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USA v. Serbia, 2017 Friendly Preview: Scouting Serbia

USMNT faces Serbia in its first match of 2017

Wales v Serbia - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team concludes its annual January camp with the first of two friendlies against Serbia, in San Diego, California. As this game occurs outside of FIFA international windows, neither the U.S. nor Serbia will be at full strength.

The Serbian roster consists solely of players who feature in the Serbian SuperLiga, aside from Jovan Djokic who plays in Kazakhstan. The SuperLiga is on winter break until February 17th.

This Serbian team is quite inexperienced, with no player having more than 1 cap. In the past few years, the Eagles’ first choice roster has rarely included players from the domestic league.

Serbia Roster:

Goalkeepers (2): Ognjen Cancarevic (Radnik Surdulica), Filip Manojlovic (Red Star Belgrade)

Defenders (6): Nemanja Calasan (Spartak Subotica), Nikola Cirkovic (Vozdovac), Marko Klisura (Backa Panaka), Vladimir Kovacevic (Vojvodina), Nikola Maras (Rad), Nemanja Miletic (Partizan)

Midfielders (6): Enver Alivodic (Novi Pazar), Jovan Djokic (Atyrau), Marko Gobeljic (Napredak Krusevac), Marko Javtovic (Partizan), Stefan Panic (Metalac), Srdjan Plavsic (Red Star Belgrade)

Forwards (4): Lazar Jovanovic (Borac Cacak), Sasa Jovanovic (Mladost Lucani), Marko Mrkic (Radnicki Nis), Aleksandar Palocevic (Vojvodina)

Possible starting XI:

Serbia’s roster lacks a dependable goalkeeper. Ognjen Cancarevic has struggled with his club team Radnik Surdulica and is facing a relegation battle. Filip Manojlovic has played well for Red Star Belgrade, but is only 20 years old and lacks international experience.

Former Serbian youth international, Vladimir Kovacevic is expected to play a significant defensive role. Kovacevic is one of the few players on the roster who has been previously capped by the senior team. Standing 6’3’’, he is excellent in the air and a surprisingly good passer. The Serbian backline should win most headers, as four of the five defenders on the roster are at least 6’2’’.

Veteran Enver Alivodić (32 years old) and Jovan Djokic are Serbia’s most important midfielders. Although uncapped, Alivodic is the oldest player in the roster and is a constant attacking threat on the wing. His leadership should help this young squad.

Jovan Djokic is a prototypical defensive midfielder. He tackles hard and will make life difficult for the U.S. center midfielders. His passing is efficient, but unlikely to trouble the U.S. defense.

Marko Mrkic and Aleksandar Palocevic will spearhead Serbia’s attack. Mrkic and Palocevic are tied for fifth in the Serbian SuperLiga Golden Boot race, with eight goals apiece. Mrkic is an up-and-coming striker (20 years old) who could become a regular contributor to the Serbian National Team in the next few years.

The USMNT squad is far more experienced and is missing fewer regulars than Serbia. On paper the U.S. would be expected to dominate, but Bruce Arena will likely experiment which may lead to a close game.