USMNT unravels against Colombia in ‘unacceptable, disappointing’ loss

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With Copa América two weeks away and the World Cup two years away, Gregg Berhalter has much more on his mind than the outcome of a friendly for the U.S. men’s national soccer team.

But on a day his squad aimed to show improvement and maturity against elite competition — and position itself to make international strides in the weeks and years to come — Berhalter witnessed a bad start and a calamitous finish during a 5-1 defeat to Colombia on Saturday at Commanders Field.

The most-lopsided U.S. defeat in 7½ years — since Jurgen Klinsmann was fired after a 4-0 blasting at Costa Rica in November 2016 — did not sit well with Berhalter or his players.

“We’re not framing it as a lesson learned,” said Berhalter, who is about a year into his second term. “We’re actually framing it as a wake-up call. Really poor performance against a top team, and if you give a team like that the opportunities we gave them, you’re going to have no chance to win. It’s never going to happen.”

Jhon Arias scored in the sixth minute and Rafael Santos Borré added an acrobatic goal in the 19th before U.S. winger Tim Weah answered 12 minutes into the second half.

“And then the game went to pieces,” Berhalter said. “From the 75th minute on, it was a lack of respect for our opponent [and] the game of soccer.”

Substitutes Richard Ríos, Jorge Carrascal and Luis Sinisterra sealed the outcome with goals in a 12-minute rush as the Colombians extended their unbeaten streak against the United States to 6-0-2.

They have not lost in 28 months, a 22-game span featuring victories over Spain, Brazil and Germany and a 3-0-3 record in 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Much of the announced crowd of 55,494 was dressed in Colombian yellow and celebrated from start to finish.

“We were nowhere near the level of what we need to play if we want to win games coming into Copa América,” U.S. star Christian Pulisic said.

“Unacceptable, disappointing,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “It’s frustrating because we knew what we were getting into and then we didn’t take care of our business. There’s a way to lose, and that is definitely not the way.”

“We were doing things we don’t normally do,” left back Antonee Robinson said.

It does not get any easier for the Americans, who will continue Copa América preparations Wednesday against five-time world champion Brazil in Orlando.

The tournament opener is June 23 against Bolivia in Arlington, Tex., followed by Group C matches against Panama on June 27 in Atlanta and Uruguay on July 1 in Kansas City, Mo.

Because Copa América is the biggest test before the United States co-hosts the 2026 World Cup, anything short of a top-two finish in group play and the accompanying quarterfinal berth would increase the heat on Berhalter and the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Berhalter had nearly everyone available Saturday, except right back Sergiño Dest (knee) and striker Josh Sargent (foot), as the U.S. team aimed to defeat a European or South American titan for the first time in nine years.

Instead, they conceded five goals for the first time in 15 years and showed glaring vulnerability before a major tournament.

“I just felt like they were waiting for us to make a mistake and then just kill us in transition,” said Pulisic, who departed at halftime as Berhalter manages his playing time before Copa América. “And that’s just what happened over and over again.”

The problems started when Robinson made an unnecessary stab on James Rodríguez’s piercing pass, leaving it unattended in the penalty area.

Arias got to the ball before Gio Reyna and Tim Ream, took one touch, then lashed a quick-released six-yard bid over Turner’s left shoulder and into the top near corner.

Colombia doubled its lead with a moment of brilliance.

Arias crossed from the right. On the second aerial challenge, Jefferson Lerma beat Joe Scally and Johnny Cardoso to the header. It dropped on the back side to Borré, who, with his back to the goal, used outstanding technique in falling backward and stinging a six-yard overhead shot past Turner.

The Americans pulled within a goal on a 10-pass possession that began with Turner and ended with Weah’s eight-yard angled shot for his sixth international goal. From a central position, Weah supplied Folarin Balogun on the right side, then continued to make his run and met Balogun’s well-weighted pass for a one-timer.

Turner kept it close with a diving save on Rodríguez’s 64th-minute effort. But 13 minutes later, Cardoso lost the ball in midfield. Initially, as Colombia pushed up field, he stayed with Ríos. But he was drawn to the ball on the flank, leaving Ríos glaringly open in the heart of the penalty area for a one-timer.

“Our whole idea was the space has got to be small,” Berhalter said. “If you make the space big, you’re in trouble. And you saw that as soon as we opened up, it was lights out.”

Two additional goals turned a hard defeat into an embarrassing laugher.

“We take responsibility as a coaching staff, for sure,” Berhalter said. “We can put this on the players, but it’s our job to prepare them with a game plan. And then it’s about execution. This game will help us understand that when we don’t do the things we’re supposed to do, we’ll get hurt really quickly.”

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