On Sunday, January 29th, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA, the United States National team drew 0-0 with the Serbian National team. For Bruce Arena’s return to the US head coaching position, the lack of goals scored did not overshadow his pride in seeing his player selection work together for their first game of the year.
While the game may not have been the most exciting game for the twenty thousand spectators on hand, Bruce Arena seemed pleased with the efforts of the day. In the press conference after the game, Arena was more interested in the individual talent and teamwork exhibited by players rather than the scoreline. Of course, he would have preferred a win, but he was not disappointed with the overall result of the day.
Early opportunities by Jermaine Jones and Darlington Nagbe were a few of the bright spots in the first half, but the more encouraging note from the first half may have been the cohesion within the midfield between Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan. These three were playing in positions that they were comfortable with, both individually and together, allowing fluid passes through the midfield.
The second half was a look toward the future, as three players were subbed in, Sebastian Lleget, Chris Pontius and Jorge Villafana, to grant each of them their first caps for the US Men’s National Team. Postgame, Arena discussed his conversation with Villafana two years ago after the club he was coaching, the LA Galaxy, had played against the Liga MX side Santos Laguna. Arena approached Villafana to see if anyone from US Soccer had yet approached him and applauded his efforts in that game. Years later, Arena was able to bring him into camp and give him an opportunity to be included in the player pool for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.
Ultimately, this friendly was designed to allow Arena to see how his younger players would be able to compete for a starting spot against his favorite veteran players. It may not have been the most exciting game, but it allowed for cohesion among the core players and an opportunity for the newcomers to work into the fold.