Welcome to your match thread for the first U.S. Men’s National Team match of 2017, as Team USA takes on Serbia. This almost exclusively MLS-based U.S. team will be the first group of players Bruce Arena will coach with the Red, White & Blue in his second tenure as head coach.
This will be the first time that Serbia and the USMNT will face each other, however the U.S. has played Yugoslavia, which is a predecessor to Serbia. The U.S. lost 9-1 to Yugoslavia in the 1956 Olympic quarterfinals. The second match came in the 1998 World Cup where, once again, Yugoslavia beat the Americans, this time by a smaller margin of 1-0.
This is a much anticipated match-up for the players as it will be the first time that they will get to make an impression for the new boss.
For fans, it must be noted that the score is irrelevant for this game. Obviously a win is preferred from each set of supporters respectively, but both teams will be experimenting as they get ready for World Cup qualifiers. Serbia’s team, which is currently undefeated in Group D of UEFA World Cup qualifying, has just two players over the age of 25, and only eight players who have played for their senior national team. The 2015 U-20 World Cup champions will be looking for these young stars to make the same impact at the senior level, and this is the perfect opportunity to see their value.
The winningest coach in USMNT history will be looking for a new level of intensity after his predecessor lost the first two games of The Hex. Arena’s almost entirely MLS-based team (DaMarcus Beasley is currently unattached and Jorge Villafaña plays for the Mexican side Santos Laguna) will look almost completely different come March 24 for the next match in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but every player involved has something to prove. A major criticism of Jurgen Klinsmann was the constant change and players playing out of position. Arena will use this match to solidify a formation and attempt to find where players will perform at their best.
Who will be in the starting XI is a big question mark at this point, but expect proven veterans to start. There is little time for experiments as Arena will have just two matches before his side takes on Honduras in a must-win qualifier. In goal, Nick Rimando is the proven veteran, but David Bingham has been one of the best keepers in MLS, and he is more deserving of the spot. Good news is there is not a bad option with either Rimando or Bingham.
On defense, Graham Zusi is expected to start at right back. After a few successful games as a fullback with Sporting KC, Arena is testing out Zusi there at the international level. Steve Birnbaum is as close to a lock at center back with this squad as possible, but the other center back and left back could be anyone, although don’t be surprised if DaMarcus Beasley gets the nod at left and Chad Marshall at center.
The midfield has the most options. Does captain Michael Bradley keep his starting role, or will Sacha Kljestan and Darlington Nagbe take over in the center? Will the midfield be a diamond or flat four? How many minutes will Jermaine Jones get? Where does Benny Feilhaber fit? The questions in the center of the park are endless, but most should be answered by the time the game is over.
Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris will start up top. When the European-based players join, Bobby Wood will get back his starting spot up top, but Morris and Altidore are the clear favorites at this point.
One of the biggest stories in the match surround Altidore, who is set to become the 17th player to join the USMNT 100 cap club. Altidore made his first appearance on Nov. 17, 2007 in a 1-0 victory against South Africa. Altidore came on for Clint Dempsey in the 65th minute and has been a key part of the USMNT ever since. At just 18 years old, he was the sixth youngest player to play for the U.S. at the time. Now, the 27-year-old veteran is third on the all-time goal scoring list and one hat trick away from having the most in U.S. history.
Also, interesting to note is that Jozy’s first goal came almost exactly nine years ago to date. His perfect header helped lift U.S. over Mexico. Beasley, Sacha Kljestan, Zusi, and Birnbaum are the other players who scored their first goals in January camp that have been called up. Will any players from this team join this group?
Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls).
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna).
Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union).
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC).
Goalkeepers: Filip Manojlović (Crvena zvezda) Ognjen Čančarević (Radnik, Surdulica).
Defenders: Nikola Maraš (Rad), Lazar Jovanović (Borac, Čačak), Vladimir Kovačević (Vojvodina), Nemanja Ćalasan (Spartak), Marko Klisura (Bačka), Nikola Ćirković (Voždovac), Nemanja Miletić (Partizan).
Midfielders: Marko Jevtović (Partizan), Stefan Panić (Metalac), Jovan Đokić (Javor), Marko Gobeljić (Napredak), Aleksandar Paločević (Vojvodina), Enver Alivodić (Novi Pazar), Srđan Plavšić (Crvena zvezda).
Forwards: Marko Mrkić (Radnički, Niš), Saša Jovanović (Mladost, Lučani).
How to Watch:
Match Time: 4 p.m. ET.
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium — San Diego, CA.
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