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USMNT 0 Serbia 0: Bruce Arena Era Begins With a Head Scratching Performance

USMNT Serbia Michael Bradley
SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 29: Michael Bradley #4 of United States tries to get the ball over Nemenja Miletic #3 of Serbia during the International Soccer Friendly match between the United States and Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium on January 29, 2017 in San Diego, California. The match ended in a 0-0 tie.(Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

The Bruce Arena era has started off with a…tie! The USMNT trotted out to a flat and dull 0-0 tie with Serbia at Qualcomm stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It was to be expected as both teams fielded mostly second choice players due to the date of the game. This is not a FIFA recognized play date, so players from bigger clubs did not release their players nor did the respective federations ask them to.

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It was a frustrating day as a spectator since neither team found rhythm during the game. Both teams had moments of playing well, but overall the game was a sloppy one.

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What Worked:

Defensively Chad Marshall and Steve Birnbaum were an adequate pairing, with the latter committing a few unnecessary fouls in the first half. Marshall was the better of the two and that is not a good sign for Birnbaum if he wants to continue to see caps on the USMNT. Darlington Nagbe had himself a very good game in the midfield. Despite playing off to the left hand side, Nagbe found himself in dangerous positions and nearly scored twice in the first half.

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Sebastian Lletget and Benny Feilhaber came off the bench in the second half and immediately the level of play for the USMNT picked up. Lletget is a true two footed player who provides great link up from the back line to the forward line and also excels at one-on-one play. Feilhaber is a leader of the midfield and is very creative in the final third on top of being a set piece specialist. Both showed that they should be in contention for a starting spot.


What Didn’t Work:

Jozy Altidore. Need I say more? Young Jordan Morris came off the bench to provide more in 15 minutes than Altidore did all game. Altidore picked up his 100th cap in the process.

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However, does a one-striker system really compliment a player like Altidore who draws so much attention when he gets the ball? Alejandro Bedoya was uninvolved for most of the game. This is in part due to his lack of movement on the wing as well as a penchant for the center midfielders holding the ball too long.

Speaking of the midfielders, the whole Michael Bradley – Jermaine Jones midfield combination is simply not working anymore. There was a time when both were able to interchange nicely going forward and coming back. However, Jones tends to linger going forward and Bradley seems content to hang out in front of the back line. On top of this, both players tend to hold on to the ball a bit too long and because of this, the wide players suffer since they are not getting proper service.

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Areas of Improvement:

Where can we get better, since the USMNT fan base seems to think the sky is falling? The outside defenders have always seemed to be a conundrum since Jurgen Klinsmann took over the team. With no consistent selections for the team, it is confusing how our outside backs are supposed to play. Do we want them free roaming and attacking up the wings? Or are we wanting them to stay back, hold our shape and mostly shut down the other teams wing players? This is an area where Arena may offer improvement since his former team the LA Galaxy were known for having attacking outside defenders.

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The midfield formation. Reverse the two “holding midfielders” and one “attacking midfielder”. It should look more like a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-1-2-3. Have the confidence that we can play on the front foot and maintain balance at the same time. Bradley does an excellent job of covering ground defensively. Since he seems to no longer have any interest going forward, play two offensive midfielder’s in front of him to relieve him of his playmaking duties offensively.

Stop starting Altidore. He is simply too erratic and in a formation with a single striker, he simply does not have the touch and skill to create space and hold up the ball against the better teams. He also does not have the pace to get in behind defenses which makes it easier for them late in games since they have not had to exert themselves.

More crosses please! The USMNT has somehow gotten away from this fundamental staple in our game. Get the ball wide, get it across, get chances, get goals. We have the tendency to want to play the ball through the middle and get it wide only to cut it back and keep it on the ground. Some of our best chances today were off of crosses into the box.

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Changes:

Sacha Kljestan and Jones will not be traveling with the team to the next game against Jamaica on February 3rd in Chattanooga, Tennessee as mentioned by Arena after the game.  With that, there promises to be plenty of changes, and here is a proposed line-up that should get the USMNT some offensive production.

Team USA will be back in action Friday February 3 vs Jamaica.

Keep it right here on The Stoppage Time, powered by Azteca Soccer, for more world football news. Stay connected on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and subscribe to our YouTube page.

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