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Turner on USMNT critics: Don’t lose sight of result

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ATLANTA — United States goalkeeper Matt Turner said on Tuesday that no team should be taken lightly at the 2024 Copa América and dismissed the premise that winning isn’t good enough anymore for the USMNT.

Turner was responding to suggestions that the team needs to win in style or by more lopsided scores against lower-ranked opponents following a 2-0 victory over Bolívia to open the Copa on Sunday.

“No, we’ll never have that luxury,” Turner said in a press conference on Tuesday. “I think you take wins when you get wins, no matter the context. You take the result — especially in tournament play, is the end all be all. I implore people to not lose sight of that.”

The U.S. won in Arlington, Texas, on Monday behind an early goal from captain Christian Pulisic and a tally from Folarin Balogun before half-time, leaving the Americans level on points with Uruguay atop Group C after one matchday.

“I think any time you can win a game in an important, worldwide competition, a big-time tournament, it’s good for the program, it’s good for us,” Turner said. “Obviously, we wish we did some things better, but that’s what tournaments are about. You want to improve and get better throughout the tournament and keep growing as a team, and a bond and a culture.

“As much as we could have done things a little bit differently, at the end of the day, we got a clean sheet, we scored two goals and we won. Going into this next match, we know we might have to be a little bit better if we want to win that game as well.”

The U.S. faces Concacaf foe Panama on Thursday in Atlanta in the second group-stage match for each team. A victory could clinch a spot in the knockout round of the Copa America for Gregg Berhalter’s side ahead of next week’s group-stage finale against Uruguay.

Panama defeated the U.S. in a penalty shootout in the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal last year.

“They bring man-to-man pressure,” Turner said of Panama. “They’re a team that has a lot of really talented players and athletes. It’s to be expected — a physical game, really competitive.”

USMNT forward Tim Weah said the team isn’t thinking about whether Panama will try to play a more open game or turn to more physical tactics, instead focusing on themselves.

“We don’t know which Panama team we’re going to get,” Weah told reporters. “We’re just going to come out 100% and not take anything for granted, put all our cards on the table, and make sure we execute.”

The USMNT is the favorite in Thursday’s match despite last year’s Gold Cup result, particularly with the game on home soil. A large crowd is expected at the 70,000-plus-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, just a few miles away from the presidential debate taking place that night.

Turner stressed caution that no opponent should be overlooked, especially in tournaments. He referenced Austria‘s victory over the Netherlands at Euro 2024, which took place moments before Turner spoke, as an example of how unpredictable tournaments can be.

“You just have to take care of what’s in front of you,” Turner said. “I think the most important thing is just building off of what you just did. The teams that can continuously get better throughout tournament… we have that baseline of what it takes to win a game in this tournament, and now we need to one-up it against a different opponent.”

Berhalter has emphasized similar points recently, saying on Friday ahead of the team’s opener that he wants the U.S. to be adaptable in this tournament based on the demands of a given game. That characteristic, he said, is shared by the world’s best teams.

The U.S. coach reiterated that following his team’s victory on Saturday, but he also emphasized the importance of winning games and called the victory over Bolivia “comprehensive,” while explicitly rejecting the idea that the U.S. should have scored more goals against a Bolivia team that had not won outside of home soil in nine years.

Still, there was room for improvement. While the USMNT was perhaps unlucky not to have added more goals against Bolivia, the back line gave the ball away frequently. The team impressed in a 1-1 draw with Brazil in the Americans’ final tune-up game before Copa América, four days after a humbling 5-1 defeat to Colombia.

Either of those teams could be an opponent in the quarterfinals if the USMNT should advance. Turner said on Tuesday that the U.S. could be “more opportunistic” in front goal, while reflecting on the win over Bolivia. He also said that the team could take care of the ball better in possession.

“We talked about being more expansive and playing more free flowing, attacking, and at the same time that comes with risks on counter-attacks and giveaways and where we are,” Turner said. “I think we learned that lesson in a pretty harsh way in the Colombia game.”

The focus now is on Panama, one of the USMNT’s most frequent historical opponents. The Americans hold a 17-3-6 record against their rivals.

“We’re honestly just sticking to the plan,” Weah said. “We’ve had this gameplan since day one. We stay true, we’re intentional with the way that we play. We’re a team now that understands each other, and I think we’re starting to see that a lot more as we’re getting into these other games and as we’re getting older as a group.

“I think it’s just a beautiful thing to see us growing as a unit, as a family. We’re starting to show it on the field. We just have to continue positive performances.”

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