Preview: USA – Bosnia & Herzegovina

A mostly MLS-based American squad will try to make history on Saturday evening, when they host Bosnia and Herzegovina in Carson, California in their final game of an exhilarating 2021 calendar year.

Gregg Berhalter’s squad has had, on paper, one of the most historically successful years for the USMNT, having won two regional trophies, and perhaps more satisfyingly, having beaten arch-rivals Mexico in three out of three meetings.

They can add another “first ever” distinction to a year of firsts on Saturday night, as they aim for a record-setting 17th win of the year on home turf against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The squad that will face The Dragons is for sure a very changed squad from the one that Berhalter has had at his disposal throughout World Cup qualifying, missing all of his European-based starters, and relying mostly upon talent pulled from MLS.

Some of his favorite holdovers are still present, however whether he chooses to trot out his five or six regulars and supplement them with new faces, or try an entirely experimental starting eleven for the sake of blooding new talent is yet to be seen.

Nevertheless, World Cup qualifying contributors such as Matt Turner, Kellyn Acosta, Chris Roldan, George Bello and Ricardo Pepi will certainly play some role on Saturday, whether it be from the get-go or as second-half reinforcements.

Beyond the chance to push for a new victory record, there will be much intrigue to possibly see how several members of the next generation for the USMNT, if that’s even a valid consideration for a young A-team squad that averaged 23.5 years in their recent win over Mexico, will fare in international competition.

Three players of note, who are expected to be stars of the junior squad that is beginning their push for the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia, are future RB Leipzig forward Caden Clark, phenom Chicago keeper Gabriel Slonina, and San Jose tank Cade Cowell.

All three were standouts in the recent Revolutions Cup, so their potential senior team debuts on Saturday will be closely watched.

The squad wasn’t totally devoid of Americans playing abroad, with Bayern’s Taylor Booth and Roma’s Bryan Reynolds both stepping away from their respective team’s final games before the Christmas break to join the camp. While neither of them currently has any place in their club teams, Saturday’s game could be an important opportunity for the two to be put on the shop window for a potential winter loan move.

Similarly, midfielder Johnny Cardoso made the trip from Brazil, where he plays for Internacional, to California for what should be his third cap for the senior team, after his club team ended their season one week ago.

The visitors also bring a team fully staffed with players from their domestic league, which entered its winter break a few days ago. Their usual starters were nowhere close to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, recently finishing fourth in their group, a full five points out of even reaching the tricky playoff for a spot.

They have twice faced the Americans before this weekend, losing a 4-3 contest at home in 2013, then forcing a 0-0 draw also at home five years later. They come into the game on a three-game winless streak, all in World Cup qualifying, and have last tasted victory in early-October against Kazakhstan.

The game is set to kick off at 5:15pm local, west-coast time on Saturday, in Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park.

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