Gregg Berhalter on Mark McKenzie (above): “It’s absolutely disgusting, things like that. It has no place in sport.” (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Calling the racial abuse of U.S. international defender Mark McKenzie on social media “absolutely disgusting,” men’s national head coach Gregg Berhalter condemned and ripped into detractors of his player.

McKenzie endured a shaky start in the USMNT’s 3-2 win over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final Sunday. His error helped El Tri score the first goal only 71 seconds after kickoff.

“It’s absolutely disgusting, things like that,” Berhalter said on a Zoom media conference call. “It has no place in sport.

“The guys in our business professional sports you take enough criticism about performance. Guys having an off game and saying you’re not a good player or something like that. And to bring something like race into it is, is absolutely disgusting and out of bounds and has no place.”

Berhalter added that he has been following what has transpired in England about players who have gone through similar racial abuse.

“Now it hits closer to home,” he said. “We support Mark 100 percent.

“We don’t stand for any of that stuff. We have zero absolutely zero tolerance for things like that. I wish there was a way to hold people like that more accountable. People get on Twitter and get on Instagram, or whatever, and they get bold. They do things that they normally wouldn’t do in life. Show us a way to hold them more accountable because that has no place.”

Berhalter was encouraged by McKenzie’s ability to bounce back as the game wore on.

“I was a defender as well and I just know when you make a mistake,” he said. “Sometimes you want to just hide, and you have to keep going. He did that. … It wasn’t always pretty, but in the meantime, he made some huge plays in that game, stepped in front of guys it was isolated one v one against top level attackers and held his own.

“I spoke to the team about Mark and his performance yesterday and it was just really a brave performance, a relentless performance. He hung in there and just kept going, So we’re really proud of him and his effort.”