Cote: Enough! Why U.S. should fire coach Gregg Berhalter after early exit from Copa America | Opinion

The more than 55,000 U.S. soccer fans at Arrowhead Stadium made themselves heard during the game Monday night and again as they departed — dispirited, angry or some combination — into the night.

“Fire Gregg!” was the chant, and American men’s coach Gregg Berhalter had to have heard it.

Now let’s hope the overseeing U.S. Soccer Federation heard it, too, and heeds it.

Berhalter has been the guy since 2018. A year ago, with seeming reluctance, they brought him back six months after letting his contract expire. That was the time for change but they didn’t. Now it’s obvious they had better.

The U.S. group-stage ouster from a Copa America tournament it is hosting came with Monday’s 1-0 loss to Uruguay in front of a decked-out home crowd in Middle America, Kansas City, Missouri. The early exit is a colossal defeat so big it should see Berhalter allowed to resign or be summarily fired.

“We’re bitterly disappointed,” Berhalter admitted. “We know that we’re capable of more, and this tournament, we didn’t show it.”

The coach who may have ultimately cost Berhalter his job, Uruguay’s own coach, Marcelo Bielsa, should be among candidates to replace him, if they will spend enough.

Berhalter’s progress with the most talented men’s roster in U.S. history has stalled and perhaps lapsed to reverse, and it is time for a change.

Former U.S. star turned Fox Sports analyst Alexi Lalas: “The knives are out and they should be. This is not good enough from Gregg Berhalter.”

U.S. defender Antonee Robinson: “The minimum expectation for us was that we get out of the group. And we didn’t.”

Not reaching the knockout stage is embarrassing because the Americans’ Group C was hardly a group of death. It was a gift. The U.S. and Uruguay should have sailed through, with Panama No. 43 in the latest FIFA World Ranking and Bolivia an awful 84th. (The U.S. is 11th and Uruguay 14th.)

Instead Uruguay and Panama go on and the U.S. deals with this dumpster fire.

Why is the U.S. flameout such a big deal? Let us count the ways.

Copa America is a huge tournament, likely fourth-biggest internationally after the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League — and the U.S. is hosting for only the second time (with the championship match July 14 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium).

And you could have argued going in that the U.S. might be third-favorite after Argentina and Brazil.

Beyond that, the timing was perfect for a big U.S. showing in Copa America to continue momentum from the 2022 World Cup, when the men’s team impressively reached the round of 16 in Qatar.

Global attention to soccer in America was elevated like never before last summer with megastar Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

And the U.S. hosting the 2026 World Cup along with Canada and Mexico was another reason to see Copa America as a springboard-opportunity for the America team to build momentum

The American men for decades have operated mostly in the shadows of the USWNT, a four-time winner in the Women’s World Cup. Now the American women are in transition, in a youth movement/rebuild.

That’s one more reason the men’s Copa America crash feels like an opportunity lost.

The U.S. women, by the way, spent more than ever on a new coach to lure Emma Hayes from England’s Chelsea.

The USSF must now to do the same for the men’s and spend what is needed to hire a proven coach able to take advantage of this talented roster ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

The men’s team should be poised to make its mark internationally, to finally and fully arrive on the global stage.

Christian Pulisic is coming off the best season of his career at AC Milan. Folarin Balogun has been a huge upgrade at striker. Giovanni Reyna is finally healthy. Weston McKennie had a really productive season with Juventus. Chris Richards elevated his game with Crystal Palace.

The talent is there, ready to be maximized by the just right coach.

It’s past time to go find him, and spend to get him.