In Bruce Arena’s first game back in the head coaching position, the United States Men’s National team took on the Serbian National team in a friendly at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA. In front of vocal crowd with an announced total of 20,079 people, Arena’s team of MLS based players faced a second place team in Group D of UEFA World Cup Qualifying. However, both teams were missing key pieces to the puzzle since the game did not fall on a FIFA date, meaning that players could not be released from their respective clubs.
The US team gained it’s composure relatively quickly, allowing for several forward presses early against the Serbian side. Familiarity between Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan was a great advantage and provided familiarity in a transition period for this team. Bradley filled in just in front of the backline orchestrating movement on and off the ball in true captain fashion. As expected for this new era, especially in the January friendly season, familiarity and structure take precedent over goal tallies. Building that bond is going to be vital for this team moving forward into the World Cup Qualifiers coming up in the next few months.
Arena used this friendly to his advantage in giving 3 players their first USMNT caps. Sebastian Lleget, Chris Pontius and Jorge Villafana each had their first appearance with the team today after subbing in during the second half. Lleget was a welcome addition right away, showing poise and controlling the midfield immediately, taking the place of his LA Galaxy teammate, Jermaine Jones.
While this game may not have been the exciting game that many soccer fans search for, it was an important game in building cohesiveness in Arena’s second era with the USMNT. The US will be playing against Honduras for World Cup Qualifying on March 24th in Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA, but have one more friendly to fine tune a few things before then.
Photos by ISI. Story by BJ Pergl.