Copa América: USA captain Pulisic ‘can’t accept’ ref’s calls

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — United States captain Christian Pulisic was clear in stating that he did not believe officiating was to blame for his team’s group-stage exit at Copa América, but he was baffled by the decisions made in Monday’s 1-0 loss to Uruguay at Arrowhead Stadium, a result that sealed the Americans’ fate.

“Honestly, I mean I saw things that I’ve never seen before right in front of my eyes today that I just I truly I can’t believe,” Pulisic told reporters. “It’s not why we lost; we’re not out of this tournament because of officiating.

“But really, I’ve just seen things that I just really — I mean I think everyone can just give admit I don’t know what I’m looking at. I don’t know what they’re calling. I don’t know what he’s — he gives no explanation. He’s doing things that I just can’t accept.”

Referee Kevin Ortega was seen on camera refusing to shake Pulisic’s hand following the final whistle after Pulisic appeared to first gesture something to him from a distance.

“He wouldn’t shake my hand. It’s normal — I mean, I guess.”

Uruguay defender Mathías Olivera scored the only goal of the game in the 66th minute. Olivera appeared to be in an offside position when the ball was flicked on, but a lengthy VAR review confirmed the goal without sending Ortega to the video monitor. Replays showed an indiscernible amount of overlap between Olivera’s body and the foot of USMNT defender Chris Richards, who ostensibly held the Uruguayan onside.

“It’s pretty crazy, really,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said of the call. “I don’t understand it. You know, I feel like I know the rule pretty well. I feel like we had the pictures that are showing how the rule could be interpreted and it’s an offside goal. It’s disappointing, it really is, but you know, that happens in football and we have to live with it, obviously.”

There were several controversial no calls throughout Monday’s match, but the oddest moment outside of the goal came in the 32nd minute, when Ortega pulled out a yellow card to issue to Richards. Uruguay went to play the free kick quickly, and, before fully extending his arm to raise the yellow card, Ortega raised his other arm to indicate a “play on” signal. Nahitan Nández was in behind on goal but scuffed his shot.

The game is typically held up when a yellow card is being issued so that the referee can record the booking. Several U.S. players argued with Ortega after the play. Adams said after the match it was the “first time I’d ever seen” an incident like that.

The 1-0 loss, combined with Panama’s 3-1 win over Bolívia in a simultaneous match, left the USMNT third in the group. It is the first time the U.S. has failed to advance from the group stage of a Copa America, Gold Cup or World Cup played on home soil. The U.S. will co-host the 2026 World Cup.