On Sunday the United States men's national team played its first game of Bruce Arena's second tenure as head coach, a thoroughly dull scoreless draw against a very youthful Serbian side. The Americans controlled play for most of the game, but did little to generate quality chances and found difficult breaking down a compacted Serb defense. In truth, there was pretty little to be learned from what took place in San Diego. But maybe it wasn't a complete waste of time.
Here comes the 4-2-3-1. Get used to it?
Perhaps not a huge surprise here, but the formation and lineup choices are always greatly anticipated. Arena rolled out an XI featuring Jozy Altidore as a lone striker. Jozy isn't a big fan of being used this way, and with Sunday's result fresh in our minds, it'd be easy to share that view. Not only did Altidore fail to register a shot on target during his 74 minutes, but the entire team failed record a shot on goal.
Other the other hand, this is Camp Cupcake, and it's probably not worth getting worked up about.
Darlington Nagbe's USMNT career lives
There are a fair number of players whose international careers got new life with the dismissal of Jurgen Klinsmann. Darlington Nagbe would have to rank pretty high on that list. After declining a call-up last fall (for reasons that are still somewhat unclear), we wondered if we'd seen the last of Nagbe in a USMNT kit. Under Arena, not only is Nagbe back in the fold, but he may be earning himself a prominent role.
Nagbe got the start on Sunday, and was the bright spot of the day for the United States. The most promising chances, especially in the first half, came from Nagbe's left wing. He remains one of the few attacking players in the pool with the ability to take on defenders. Few "new" faces will emerge from this camp to participate in March WCQ, but Nagbe is a fair bet to be amongst that group.
Arena is serious about this Zusi thing
I suppose if you're going to experiment with a player in a new position, now is the time to do so. Graham Zusi was thrown into the proverbial fire against Serbia. And honestly, he looked like a decent right back. He's not about to wrestle the starting job away from DeAndre Yedlin or even Timothy Chandler, but he acquitted himself well. Zusi made no egregious errors and covered his space competently. The flaws we've seen as a midfielder remain (first touch, anyone?), but If we're going to see this thing out, another start on Friday vs. Jamaica would make plenty of sense.
Ruling: In a pinch, there are worse things than having to deploy Zusi as a fullback. With steadier minutes at the position, he might even be pretty good in the role. To be continued.