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Berhalter: Defensive woes cost U.S. vs. Germany

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Berhalter: Defensive woes cost U.S. vs. Germany

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HARTFORD, Conn. – United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter said Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Germany came down to “some fine moments” and that defensively his side’s organization, “let us down a bit.”

The U.S. broke on top in the game in the 27th minute thanks to a 25-yard wonder strike from Christian Pulisic. But Germany was still very much in the game, having earlier hit the post through Pascal Gross in the 11th minute and later creating a pair of clear chances for Niclas Füllkrug, only to be denied by U.S. keeper Matt Turner.

Player ratings: Pulisic earns 7/10 as U.S. defense struggles
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The four-time World Cup winner soon showed its quality, equalizing through Ilkay Gündogan in the 39th minute, when he cleaned up a rebound from Turner’ touch as he attempted to stop Leroy Sané‘s run. The visitors then created some separation from the U.S. in the second half, with Füllkrug and Jamal Musiala scoring in a three-minute span starting in the 58th minute.

“It’s really these fine moments, these split seconds where you need to be well positioned, not open up any gaps in your backline and that’s where it went wrong,” Berhalter said.

“And in one case, tracking runners going through, keeping the organization of [the back] four and three in front of the four that it’s very difficult to break through. So we lacked that in those moments. But Germany’s a good team and they’re going to open teams up. They’re going to create [good] scoring opportunities because of the quality that they have on the field.”

The U.S. attack did have some dangerous moments in the first half, especially with Tim Weah breaking down the right wing, while Pulisic had another goal ruled out for offside as well as a penalty appeal turned down.

“The first half especially, I thought we were really good,” Berhalter added. “And then it came down to some moments. I think the goals were conceded a little bit too easily, but overall happy with the effort of the team, happy with the mindset and the intentions of the team.”

Berhalter added he was “overall pleased with that good learning experience to the group and we know we need to get better if we want to win.”

The match also marked the first appearance for attacker Gio Reyna under Berhalter since the U.S. manager was rehired last June and since the the pair endured a public falling out following the 2022 World Cup.

The bad blood stemmed from Berhalter’s handling of Reyna at the tournament, Reyna’s poor response to a reduced role in which he was nearly sent home, Berhalter’s role in disclosing the incident and the subsequent disclosure of a decades-old domestic violence allegation to U.S. Soccer by Reyna’s mother, Danielle.

Berhalter was rehired by the USSF in June following an investigation, but with Reyna suffering an injury in the final of the Concacaf Nations League against Canada in June, Saturday’s match was the first opportunity for player and coach to resume their professional relationship.

Reyna played the first half and was substituted at halftime, which was the plan given the player has only seen 26 minutes of official playing time with club side Borussia Dortmund this season.

“We thought 45 [minutes] was a perfect dose for him and we wanted to give him the opportunity to get the 45 from the beginning,” Berhalter said. “And I think he played a good game, showed his quality. I think everyone in the first half played well and so it was good to see and good to have him on the field.”

The U.S. will now try to regroup ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Ghana in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It’s also about controlling the tempo of the game, and that’s what we really need to learn and we cost so much energy also with our own counter attacks that then it’s hard to really stay consistent in all of your actions, your defensive shape,” Berhalter said.

“And so that’s again, to me that’s a learning experience. The games against opponents like this can’t be that open. It needs to be tighter.”

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