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“We move on”: How the USMNT checked the box against Bolivia in the Copa America

A few key themes emerged as Gregg Berhalter's team took care of business in their group stage opener.

6 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

ARLINGTON, Texas — Sitting under a literal spotlight during his postgame press conference in the bowels of AT&T Stadium, Gregg Berhalter bristled at the notion that his team left something on the table in their Copa America opener against Bolivia.

“I guess there will be an angle…that says, ‘OK, you should’ve scored more goals, you should’ve created more chances.’ But it’s a ninety-minute game,” Berhalter said, with frustration evident in his tone. “And over the course of the ninety-minute game, we created enough chances. We denied enough chances. We’re happy with the result. We move on. We’re focused on Panama and we go from there.”

The USMNT cruised to a 2-0 win on Sunday to open the group stage — Christian Pulisic scored a lovely goal in the third minute and the U.S. never looked back. 

Were they especially clinical inside the box? No, as Ricardo Pepi’s missed chances in the second half illustrated. And did they move the ball into the box often enough to dazzle? Maybe not. But the United States did more than enough to collect all three points against an overmatched Bolivia team. 

For Berhalter and his team, a win against Bolivia was just that: a win. 

After the match, the overwhelming message from U.S. players was their immediate shift in focus to Thursday’s clash with Panama. In Berhalter’s words, “we move on”. Even setting aside the fact that tight turnaround times between games necessitate quick changes of focus, it’s hard to blame the USMNT for wanting to zero-in on their next group stage match. Clashes like this one against Bolivia aren’t the ones that will ultimately define this era for the United States. 

They’re boxes to be checked and small hurdles not to trip over. 

While Panama will cede possession to the U.S. as Bolivia did, they will pose a distinct test. There will be more intensity. There will be more desperation from Panama after they failed to earn even a point against Uruguay in their group stage opener. There will be more attacking forays from Los Canaleros, too.

So, then, games like this one against Bolivia aren’t defining ones. They’re the ones that will allow the U.S. to get to the games that really will define this era. With their 2024 Copa America debut in the books, the USMNT are one step closer to playing those games this summer.

It’s unlikely that a slew of themes will carry over from the United States’ matchup with Bolivia into the rest of the tournament. Undoubtedly, though, a few familiar ones will pop up. Let's dive into a trio of notable trends worth watching in Atlanta, Kansas City, and beyond.

Set piece details

If there’s been one unifying thread for the USMNT over the last week-and-change, it’s been their threat on set pieces. Pulisic has scored a goal from a dead ball situation in both of the team’s last two games.

There was this direct free kick in their 1-1 friendly draw with Brazil:

And against Bolivia, there was this stunner:

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