The United States was minutes away from letting a pitch invader at Dignity Health Sports Park be the only one to score a goal during Saturday’s international friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Cole Bassett saved the Americans from what would have been a drab ending to the year.
The Colorado Rapids midfielder scored the game-winning goal in his national team debut, powering the United States to a 1-0 win with his 89th-minute score.
Bassett’s late score secured the United States’ record-setting 17th win of the year. The Americans tied their team record with their 12th shutout of the year, which came against a team that played the entire second half with 10 men after Begic Amar earned a straight red card in the 40th minute for smashing Kellyn Acosta’s ankle on a tackle.
The disqualification was “the worst thing that happened” to the United States, coach Gregg Berhalter said as it sent Bosnia and Herzegovina into a compact shell. The resulting game was dull, but Bassett, 20, poked the ball into the net off a rebound to finish the match with a flurry and make his case for future national team selections.
“I’ve dreamed about this my whole life to play for the national team,” said Bassett, who cited the United States’ run to the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup as his inspiration. “From then on, I’ve kind of become really obsessed with trying to make it here and for me to finally be here and to score in this moment on my debut it’s something special.”
Bassett’s dream debut along with the return of several key veterans who are vying for spots in January’s World Cup qualifiers exemplified the team’s objectives for its winter camp where young players got their feet wet and veterans tried to regain old form.
The training session fell outside of a FIFA International fixture date, leaving many players unavailable for selection. The roster relied heavily on MLS players in their offseasons. Two players — 18-year-old Jonathan Gomez and 17-year-old Kobi Henry — made history as the first players to earn senior national team call-ups directly from USL Championship teams.
Gomez made an impact almost immediately after coming off the bench in the 84th minute. It was his late shot that was saved to set up Bassett’s goal off the rebound.
Berhalter acknowledged that some of the fresh faces might not have been ready for prime time. But with a desire to expand the player pool, the coach was pleased with how the young players held their own during training.
On the other end of the roster were veterans trying to get back into the conversation for the January window. Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris earned the start in his first national team appearance in two years and played 79 minutes.
Morris is 10 months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while on loan with Swansea City A.F.C. It was his second ACL injury in four years after he suffered a left knee injury in February 2018.
The 27-year-old proved he could bounce back from the injury once. In 2019, he scored 13 MLS goals with eight assists. He was named the league’s comeback player of the year.
His second redemption campaign is still young. He made three appearances for the Sounders this season. Before Bassett’s goal, Morris had the best U.S. chance as his diving header from a yard out in the 31st minute was saved off the line by Bosnian goalkeeper Cetkovic Nikola.
“You know the thing about Jordan is he’s got a fantastic mindset,” Berhalter said. “He really pushed hard this year to get to the point of getting called back in, and I’m excited to see what he can do in January. Hopefully, it ends up being with the qualifying team, but we’ll see.”
Morris and former Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes are two veterans hoping to earn January call-ups. Zardes, who played 27 minutes off the bench Saturday, suffered a sprained knee in October that forced him to miss the national team’s World Cup qualifying matches in November.
But the competition heading into a World Cup year will be tight. If his goal wasn’t enough of a resume-booster, Bassett doubled down on his intention to break into the lineup after the match.
“This upcoming year you know within the national team I want to be in this January camp,” he said. “A lot of people would say that’s it’s going to be pretty tough for me but I think throughout my career I’ve always been kind of one that’s kind of went under the radar.”