New England Soccer Today

U.S. Opens 2017 With Lackluster Scoreless Draw

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The U.S. Men’s National Team played Serbia to a dull scoreless draw on Sunday in San Diego, California in Bruce Arena’s return as head coach. The USA brought back Arena on November 22, 2016 to right the ship after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying to conclude 2016 brought an end to Jurgen Klinsmann’s reign as head.  Sunday marked Arena’s first game as skipper of the USA squad since the 2006 World Cup.

Arena’s second stint as head coach began with a bit of disappointment as they drew a Serbian team with virtually no international experience.  The US team didn’t have some big names with them including Christian Pulisic, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Fabian Johnson who were all unavailable due to injury or club commitments.  But the lack of an international break gave some other players–mostly based in MLS–an opportunity to shine.

The players that stood out in this match were Darlington Nagbe, Sacha Klejistan, Jordan Morris and Sebastian Lletget.  Nagbe drew six fouls, had multiple shots (none on target) and combined well with whoever was playing around him.

Klejistan had some early nerves with his free kicks being low and he received the USA’s lone yellow card in the match,  but he also was looking to make backheel passes and held the ball up well. Eventually his confidence came out and he put on an impressive show with his ability to play to people’s feet.

Morris came on as a late sub for Altidore, who had a decent game.  But Morris took advantage of his minutes with several shots and made runs behind that Altidore wasn’t making. Morris may have earned more time up top in the next match.

Lletget came on as a substitute in the second half and worked well alongside Nagbe.  His crosses were crisp and he made the right decisions for passing.  He proved a very solid substitute for Jermaine Jones who must miss the next qualifier due to suspension.

The players who need work to stay in the starting 11 against Jamaica on Friday are Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi. He made challenges where he should, but he also let his man get behind him five times in the first half.  He was bailed out by offside calls where he was the last man and hung left back Greg Garza out to dry.

Bedoya was overly aggressive and conceded multiple unnecessary fouls with the defenders’ backs to goal.  He also was out of position on several crosses and was late on his runs into the box.  He was replaced by Chris Pontius who only had a few minutes to show what he had.

Overall this match was lackluster from the US.  They had at least six scoring chances and didn’t manage to put anything with pace on target.  The early focus for Arena has to be shoring up the defense, but you’re not going to qualify for the World Cup without scoring goals.

Streeter’s verdict: I rate this a C+ game from the US, and expect more from them on Friday against Jamaica.

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