MILESTONE YEAR: USMNT Reflections on a Memorable 2021 Campaign

Young USMNT’s success in 2021 goes far beyond just lifting two trophies
Young USMNT’s success in 2021 goes far beyond just lifting two trophies

When U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter took the reins of the program in 2018, he began with a mission statement, a challenge, and a golden opportunity all wrapped into one: 
 
To change the way the world views American soccer. 
 
With the project nearly three years off the ground, the picture emerging from 2021 is certainly making the soccer community see things a little differently. 

Win(ing) Record 

Utilizing the youngest talent pool in generations, the USMNT has amassed a 16-2-3 record in 2021. The total number of victories equals the high mark set by the team in 2013, and with one more match on the schedule - Dec. 18 vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina - this emerging group has the chance to make U.S. Soccer history. 
 

One Rival, Two Rosters, Two Titles

Two of those victories were earned in tournament finals and both in stunning fashion.  
 
Facing its archrivals and perennial nemesis Mexico twice on the championship stage, the young USMNT deployed two almost completely different rosters and achieved the same result.  
 
Utilizing a stable of European club-based talent, the U.S. first captured the inaugural Concacaf Nations League after twice coming from behind to defeat Mexico 3-2 in a match at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver that required 30 minutes of extra time, to determine a winner.  
Switching to a domestic club-based lineup, the USMNT once again emerged victorious and was crowned champion of the Concacaf Gold Cup for the seventh time after defeating El Tri 1-0 in extra time on Miles Robinson’s 117th-minute header before a sold-out crowd of 61,514 fans at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.  

Rising in the Rankings 


Those victories propelled the USMNT to the top 10 in the FIFA World Rankings for the first time since 2006. With two trophies in hand, the U.S. made a double-digit rise in the August rankings, reaching 10th position. Currently No. 12 in the world, the United States is guaranteed to finish as the highest-ranked team in Concacaf for the first time since 2013. 

Travelling the Road to the World Cup

 
Of course, the view of the program can only truly change if the U.S. qualifies for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Through eight matches of the Concacaf 14-game final round Octagonal, the team is traveling the right road. Compiling a 4-1-3 record, the USA holds second place in the standings. The top three teams earn an automatic berth to Qatar in November 2022.  
 
At 22 years, 61 days, the USMNT Starting XI on Oct. 13 against Costa Rica was the youngest ever fielded during World Cup Qualifying

Remarkably, the USMNT has achieved this place utilizing a group largely inexperienced in World Cup Qualifying. In addition to 26 players already earning their first appearance in a World Cup Qualifier, Berhalter has twice sent out starting lineups that were the youngest ever for the United States in a qualifier. 

 

The average age of the USMNT Starting XI through 21 matches this year comes in at 23 years, 345 days. The USMNT lineup averaged 24 years or younger in 19 of those contests.

 

Average Age of 2021 USMNT Starting XI

Starting XI Average Age

Games

22

2

23

11

24

6

25

2

Youngest Starting XI

Oldest Starting XI

22 years, 61 days – Oct. 13 vs. Costa Rica

25 years, 361 days – July 11 vs. Haiti

 

  

 

Goals, Goals, Goals…


21 games played, 21 different goal scorers. If that’s not remarkable enough, the 45 goals piled in by USMNT attackers is tied for second-most in a calendar year. Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget lead the tallies with four each. Six different defenders added their name to a scoresheet, while 13 players scored multiple times overall. 

KEEPING IT CLEAN

 

On the defending end, the rule is the stingier the better, and the collective efforts of the USMNT in keeping the ball out of the back of our net have been impressive. Eleven of the USA’s matches this year have ended with a zero in the goals against column, leading to an overall goals-against average of 0.56.

 

The 11 shutouts equal the second most in in team history, with one opportunity remaining against Bosnia to move into a tie for first all-time (12 in 1993 and 2005).  

 

Additionally, the USMNT has conceded just 12 goals this year, the best mark in a year where the team has played 20 or more matches.   

 

Collecting Championships 

This young group of players isn’t just performing on the international stage; they are challenging for and winning trophies with some of the top clubs in the top leagues in Europe. During the past year, a total of 10 players added to their championship collection while putting U.S. names in the history books abroad. 

 

Brenden Aaronson did the double, winning the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup. Zack Steffen also won two trophies with Manchester City, backstopping the club to the English League Cup and becoming the first USMNT player to win the Premier League. 

 

Sergiño Dest (Barcelona) lifted the Copa del Rey in Spain, while Weston McKennie (Juventus) in Italy along with Gio Reyna (Dortmund) in Germany and Mark McKenzie (Genk) in Belgium also won their respective domestic cup competitions.

 

Tim Weah is a French league champion with Lille, his club winning the Ligue 1 title for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. Ethan Horvath and Club Brugge were league winners for the second season running, and Jordan Pefok helped Young Boys to the top of the Swiss league table for the fourth consecutive year. 

 

 

 

BERHALTER FASTEST USMNT COACH TO 30 WINS

 

Adding to the significance of the USA’s 2-0 win against Mexico on Nov. 12 in Cincinnati, the victory marked Gregg Berhalter’s 30th as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, making him the fastest USMNT head coach to achieve that benchmark.

 

Named head coach on December 2, 2018, Berhater is now tied with Bora Milutinovic for fourth on the USMNT’s all-time wins list. 

 

  

USMNT Coaches Fastest to 30 Wins

Coach

Games to 30 Wins

Overall Record

Gregg Berhalter

42

30-7-6

Bob Bradley

47

43-25-12

Jurgen Klinsmann

49

55-27-16

Bruce Arena

58

81-32-35

Bora Milutinovic

94

30-35-31


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