The U.S. national team drew 0-0 with Serbia in a friendly in San Diego, California on Sunday and Bruce Arena was encouraged by what he saw.
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Taking charge of the first game of his second spell in charge of the USMNT, Arena seemed pleased that the work he’d done with his players throughout the January training camp has been carried over into the game as Sebastian Lletget and Darlington Nagbe showed plenty of promise.
Speaking to the media following the match, Arena insisted that the result didn’t matter and he is already focusing on the World Cup qualifiers.
“Clearly we would have liked to win the game today. But for this time of the year I was encouraged by a number of performances by our team,” Arena said. “To be honest with you if we won 5-0 today or lost 5-0, I’m not sure it would change our world for March. These games are important, especially for our domestic players. But the games that are going to count are the ones in March. That’s where you can look at me and can get really critical.”
Playing against an under-strength Serbian side with the match being out of a FIFA window for international games, Arena also knows that a large chunk of the next squad he names for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama in March will consist of U.S. players from European clubs.
That will add plenty of quality to the players from Major League Soccer who made up the vast majority of his squad over the past four weeks of training.
Arena’s USMNT will play Jamaica in Chattanooga on Friday and he will be expecting a little more from his established players, especially in the final third as they spurned some good chances against Serbia on Sunday with Chris Pontius and Sacha Kljestan missing the best two chances for the U.S.
The start of Arena’s second spell in charge of the USMNT flew under the radars of most but there’s no doubting that some players from within MLS are ready to become starter in his team moving forward.