There was only one thing on the mind of head coach Gregg Berhalter as the United States prepared to host Bosnia & Herzegovina at Dignity Health Sports Park, and that was to end 2021 on a positive note with a victory.
Berhalter used a 4-3-3 formation in Saturday’s game as Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner started in goal. In front of him was the backline quartet of Brooks Lennon, Walker Zimmerman, Revolution defender Henry Kessler, and George Bello. Saturday’s international friendly was Kessler’s first start. The midfield was composed of USMNT regulars in Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan alongside Internacional midfielder Johnny Cardoso. Up top featured the FC Dallas duo of Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreria alongside a returning Jordan Morris.
Saturday also saw the return of Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris to the USMNT. Morris has been working back from a torn ACL in his left knee while on loan with Swansea in February and is adamant about reclaiming his spot in the USMNT lineup.
Saturday’s friendly was historic on an individual and team level. Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner ended the match with nine clean sheets, which broke the record for most clean sheets in a calendar year set by Kasey Keller (2005). Kellyn Acosta also became the first player since 1994 to earn 21 caps in a calendar year while Gregg Berhalter led the U.S. to its 17th win and set the record for the most wins in a calendar year.
Morris looked to get the U.S. offense rolling in the 6th minute as he drove up the right side of the pitch and sent a cross into the Bosnian box. Bosnia & Herzegovina headed the ball away from danger, but it was not enough as George Bello recovered the ball inside the box. Bello would pass it back to Kellyn Acosta, who teed up a shot wide left of goal and out for a goal kick.
MLS and US Soccer Young Player of the Year Ricardo Pepi had a golden opportunity to put the US up 1-0 in the 14th minute as he found himself right in front of the net with a Jordan Morris low cross approaching. Somehow, Pepi whiffed as the ball skipped by him on what could have been an easy tap-in.
Kessler was not afraid to show his defensive strength in the 20th minute as he withstood the pressure on him and the ball inside the defensive end of the pitch. Kessler worked away from the Bosnia & Herzegovina pressure and cleared the ball downfield and away from danger.
Kessler also displayed great defensive intelligence in the 28th after clearing the ball out of the box as he had to shift to his left to cover for Bello, who slipped on the pitch.
The United States defense was called upon in the 30th minute as Bosnia & Herzegovina had pushed their way into the box. Walker Zimmerman acted as a wall as two shots would ricochet off the Nashville defender.
Bosnia & Herzegovina tried to test Matt Turner as they rebounded the second blocked shot and sent a shot at the net. It never challenged Turner as the Park Ridge, New Jersey native got a hold on the ball and ended the threat.
Bosnia & Herzegovina midfielder Amar Begić was sent off in the 40th minute after a rough tackle on Acosta. Luckily for Acosta, he got up and continued playing after receiving treatment from the medical staff.
Although the scoreline did not reflect it, it was a good opening 45 minutes for the United States as they put themselves in opportunities to score while maintaining a strong and effective defense against a young and hungry Bosnia & Herzegovina squad.
Things got nervy for the defense in the 59th minute as Bosnia & Herzegovina took advantage of a Brooks Lennon turnover as Selmir Pidro broke free and drove down the left side of the pitch. Pidro sent a dangerous cross into the box as Jovo Lukić squared up on the ball as it descended.
Luckily for the U.S., Lukić was unable to get on the ball as it rolled out of play.
A trio of substitutions came for the U.S. in the 61st minute as Gyasi Zardes, Bryan Reynolds, and Jackson Yueill replaced Pepi, Lennon, and Cardoso.
Zimmerman received a yellow card in the 68th minute after retaliating against Marijan Ćavar after Ćavar wrapped himself around Zimmerman and took him down. Ferreira received a yellow just moments later as he fouled Hrvoje Barišić.
Two more substitutions came for the US in the 78th minute as Cade Cowell and Cole Bassett replaced Ferreira and Morris. The final substitution came in the 84th minute as Jonathan Gómez replaced Bello.
As the game was nearing the end of regular time, the U.S. went into full desperation mode as the offense looked for any manner to get the ball into the back of the net and break the deadlock. Gómez found himself atop the box as he ripped a shot on net.
Belmin Dizdarević was all over Gómez’s shot as he got his hands onto it but could not get a hold on it as he coughed it up into the box. Bassett was at the right place at the right time as he got onto the ball and slotted it to the right side of the net, past Dizdarević, and into the back of the net!
After a successful calendar year that included trophies and triumphant victories, Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT ended 2021 on a good note as they secured a 1-0 win. The focus now shifts onto the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers that resume at the end of January and into February as the U.S. looks to return to the World Cup.