The Bruce Arena Era is back on with the U.S. Men’s National Team, but the second-term boss has his work cut out for him.
The USMNT earned a 0-0 draw against Serbia on Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, however, both sides struggled to create opportunities in the final third and the hosts still hold many questions regarding their lineup heading into March’s resumption of World Cup qualifying.
While both sides recorded a combined four shots on target, Arena did get a solid look at several players that impressed on the day. Sunday was a day of firsts for several players in the U.S. ranks making their debuts with the senior team, while Jozy Altidore earned his 100th cap for the Stars and Stripes.
Second-half substitute Juan Agudelo carried the ball into the penalty area with just minutes remaining before Chris Pontius pulled his effort just wide of net.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando wasn’t tested often on the afternoon but the Real Salt Lake shot-stopper came up big in the 89th minute with a close-range save on Lazar Jovanovic.
The U.S. nearly took the lead in the 25th minute when the hosts pushed a counterattack deep into the Serbia end but Jermaine Jones’ final pass into the center of the penalty area couldn’t pick out another American player.
Darlington Nagbe, who really shined on the afternoon, had a quality chance of his own four minutes later but the Portland Timbers attacker couldn’t bend his shot enough and his effort missed just wide to the right.
Nagbe had an almost identical chance to pick out the corner seven minutes before halftime, but the Timbers man once again curled his shot wide of Serbia goalkeeper Filip Manojlovic.
Arena made just one change at halftime as LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget came on to replaced his new teammate Jones. Sunday marked Lletget’s first senior cap for the USMNT.
The USMNT boss could potentially use Lletget or another player in a holding midfield role come March when the U.S. takes on Honduras with Jones suspended.
The U.S. was fortunate to avoid a sending off in the 57th minute when Sacha Kljestan lunged in on Marko Gobeljic with two feet. The New York Red Bulls attacker was shown a yellow card, however, it could’ve just as easily been red.
Lletget nearly linked up with Kljestan just minutes later when he picked out the head of the New York Red Bulls attacker, but Kljestan’s nodded effort just missed to the right post.
Arena opted to go to his bench late in the match, with Jorge Villafana and Chris Pontius two more players in the USMNT system to made their first appearance on Sunday.
The U.S. will take the field again on Friday when Arena’s squad faces Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tennessee.Follow @MattReedFutbol