FIFA World Cup: USMNT Caps Memorable, Productive 2021 with One Last Late Winner

The USA Football World Cup team has its marvels on fortifying a return ticket to the FIFA World Cup, but first, a more tentative set of players with varying individual outlooks put an appropriate cap on the year.

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For six confused and challenging months, the USA Football World Cup team played games of value finals and qualifiers contested in filled stadiums or hostile environments that offered a shot at a regional title, or priceless progress on the road to the FIFA World Cup. 

Then originated Saturday night. In an infrequent and relatively quiet December friendly that served as an anticlimactic conclusion to a memorable year and a bond to what’s expected to be another one, the USA Football World Cup team barely but properly defeated 10-man Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1–0, at the LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park.

USA Football World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter’s squad was carried almost entirely with MLS players looking to stay fit during the internal offseason, while 61st-ranked Bosnia brought a collection of Premier Liga hopefuls and started eight international debutants. Cole Bassett, the 20-year-old Colorado Rapids midfielder, made his international debut as a second-half substitute and scored the only goal on an 89th-minute rally.

Played outside a FIFA World Cup test break, this was not a game of concern. And it showed. Atmosphere and accuracy were lacking and the pace was regularly flagged. But there was a chance the match would resonate in the record book and, more importantly, when FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying restarts at the end of January. That was reason enough to play it. And if you’re going to play, you may as well try to win. To know more about FIFA World Cup Tickets click here.

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So Berhalter fetched about as strong a lineup as he could, deploying qualifying regulars like Matt Turner, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan, and Ricardo Pepi against the diffident Bosnian XI. He also sent Seattle Sounders star Jordan Morris back onto the field in a USA Football World Cup team jersey for the first time in two years.

Getting Morris closer to FIFA World Cup fitness as he returns from ACL surgery was, by itself, another good reason to play this month. He went 77 minutes and was bullied on several occasions in the first half.

Saturday’s victory was the USA Football World Cup team’s 17th this year (17-2-3). That set a new program record, breaking the mark recognized in 2013. For just about everyone but Bassett, the satisfaction that accompanies that achievement will last a lot longer than memories of the night it was attained. 

The Americans can be pleased, but new challenges are coming quickly and this match was more about setting the phase. The USA Football World Cup team is in second place (4-1-3) in Concacaf qualifying Octagonal, only one point out of first but also just one above fourth, which would mean a winner-take-all, one-game playoff next June in Qatar against a team from Oceania.

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By the time the Americans face El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras Jan. 27-Feb. 2, Berhalter’s MLS liable would have been dormant for months. He had to build that bridge. So there was a two-week camp in Southern California punctuated by Saturday’s game, and there will be two more weeks of training before the FIFA World Cup window officially opens next month.

But while absorbed on fitness against Bosnia, the USA Football World Cup team appeared to forget about finishing. The match nearly hinged on the Americans’ incapacity to convert their chances, especially in the first half.

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