USMNT overcomes Dest red card to book Copa America spot

ByABC News
November 20, 2023, 9:19 PM

The United States men's national soccer team earned a spot in the 2024 Copa America despite a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in the second leg of the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal on Monday in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The U.S. won the aggregate series 4-2 after a 3-0 victory in Austin, Texas, on Thursday. As a result, the Americans also advanced to the semifinals of the Nations League in March, a tournament in which the U.S. is the two-time defending champion.

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Antonee Robinson put the U.S. ahead in the 25th minute, before Trinidad and Tobago took advantage of Sergiño Dest's red card in the 39th to take over the match.

Fortunately for the U.S., it had enough of a cushion to withstand the ensuing onslaught because away goals mattered. Robinson's diving header for the lead meant Trinidad and Tobago had to defeat the U.S. by four goals to win the series.

The hosts tried.

Reon Moore tied it in the 43rd minute, and Alvin Jones ripped a 35-yard free kick in the 57th to make it interesting.

Dest, who assisted on Robinson's goal, was sent off after his inexplicable actions led to a pair of yellow cards within seconds after arguing with Guatemalan referee Walter López.

Dest was upset by an apparent non-call earlier, when he believed he was fouled. As play stopped, he punted the ball toward the stands for his first card. His teammates tried to restrain him, but he kept barking at the referee and was shown a second caution. Dest will now be suspended for the semifinal.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter brought in right back Joe Scally for Giovanni Reyna after the ejection to restore a four-man back line.

Berhalter inserted midfielder Luca de la Torre and forwards Brenden Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi in place of injured midfielder Weston McKennie and forwards Malik Tillman and Kevin Paredes at the start of the game.

The U.S. will host the Copa America, which will include 10 teams from CONMEBOL (South America) and six teams from Concacaf, from June 20 to July 14.

The U.S. and three other teams that advance to the Concacaf Nations League semifinals automatically qualify, while the quarterfinal losers, including Trinidad and Tobago, will have a play-in matches in March to determine the final two spots.

Earlier on Monday, organizers announced that Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will host the 2024 Copa America opener and the final will be played at South Florida's Hard Rock Stadium.

The U.S. finished the year with 11 wins, four losses and three draws, going 4-2 in the start of Berhalter's second term as coach.

Monday's match in largely empty Hasely Crawford Stadium was 34 years and one day after Paul Caligiuri's goal there lifted the U.S. to a 1-0 win and into its first World Cup in 40 years.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.