The first international match of 2018 pits the United States against Bosnia and Herzegovina in a friendly. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this game isn’t an important one for the US team. Most, if not all, of the roster will be wanting to prove themselves for consideration of selection throughout the next World Cup cycle.
“We’re trying to bring in players that are coming off good seasons, are at a good age for the future, and to give the opportunity to those that have earned that right to be a part of the program... The whole idea for this group of players is to take advantage of the training, take advantage of getting to know one another and take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself because this is going to be part of our future going forward.”
- Acting U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Dave Sarachan speaking with ussoccer.com.
D (1-1) - at Portugal - Friendly
L (1-2) - at Trinidad and Tobago - WCQ
W (4-0) - Panama - WCQ
D (1-1) - at Honduras - WCQ
L (0-2) - Costa Rica - WCQ
Bosnia and Herzegovina
W (2-1) - at Estonia - WCQ
L (3-4) - Belgium - WCQ
W (4-0) - Gibralter - WCQ (In Portugal)
L (2-3) - at Cyprus - WCQ
D (0-0) - Greece - WCQ
What to Watch for
New Faces: There won’t be a shortage of players receiving their first international cap in this game. Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola are now considered veterans in this group. The vast majority have less than five caps, including fifteen that were called in hoping to receive their first cap. Players have been in camp since January 10th and have given acting head coach Dave Sarachan a couple of weeks to assess the squad. Expect Sarachan to pick his starters from those who impressed the most during camp and, for the most part, are candidates to represent the United States for the next World Cup cycle.
Discontinuity: Even though the players have been together for a couple of weeks now this will be their first (and only) competitive match together. They are still learning about each other and their individual tendencies. The same can be said for a Bosnia and Herzegovina side that has not brought many of the top players Stateside. No Edin Dzeko (AS Roma), Miralem Pjanic (Juventus), and Sead Kolašinac (Arsenal). Bosnia and Herzegovina even have a new coach, Robert Prosinecki - a former Croatian international who has the distinction of having played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. He has only been in charge since January 4th. The team that he brought could easily be considered the country’s “C” team. Don’t be surprised if the run of play from both sides turns out to be rather choppy and disjointed.
Advance ticket sales for #USMNT v Bosnia on Sunday at 8,000— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) January 26, 2018
A Win: Ok, this may be a little bold but hear me out. US Soccer needs something positive to happen. The venom that originated from the USMNT missing the World Cup keeps reverberating. It’s latest incarnation is the lambasting that US Soccer has taken over the Jonathan Gonzalez fiasco. While Bosnia and Herzegovina are a good side at full strength that is not the case here. The US, on home soil, needs to dispatch the Europeans to help stem the rancor that is being directed their way. The current squad, albeit green from an international perspective, is still good enough to beat their opponent in this game. The next scheduled match isn’t until June. If the United States can’t muster a win here then it’s going to be a long, dark few months.
This one is pretty much a crapshoot. For argument’s sake let’s go with a 4-2-3-1.
Starting in goal, I’m going with Zach Steffen. I believe that he offers the most upside of the group and that is part of what this game is about. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarachan went with Bill Hamid though, and if that is the case expect him to wear the captain’s armband.
On defense the strength of the squad lies in the middle as opposed to flanks. Any of the four central defenders on the roster (Justen Glad, Ike Opara, Tim Parker, and Walker Zimmerman) would be a solid pick. I’m going with Parker and Opara to start as I’m glad to see that Parker is part of the mix and feel that he is hugely underrated and Opara is the current MLS Defender of the Year. Moving forward however I would expect to see more of Zimmerman (if he turns into the dominant defender and leader that I feel he can be at LAFC) and Glad (who is still only 20 and if he hits the gym and grows into his frame could be a starter in Qatar).
The fullbacks are a bit of a question mark with only the absent DeAndre Yedlin a legitimate starter at the international level. Matt Polster was fantastic for the Chicago Fire last season and I give him a slight edge over Nick Lima at right back. On the left side I’ll stay in Chicago and give a shot to Brandon Vincent. This is the weakest position in the US player pool. Justin Morrow does a lot of good things for Toronto FC in MLS but he’s already 30 years old. The US is in desperate need of a left back - will Vincent seize his chance?
Picking the midfield for this game is near impossible. The only player that I see as a must to start is Tyler Adams, who I have playing the number 8 box-to-box role. That leaves four more slots, at least in this 4-2-3-1 formation. I’m going with Wil Trapp as the defensive midfielder in this group. If he gets the start then he’s also a candidate for team captain, a role he currently fills with Columbus Crew SC. I have Kelyn Rowe as the number 10 attacking midfielder. I feel this is his best position even though he has rarely plays there for the New England Revolution. He played well for the USMNT in his Gold Cup cameo over the summer. Even though Jordan Morris is really a striker I have him penciled in as the left winger starting this match. The role is familiar to him as he often cuts in from the left hand side for the Seattle Sounders to use his stronger right foot. This roster doesn’t really have a true left winger so that is another reason for putting Morris here. Paul Arriola is the the traditional right winger in this set up and he will hug the line and provide crosses into the box. After Adams, he is the most likely to secure a starting midfield spot.
CJ Sapong, coming off an excellent season with the Philadelphia Union, gets the start up top as the traditional target forward. If coach Sarachan wants a little more speed then look for Jordan Morris to lead the line with someone else out on the left wing, perhaps Gyasi Zardes or Brooks Lennon (even though he plays better on the right).
The United States wins comfortably 2-0 in a match where they hold more of the possession then expected. The vitriol gets relaxed for a bit, at least until everyone is upset about who gets elected next US Soccer President on February 10th. At least I hope so.
I’m sure that I will get ripped for the lineup, especially since I snuck in a mention of Zardes there at the end. Think you can do better? Give it a try in the comments section. Go USA!