The recent 3-1 win over Jamaica in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals may be the least ceremonious win in USMNT history. An uninspired squad trailed after one minute following a defensive lapse on a well-worked throw-in. Demanding an equalizer, the United States failed to generate a considerable number of chances that tested Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake. Only an own goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time saved the Americans. Haji Wright then scored twice in the added 30 minutes on two assists from Gio Reyna to send the Americans into the Nations League Final against Mexico.

In several ways, the result against Jamaica jogged memories of everything that is frustrating about Gregg Berhalter. Supporters point to the dominating possession and general lack of chances from the Jamaicans. Much like Manchester City, for example, the opposition cannot score if they do not have the ball. The only issue is that Manchester City is dangerous with the ball. The United States did not show any sort of creativity in the final third. Not only did Jamaica have more expected-goals than the United States. Berhalter looked devoid of any tactical change to spark momentum.

In one of the more concerning moments of the second half, commentators on Paramount+ noted Tyler Adams motioned to the bench, signaling confusion in the on-field tactics. With five minutes of stoppage time, the United States resorted to the long ball, as any team would. In the end, the talent of the United States surpassed that of Jamaica. A fortunate break with the last touch of the regular 90 let the United States back into the game. Haji Wright, who was not on Berhalter’s original 23-man squad for the Nations League, scored on either side of the two extra time intervals.

Mexico is the ultimate test for USMNT and Berhalter

With the Copa America just three games away now, the United States is rapidly losing time to figure out what is effective. Maybe step one is dealing with tactics, and that comes from the manager. Gregg Berhalter has not been one to show that his tactical work can put the United States in positions to win. At the World Cup, Louis van Gaal bested Berhalter, but that was always going to be a tough task for the Americans. The talent was an issue against the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay.

The talent should not be an issue against Jamaica. Yet, struggling against lesser teams is a familiar spot for Berhalter in competitive games. A loss against Slovenia in a friendly came after a loss against Trinidad and Tobago in the Nations League quarterfinals. The United States would have struggled in the 2023 Nations League if it were a talent issue. Instead, BJ Callaghan led the team to a 3-0 win over Mexico and a 2-0 win over Canada while Berhalter was out of a job. Each of those results was a comfortable triumph.

That must be the expectation for Berhalter on Sunday. A win over Mexico is more than just an expectation. Mexico is beginning to find its footing again after failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup. Mexico dumped an inferior Panama with a 3-0 scoreline. Despite the managerial turnover for El Tri, Mexico is a major threat.

Candidly, many people would have said Berhalter had no place with the USMNT after the exit from the World Cup. Berhalter has regularly struggled against top opposition, but it cannot be the case against weaker teams. Mexico has always been the test of success for the United States. That speaks now more than ever with Gregg Berhalter.