National Writer: Charles Boehm

USMNT boost confidence with Brazil draw: "We're ready for Copa América"

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In the stinging aftermath of Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Colombia, his squad suddenly beset with criticism and doubt on the eve of Copa América, their weightiest test on the road to World Cup 2026, Gregg Berhalter made two requests of the US men’s national team before they took the field against big, bad Brazil before a bumper crowd of 60,016 at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium Wednesday night.

“We asked for teamwork and intensity,” Berhalter said postgame.

“And the way we framed it is, two things that are totally in their control, right? It doesn't matter about the opponent, doesn't matter about the field or the fans or anything, those are two things that they can control. And that's the type of effort that we saw today. The boys certainly delivered on that.”

The result was a vibrant, entertaining 1-1 draw against the five-time World Cup champions, snapping the USMNT’s 11-game losing skid vs. the Seleção and securing just the second positive result against Brazil in 20 all-time meetings (1W-18L-1D).

Bounceback performance

The Yanks balanced discipline and spirit, rebounding from an early, self-inflicted wound that handed their guests a straightforward goal via Rodrygo to draw level on a Christian Pulisic free-kick strike. They would keep the favorites at bay down the stretch, New England Revolution alum Matt Turner making a personal-record 11 saves to preserve the deadlock – but this was no bus-parking exercise, with Liverpool’s Alisson Becker forced into a few sterling stops of his own, most notably on a big chance for Pulisic.

“We obviously wanted to put a lot right we did wrong the other night and we knew that it was going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of intensity, and just sticking together,” veteran defender and former New York Red Bull Tim Ream told TNT’s postgame show after yet another vintage display that belied his 36 years of age.

“That was the big message, stick together and come with intensity; for the majority of that game, I think we did that. Obviously we had to show a different side, defending a little bit more than we'd like. But that's a world-class team, and to come away with building on from the very first minute and creating a lot of chances ourselves, overall, I think we can be pretty happy.”

Confidence for Copa América

In the bigger picture, this was a timely salve for the weekend’s wounds and a far more encouraging transition into this summer’s tournament than most observers could have imagined before kickoff.

“We feel like we made a little step. It's not a huge step, but it's a little step, to be able to play against an amazingly talented Brazil team and bend but not break, and I think give them problems as well, push them as well,” said Berhalter, who made just two changes to the XI trotted out vs. Colombia. “We think it's a good end to our preparation camp and we're ready for Copa América.”

Notably, and perhaps encouragingly for USMNT supporters, the mood seemed positive but not euphoric after the final whistle. This was no participation trophy scenario, with players and coach alike quick to note the errors and imperfections that are likely to be punished more severely in the Copa, which kicks off against Bolivia at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on June 23.

None were more galling than the multifold breakdown that led to Brazil’s goal, which started with Turner under-hitting a long ball after a buildup out of the back turned stagnant, leading to a turnover and rapid transition on which several of his teammates, including Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, did him no favors.

“There's still really small things that we need to fix, and that goal is a perfect example. We targeted the wrong spot. We're way too open, you don't kick balls into those areas, you leave yourself too exposed,” said Berhalter. “I think we lost the ball too easily at times when we can keep it, so with that stuff, we got to get better and we got to keep moving and fixing.

“It was disappointing, obviously, when the goal went in, because you started thinking ‘Oh, here we go again, first 20 minutes of the game, we give up a goal.’ But it was a great response from the guys and those are the things that really build the team and get the team with a great mindset, knowing they came back.”

Turner, Scally stand out

There were individual successes as well.

Turner recovered from his early mistake to post the most saves by any USMNTer since Tim Howard’s legendary outing vs. Belgium in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16. Joe Scally looked to have consolidated his hold on the right back position with a dogged, dialed-in defensive outing vs. Real Madrid dangerman Vinicius Júnior and a few other Brazilians who tested his resilience. Pulisic again showed his taste for the big moment, producing a game-changing strike after a quiet outing on Saturday.

Crucially, a steely, rugged mentality was evident which had gone missing the last time out, and which remains central to any hopes of the Yanks making waves against Conmebol’s elite.

“There was a lot of talk amongst the players ourselves. And I think at the end of the day, tactics don't matter, whoever’s out there shouldn't ever matter. It's about representing something bigger than yourself,” said Turner. “When you put on this crest, there's a certain level of expectation and we need to know that friendly or not, it doesn't matter, you're the USA, and you're going to play in Copa América and you're going to play against South American teams that don't like you very much and want to prove a point.

“So we have to have a certain level of intensity every single time we step out onto the pitch that we lacked in the Colombia game, but we had tonight.”