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The USMNT, reeling from getting rocked by Colombia, braces for Brazil

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ORLANDO — Gregg Berhalter says his mission remains steady, even after a bruising and embarrassing defeat over the weekend and renewed calls from a furious fan base for his sacking.

The U.S. men’s national soccer team arranged two friendlies to prepare for Copa América. The first — a 5-1 stinker against Colombia on Saturday in Landover, Md. — did not go well. The second, against five-time world champion Brazil, comes Wednesday.

Nothing would quell Berhalter’s critics and refresh his team’s image like beating the Brazilians. But as he and his players have been saying all along this year, the outcome in friendlies and lesser tournaments are not as important as continuing to lay groundwork for this month’s Copa América and the 2026 World Cup.

“The natural tendency would be to say, ‘Okay, now it’s only about the result,’ but the reality is it’s a friendly game,” Berhalter said Tuesday. “We are preparing for a tournament. We have to be brave and we have to continue with our plan. Obviously, a lot of pressure from the outside after a 5-1 defeat at home, but again it’s about preparing this group for Copa América, which is the most important thing.”

Another heavy defeat would not sit well with anyone inside or outside the team, but Berhalter will ultimately be judged on how the Americans fare in Copa América, a South American competition with 108 years of history.

For the second time, the 16-team tournament will take place at U.S. venues and include six guest nations from Concacaf, which encompasses North and Central America and the Caribbean.

“It’s really focusing on the performance rather than the result,” Berhalter said of the Brazil clash. “It’s business as usual.”

For the sake of the team’s confidence, Berhalter’s bunch will need to display better business practices than Saturday, when it conceded two early goals, then fell apart in the last 15 minutes, resulting in the most lopsided defeat in eight years and the worst home loss since 2009.

“We just got back to work, got back into the lab,” said winger Tim Weah, who scored against Colombia. “And now we’re ready to try again.”

“Everybody has bad games or bad performances,” forward Brenden Aaronson said. “When you look at it, it might be the end of the world at moments, but it’s not, and we’re ready to bounce back.”

Because the Brazil game is not part of a consequential tournament, “it’s how we perform, no matter the outcome,” Weah said.

In other words, the Americans are not as concerned about the final score as showing marked improvement and lifting hope heading into Copa América, which will run from June 20 to July 14.

The U.S. team’s Group C opener is June 23 against Bolivia in Arlington, Tex., followed by Panama on June 27 in Atlanta and group favorite Uruguay on July 1 in Kansas City, Mo. Two teams will advance to the quarterfinals.

Failure to get past the group stage would surely jeopardize Berhalter’s job. Asked about job security Tuesday, he said, “I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that question. But what I would say is, we do see this as a building block. We see this group as a talented group, a group that’s able to do good things, and we want to use Copa América to show that.”

Even at its very best, the U.S. team would be hard-pressed to defeat Brazil, which has won 11 straight in the series since a U.S. upset in the 1998 Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals. Brazil’s overall advantage is 18-1-0 with a 41-12 goal differential.

The roster features three players from European champion Real Madrid — forwards Vinicius Júnior and Rodrygo and defender Éder Militão — Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos and FC Barcelona forward Raphinha.

“The message to the team is not chasing the result; [it’s] chasing a performance,” Berhalter said. “If we look after the game and we see 11 guys, 16 guys, performing at an eight-out-of-10 level, that will be enough. It’s about, how do we perform at our highest level against teams like this?”

Notes: Midfielder Tyler Adams, the 2022 World Cup captain, has been cleared to play up to 45 minutes after sitting out the Colombia match, Berhalter said. Adams has been recovering from back and fitness issues. …

Forward Josh Sargent (foot) remains unavailable but is “progressing well” in his effort to make the Copa América roster, Berhalter said. …

A crowd of more than 53,000 is expected at Camping World Stadium, which would set a state record for a U.S. men’s or women’s game.

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