Gregg Berhalter isn't taking the United States' World Cup qualifying campaign lightly, admitting to "unfinished business" to attend to in 2022.
The Stars and Stripes have made a strong start with just one defeat and 15 points from eight games, sitting second only to Canada, who are the last remaining unbeaten team in the region. A six-point gap separates them from Costa Rica in fifth, below the Playoff spot.
The USMNT beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in a friendly on Saturday night with Cole Bassett grabbing a debut goal in the 89th minute. Though the match featured an experimental group of players, it rounded off a year in which Berhalter's men picked up 17 wins from 22 games - a USMNT record - losing just twice and scoring 46 goals.
This should all set up the US nicely to resume qualifying in the new year.
“It’s clearly unfinished business,” Berhalter said after Saturday night’s 1-0 win (via Front Row Soccer). “We’re not there yet. We know [we have] six games [to] go. We take one game at a time. Our goal is to qualify, and we do that by a good performance and then on to the next game. That’s all we can do.
"It’s been a great year. I can’t thank the players enough for everything they’ve given us as a staff. But now it’s time to really get it done in 2022.”
Reflecting on 2021, he continued: “Winning the Nations League gave the group confidence. And then to win the Gold Cup, I think it really started to send a message across Concacaf. And then it’s a good start … to qualify. We’re not there yet, but we’re in a good position now to continue on.”
With Saturday's match falling outside FIFA's international window, many of the biggest stars of US soccer such as Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie were unavailable to play. Instead, a young group made up mostly of MLS talent took to the field.
That's been a theme throughout 2021, with the USMNT winning the Gold Cup with a similarly MLS-heavy side. Berhalter has certainly enjoyed connecting with and coaching such a wide variety of players.
“It’s been a great year, working with so many different groups in the Gold Cup, Nations League qualifiers, friendlies,” he said. “We’ve had to adapt, we’ve had to teach on the fly, working with about 50 players, and that’s been fun. But overall, we’ve learned a ton from World Cup qualifying. I think we’re positioned well to finish it off in January, then March.”
Next up for the USMNT are World Cup qualifiers against El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras a the end of January.