berhalter took into consideration Wednesday’s match against Costa Rica when making roster changes, but admitted his tactics backfired.
"Now it obviously doesn't look like the best choice," he said. "We know we're playing in extreme heat, extreme humidity, we're now traveling for 4 1/2 hours, and we know that we have another game on Wednesday and we wanted to rotate players. And if it doesn't work, then it's on me, and it's my responsibility, or our responsibility as a staff."
Before taking full blame, Berhalter added that there is “no one explanation” for the disappointing performance.
“It’s sports. It’s humans. There’s no one explanation for it,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We didn’t have that pop. We didn’t have the legs that we needed, and we suffered for it. We weren’t great in duels. Panama, we talked about being a very physical team, a very difficult team to break down, and that’s exactly what they were.”
This is the first time the American side has fallen to Panama in nine all-time qualifiers and the USMNT now stands in second place, behind North American rival Mexico.
"The good thing," Berhalter said, "is we're still in second place."
While their place in the World Cup seems secure at the moment, the United States must defeat Costa Rica midweek to maintain their spot among the top three.