Bruce Arena’s debut two is in the books, a 0-0 tie against a Serbia team minus all of its first choice players. So did we learn anything? We did and here are three of those things.
1) Darlington Nagbe Has Skills.
After waiting for years to get the right to play for the U.S. MNT Nagbe had some sort of falling out with Jurgen Klinsmann last year which came to light when he declined a call-up prior to Klinsmann getting the ax.
It looked as if the talent-rich Portland midfielder might have played his last game for the U.S. MNT after accumulating just 11 caps. Then Arena replaced Klinsmann and new brooms, etc and Nagbe was asked back into the U.S. setup.
Arena started Nagbe on the left side of the midfield on Sunday and the Liberian-born attacker showed us all he was worth the wait. Ghosting past defenders Nagbe with ease he came close to breaking the deadlock on a couple of occasions and was, without doubt, the best American on display in San Diego.
Will Nagbe earn a key role for the crucial March qualifiers? We don’t know yet but he certainly passed today’s audition.
2) So Does Benny- Still
Jurgen Klinsmann wanted nothing to do with exuberant Sporting KC maestro Benny Feilhaber for most of his tenure but that new broom of Arena’s quickly swept the creative midfielder back into the U.S. MNT picture.
Sacha Kljestan was preferred to Feilhaber by Arena in the coach’s first match back with the national team since 2006 but Benny made the most of his late cameo versus Serbia, connecting on several incisive passes including a sweet outside of the foot pass that sprung Jordan Morris for a late goal chance.
Morris skyed his effort but Arena had to like what he saw from Feilhaber in his return and with Kljestan headed home for the birth of his son – congratulations!- Benny figures to see plenty of playing time next Friday versus Jamaica.
3) Michael Bradley – Leading from the Back
For much of the Klinsmann Era Michael Bradley was shoehorned into an attacking midfield role that didn’t and doesn’t suit him. Against Serbia Arena started the captain in front of the back four and the Toronto FC man looked very much at home.
Bradley’s tenacity, lung-busting field coverage and ability to deliver a long pass while still getting forward from time to time are well suited to the role, especially if Kljestan, Feilhaber or another applicant can fulfill the attacking midfield role.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
SRB 0 0 0
USA: 1-Nick Rimando; 19-Graham Zusi, 15-Steve Birnbaum, 5-Chad Marshall, 2-Greg Garza (14-Jorge Villafaña, 69); 4-Michael Bradley (Capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (18-Sebastian Lletget, 46); 11-Alejandro Bedoya (23-Chris Pontius, 65), 16-Sacha Kljestan (10-Benny Feilhaber, 77), 6-Darlington Nagbe (9-Juan Agudelo, 87); 17-Jozy Altidore (8-Jordan Morris, 74)
Subs not used: 3-Brad Evans, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 12-Luis Robles, 20-Dax McCarty, 21-Walker Zimmerman, 22-David Bingham
Head coach: Bruce Arena
SRB: 1-Filip Manojlović; 3-Nemanja Miletić, 5-Nikola Maraš, 7-Srđan Plavšić (17-Lazar Jovanović, 81), 10-Aleksandar Paločević (9-Marko Mrkić, 64), 11-Marko Gobeljić (2-Marko Klisura, 84), 13-Nikola Ćirković, 14-Nemanja Ćalasan (4-Miloš Simonović, 55), 15-Stefan Panić, 16-Jovan Đokić (6-Marko Jevtović, 77), 18-Saša Jovanović (8-Enver Alivodić, 63)
Subs not used: 12-Ognjen Čančarević
Head coach: Slavoljub Muslin
Stats Summary: USA / SRB
Shots: 12 / 8
Shots on Goal: 1 / 2
Saves: 2 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 7
Fouls: 18 / 14
Offside: 5 / 5
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 57th minute
SRB – Nikola Ćirković (caution) 80