Arena’s First Game Back in Charge Will See USMNT Face Serbia
Bruce Arena’s second stint in charge of the United States men’s national team will kickoff next month with a friendly against Serbia at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.
The match will come at the tail end of the annual January camp held by U.S. coaches, usually in Southern California. Arena’s first competitive fixture back in charge of the Yanks will be a World Cup qualifier against Honduras on March 24.
While no venue for that match has officially been announced, reports indicate it will take place at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.
Another exhibition match is scheduled to take place on February 3, although no the location and opponent for that match have not yet been announced.
Nor has there yet been any announcement regarding the players Arena will call up for his January camp. His predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann, primarily used the January camp to look at U.S. based players, while Bob Bradley often used the camp to give new players a chance.
Arena has indicated he’s hoping to have Clint Dempsey back in time to take part. The Seattle Sounders forward, who is the second all-time leading scorer for the USMNT, has been sidelined since August with an irregular heartbeat.
However, the 33-year-old Dempsey returned to light jogging this month and looks on-track to be healthy at least in time for the kickoff of the 2017 MLS season in March.
The match against Serbia will mark the first time the two countries have ever faced one another, although the U.S. lost to Serbia’s predecessor Yugoslavia at the 1998 World Cup.
Two games into the Hexagonal round of qualifying for the World Cup sees the U.S. sitting last in the standings after losing their opening two games to Mexico and Costa Rica.
Those losses prompted the dismissal of Klinsmann, although it had been coming for some time. Arena must use his January camp to restore some confidence and put together a cohesive team capable of getting the results needed to turn things around and qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.