Moment of truth for USA's Copa hopes in Uruguay clash

US coach Gregg Berhalter has faced calls to resign after his team's shaky Copa America campaign (Hector Vivas)
US coach Gregg Berhalter has faced calls to resign after his team's shaky Copa America campaign (Hector Vivas)

Christian Pulisic says the United States will need to deliver the "game of our lives" against Uruguay on Monday to avoid a disastrous early exit from the Copa America.

US hopes of launching a deep run into the tournament are hanging by the slenderest of threads after an ill-disciplined 2-1 loss to Panama on Thursday.

That shock defeat -- which followed a confident 2-0 opening win over Bolivia -- means coach Gregg Berhalter's side will almost certainly have to obtain a positive result against Uruguay to have any chance of progressing from Group C.

Pulisic is under no illusions about the size of the task facing the tournament hosts, with early form suggesting Uruguay are one of the favourites for the title.

"We have to represent our country with passion and pride," Pulisic said.

"We have to go and play the best game of our lives, and that's it. We want to go, we want to win, and we want to continue in this competition."

US defender Antonee Robinson, meanwhile, said Saturday that the squad knows Monday's game could be the team's last.

"If we're looking at it realistically, there's a chance that this is our last game in the tournament," the Fulham fullback said.

"It's definitely going to come down to a massive effort from the team. We're going to definitely have to be on our 'A' game.

"So there's no reason to hold anything back."

Midfielder Tyler Adams, meanwhile, said the squad would draw on their experience from the 2022 World Cup, when they faced Iran in a must-win final group game.

"It's a good experience to have in our back pocket -- going into the Iran game we knew what we needed to do and accomplished that goal," Adams said.

"It's a similar situation now obviously. But we're confident that when we have 11 players on the field we can go toe-to-toe with everybody."

While the short-term goal is victory over Uruguay to ensure safe passage to the quarter-finals, the long-term consequences of a first-round exit could be acute for US coach Berhalter.

The 50-year-old remains deeply unpopular amongst sections of US soccer's fan base, with critics often accusing him of failing to make the most out of a talented generation of players led by the likes of Pulisic, Folarin Balogun and Timothy Weah.

Berhalter was asked after the Panama loss whether he believed his job would be at risk if the US failed to go past the group stage.

"That's not for me to determine," Berhalter said.

Pundits, though, have been less circumspect.

Former US international defender Alexi Lalas said Berhalter's job would "rightly" be in jeopardy if the Americans don't reach the last eight.

"If they do not go through, Gregg Berhalter is going to lose his job, and rightfully and fairly so," Lalas said.

"But this is a situation that this team, including Gregg Berhalter, have created for themselves. Now find a way to get out of it."