Ahead of the U.S. men's national team friendly with Bosnia & Herzegovina this weekend (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET), Ryan O'Hanlon looks at the lessons learned and issues raised from the USMNT's performances in 2021 and casts ahead to give a sense of what this group needs to accomplish heading into the year of the World Cup.
What a weird year, huh? You can apply that to anything, of course, and the United States Men's National Team was no exception.
First, they scraped by Honduras at home in the semifinals of the Nations League, saved by a last-minute header from Jordan Pefok. Then they played Mexico toe-to-toe, came back multiple times, won 3-2 in extra time and got pelted by beers. Then their European stars all went home, but they won the Gold Cup anyway, beating Mexico in the final, again. And a full-strength Mexico, to boot: Napoli's Hirving Lozano, Ajax's Edson Alvarez, Atletico Madrid's Hector Herrera were all there!
It didn't seem to matter who was on the field. Gregg Berhalter's team were the kings of CONCACAF once again.
And then... World Cup qualifying started. A scoreless draw at El Salvador? Sure, any road point is a good point. A tie at home with Canada? Hey man, Alphonso Davies is the best player in North America. A 1-0 halftime deficit in Honduras? Anyone have Bruce Arena's phone number? And then, as we all remember, they rolled off four goals in the final 45 for a three-goal victory. That was followed by a dominant win against Jamaica, and all was well again.
Psych! Then they got dominated in Panama, losing, 1-0 and... OK, you probably get the pattern now. Next was an easy win over Costa Rica, then was a truly dominant dos-a-cero against Mexico, and then was a wet fart in Jamaica that ended 1-1, but probably should've been a loss.
When it comes to the U.S. men, the sky is always falling, the team is always rising -- all at the same time. With one friendly left against Bosnia to go in 2021, it's been a successful, if chaotic, year for the USMNT. So, it's time to look ahead: What do we want to see from the team in 2022?