2018 is a fresh start for the USMNT, and January Camp was no exception. No real national team veterans were called into camp, Dave Sarachan instead opting for a largely untested crew. The novelty of such a roster, at the very least, made a friendly a somewhat interesting proposition. Unfortunately, the interest didn’t last much longer than that.
The motive behind the game-day roster was a little suspect from the start. In a game where six substitutes were available for each side and a camp that’s express intent was to give people a chance, no fewer than 6 players did not dress for the game for the U.S. What’s more, these 6 players had 1 senior international appearance between them; meanwhile, Sarachan started one of the oldest and most experienced starting XIs he possibly could have. Not everyone can play, fair. But after a November friendly in which Sarachan was largely praised for his willingness to give fresh blood a shot (with one very notable exception), this seemed surprisingly short-sighted.
The game started lively, with high pressure from forward CJ Sapong and midfielders Cristian Roldan and Tyler Adams throwing Bosnia off. However, the game soon became mired in poor touches and general mediocrity. The U.S., playing with three holding central midfielders in the middle of the park and two wingers that are more suited to forward and right back, respectively, was at its best when pressuring their opponent into making mistakes. Outside of a few long balls from Wil Trapp to a diagonally-moving Jordan Morris, the best U.S. chance of the first half was Sapong pouncing on an errant Bosnian pass and forcing a diving save from Ibrahim Sehic. Meanwhile, Bosnia’s best chance came from a poor Bill Hamid pass and Justin Morrow being beat badly on the wing, before Hamid made a nice save to clean up the danger. All in all, the first half didn’t reveal much in the way of players that impressed. Center back Ike Opara looked confident and dealt with more than a few potentially dangerous Bosnian attacks, but also gave up a foul that led to one of said dangerous chances. Sapong looked energetic, yet lacking in quality at times. Roldan, Adams, and Trapp had nice moments in the midfield, but without any sort of creator in midfield, there work usually went for naught. Jordan Morris looked unsure on the wing; Gyasi Zardes positively invisible as his opposite.
The second half saw the introductions of Paul Arriola, Kelyn Rowe, and Zack Steffen for Zardes, Sapong, and Hamid. Morris moved up top, while Arriola and Rowe filled the wing positions behind him. The second half, like the first, started with some fireworks and soon died to a physical malaise. A Jordan Morris cross couldn’t quite be directed on goal by Kelyn Rowe, and soon after a thirty-yard dime from Trapp found Morris behind the defense and just about around the goalkeeper, but Morris couldn’t turn the ball into the net after the move taking him around Sehic. Walker Zimmerman gave up a penalty minutes later, but Steffen was fortunate to see the shot careen back off the post. But as the minutes waned, so did the chances. Roldan couldn’t finish with a decent look in the box. Zack Steffen was forced into a couple saves, albeit ones that didn’t look particularly troubling. Bosnia gradually took control of the game as more and more subs were introduced, while the U.S. struggled to build anything of substance out of the back. At one point, Stuart Holden lamented the size of the gap between the midfield and the attack, which was most likely a result of playing no one remotely close to being a creative attacking player in the center of the midfield for the duration of the game. Probably. Some late chances, akin to a riveting game of Battleship, ultimately resulted in several misses, and the game ended scoreless.
All in all, this game served as a great reminder that all of these players are in preseason form. Ike Opara reminded us all what his career might have been like had he not been mired in injury hell for so long. Wil Trapp showcased his right foot. Gyasi Zardes was himself. And we did not get to see Christian Ramirez, Marky Delgado, Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta, Russel Canouse, Brooks Lennon, or Ian Harkes, amongst others. It was not good. It was not fun. It was a nil-nil draw.