Cole Bassett's late goal in debut sends US past Bosnia 1-0

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Bosnia and Herzegovina defender Josip Corluka, center, heads the ball over United States defender Brooks Lennon, left, during the first half of an international friendly soccer match, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

CARSON, Calif. – Cole Bassett scored in the 89th minute of his U.S. national team debut and the Americans set a record for victories in a calendar year with a 1-0 exhibition win over 10-man Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday night.

Bassett, a 20-year-old midfielder for the Colorado Rapids, slammed home a rebound of a shot by 18-year-old Jonathan Gomez, the former Louisville City defender headed to Real Sociedad. Gomez had also just made his U.S. debut as a second-half substitute.

The newcomers teamed up for a goal that salvaged the Americans' 17th win of 2021, surpassing the team mark set in 2013.

Four Americans made their national team debuts as a U.S. player group consisting almost exclusively of domestic-based talent finished off its December camp. U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter staged the camp to keep his players fit for bigger competitions early next year while attempting to expand the breadth of his player pool.

The U.S. begins a string of three World Cup qualifiers Jan. 27 against El Salvador.

Bassett’s late goal enlivened a quiet night in the U.S. men’s first appearance since February 2020 at the LA Galaxy’s home stadium in the Los Angeles suburbs. The team is 13-2-3 with 11 shutouts at the venue, currently named Dignity Health Sports Park.

Berhalter has now given debuts to 53 players in his 44 games in charge. That’s the third-most newcomers to get a chance under any coach in U.S. history, and Berhalter did it in many fewer games than Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena.

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon started in the U.S. debut for the 24-year-old Arizona native. In the 78th minute, Bassett and 18-year-old defender Cade Cowell came on for their own U.S. debuts. Gomez came on in the 84th minute.

New England’s Henry Kessler also made his second appearance, while Internacional’s Johnny Cardoso made his third appearance. Roma defender Bryan Reynolds came on in the second half for his second career U.S. appearance.

This American lineup struggled to generate a consistent attack against a Bosnian team with eight starters making their first-ever international appearances.

Bosnia already has been eliminated from World Cup qualification, and this exhibition was not in a FIFA window, leaving its federation to field a team of inexperienced players from their top domestic league while international stars like Edin Džeko, Miralem Pjanić, Asmir Begović and Sead Kolašinac stayed in Europe.

U.S. midfielder Kellyn Acosta went down hard in the 40th minute after a hard challenge from behind by Bosnia's Amar Begić, who received a red card. Acosta returned to action after a short pause, while the 21-year-old Begić was furious to be tossed from the field in his international debut.

Jordan Morris looked sharp on several attacks early in the Seattle forward’s first U.S. appearance in more than two years, bolstering his chances of getting a roster spot for the next round of World Cup qualifiers. He tore a ligament in his left knee in February while on loan with Swansea, but returned to play in three matches for the Sounders.

Ricardo Pepi played the first 62 minutes in his seventh appearance for the U.S. since choosing his birth country over his parents’ native Mexico earlier this year.

Before the game, U.S. Soccer named Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic as its male player of the year and Pepi as its top young player. Pulisic became the youngest three-time winner of the award, joining Landon Donovan (four), Clint Dempsey and Kasey Keller in the three-timers club.


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