The way its final match of 2021 was shaping up, the best the U.S. national team could have probably hoped for was a one-goal win. It eventually materialized in the final minute.
It took a host of second-half changes by manager Gregg Berhalter, who picked the right substitutes to help secure a milestone result: the USA’s 17th win of 2021 — the most in any calendar year.
It was fitting that those late additions combined for the decisive goal against a Bosnia-Herzegovina team reduced to 10 men and defending for a 0-0 result. New right back Bryan Reynolds delivered the cross, Gyasi Zardes chased down the ball in the box, Jonathan Gomez sent the shot on goal and Cole Bassett cleaned up the rebound (highlights below).
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“They brought a spark, they brought energy and we were around the ball a lot more and were able to follow up,” USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner said of the players who came off the bench. “Great goal. You can take them how you can get them.”
Berhalter predicted it would be a tough game against Bosnia-Herzegovina’s third team, and the chances weren’t many. They dwindled even further after a 40th-minute red card sent the Bosnians into a shell. But the match still offered up plenty of takeaways when it came to the performance of individual players, many of whom are hoping they did enough to earn another call-up in January (and preferably a second for World Cup qualifying after training camp).
Matt Turner (6.5): He was tested more often than expected in this match, mainly when the teams were 11-on-11. But he made each save look easy even when they weren’t. His ninth shutout in 2021 (in 13 matches) set the record in a calendar year previously held by Kasey Keller.
George Bello (5.5): The teenage left back was defending on the back foot for most of the night, but he was effective in making recoveries. He wasn’t aggressive in attack either and was rarely a threat.
Henry Kessler (6): The left center back was busy and he came up with some key plays. He mainly played it safe and several of his defensive interventions were clearances and pokeaways, though he also had a couple of line-breaking passes from the back.
Walker Zimmerman (6.5): A standard performance for the USMNT captain featuring timely defensive plays, duel dominance (lost just four of 15 per FotMob), aerial prowess (8 of 9 aerials won), but just one attacking set-piece danger.
Brooks Lennon (6): Made some decent contributions in attack during the first half, attacking the inside right channel when he pushed up. He also tracked back on defense. But the same energy wasn’t there to start the second half and he was subbed off on the hour mark.
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Jonny Cardoso (5): He can float the odd pass forward, but Cardoso (below) could never really help give the USMNT midfield a rhythm. Everything was slow, passes were rolled, balls were floated and he was dispossessed on a couple of plays. There was no edge to his game in his hour on the field.
Cristian Roldan (5.5): Nothing to write home about for the Sounder, who didn’t turn in his typical energetic, omnipresent performance. He couldn’t really impact the game, and his best moments came in the first half on combinations with club teammate Jordan Morris when they played on the same side of the field.
Kellyn Acosta (6): He was the most influential midfielder on the night. Acosta often got on the ball and went out of his way to join the attack in the first half. He faded in the second half, as did the rest of the team despite going up a man after the red card that Acosta drew.
Jordan Morris (6.5): With the midfield struggling to create, Morris (below) was often the catalyst or the target of U.S. attacks in the first half. He had clear ideas, his runs were strong, his crosses were dangerous and he took on defenders. All that was missing was the goal, which nearly came on a first-half diving header.
Jesus Ferreira (5): He was anonymous for large stretches, his decision-making and execution wasn’t the best (73 percent on his passes), and several of his passes were off the mark. He couldn’t find the match and it never found him. Outside of one dangerous end-line run, the wide attacker position didn’t look to suit him.
Ricardo Pepi (5.5): The FC Dallas striker really didn’t leave a mark in his 62 minutes, but he was also starved for service. The consensus is that he should have done better with his one big chance in the 15th minute, but it was tougher to redirect than it looked.
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Bryan Reynolds (6): He had a couple of flashes in his half-hour on the field and showed an urgency in those moments. The USMNT needed his direct approach as he sent a few crosses into the box, including the one that eventually resulted in the goal.
Jackson Yueill (5): The match didn’t really go through him after he came on. He didn’t have a chance to exert much of an influence on proceedings.
Gyasi Zardes (5.5): He experienced the same general issues that Pepi did. Credit to him for never giving up on the ball and winning it in the box on the U.S. goal.
Cade Cowell (5.5): It looked like his international debut. He was caught unaware in one moment and was overeager on a pass in another. Against an opponent down to 10 men, we never saw his speed in open space. Definitely needs more reps.
Cole Bassett (6): It was a quiet debut from the Rapids’ promising youngster up until the 89th-minute goal, but it was notable for the fact that he was aggressive and crashed the box whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Jonathan Gomez (6): He definitely didn’t look wide-eyed in his debut. Came into the match as a left back but was around the box to take the shot on goal that Bassett put home.