The USMNT opened up the 2018 in uninspiring fashion with a 0-0 draw against Bosnia & Herzegovina at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. It was a sloppy display on both sides, mainly in the final third, but in the end the U.S. is lucky that the visitors hit the woodwork with a second-half penalty in a game that served more or less as a first test for many players unproven on the international stage.
Here’s the starting lineup that Dave Sarachan went with against Zmajevi.
Wil Trapp of the Columbus Crew got his first USMNT start and wore the captain’s armband for the match. With their starts, Ike Opara and Matt Polster got their first caps for the U.S.
The U.S. got the first chance of the night in the first minute, with C.J. Sapong running onto a long pass down the left channel and making a nice cross into the box for Tyler Adams. The Red Bulls midfielder was unable to get much on his header and it was an easy collection for the goalkeeper.
Ibrahim Šehić was forced to make his first save at the seven-minute mark when Sapong used his speed to beat the defense to a back pass. The Union forward streaked into the left side of the box and fired, stinging Šehić’s palms. That was the best chance for either side for quite a while, although the U.S. seemed always just about to create problems for the defense. Sapong was sent down the right channel in the 15th minute on a nice ball from Walker Zimmerman but he made a mess of his cross. Jordan Morris sent in a dangerous cross in the 23rd minute but Šehić came off his line smartly to snuff out the danger.
Bosnia & Herzegovina finally mustered a dangerous moment in the 29th minute, when Luka Menalo broke down the left and fizzed a cross into the six-yard box intended for Mersudin Ahmetović but it was cut out for a corner by Opara.
An attack broke down in the 39th minute as Morris broke down the left but had his service knocked back out to him. His second try deflected off the defender high into the air. Sapong flew in to nod it toward goal but it was right at Šehić again.
Moments later, Opara conceded a free kick from about 28 yards out. It was taken quickly but Goran Zakarić made a mess of his shot from the right side and it never troubled Bill Hamid’s net. Then some U.S. defensive issues nearly handed Bosnia & Herzegovina a shock lead in the 43rd minute. Justin Morrow got beat wide and the cross was mishandled by Walker Zimmerman. The ball fell for Menalo, who blasted a shot that Hamid was able to make a reaction save on to keep things scoreless.
Big save by Hamid to bail out the #USMNT after a series of defensive errors. Morrow was beaten too easily, Zimmerman failed to clear the cross and didn't react quick enough. Best chance of the game for either side. #USAvBIH pic.twitter.com/Qky0L5JjSP— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) January 29, 2018
That was the last chance of the opening period and the teams walked to the dressing room locked in a scoreless draw. The USMNT led in shots, 4-2 (3-1 on goal) but Bosnia’s final opportunity was the best chance of the half. Luckily, Hamid’s massive save denied that chance.
Sarachan made three changes at the break, putting Zack Steffen, Kelyn Rowe, and Paul Arriola on for Hamid, Gyasi Zardes, and Sapong.
Minutes after the break, Morris got more involved in the attack. In the 50th, Arriola sent Morris up the right channel. The Sounders’ star sent a cross for Rowe but he got his flick attempt wrong. A minute later, Trapp sent Morris behind the defense with a well-timed ball over the top. Morris’ first touch took him wide right, where he rounded the keeper but fired wide of the gaping net.
Best chance of the game so far for #USMNT. Good ball over the top by Trapp, nice touch by Morris to control, but he put his shot wide. He really should've finished that. #USAvBIH pic.twitter.com/BvOPeQV2qE— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) January 29, 2018
The game nearly turned the other way a minute after Morris’ miss. Menalo looked to get away with a foul on the attack but nothing was called and in the next instant, Zimmerman knocked him down at the edge of the box. A penalty was given by referee Hector Martinez.
Medunjanin missed the penalty for #BosniaHerzegovina, but it shouldn't have been given anyway. Menalo clearly shoved Rowe but the foul wasn't called, and then he went down in the box under Zimmerman's challenge. #USMNT #USAvBIH pic.twitter.com/EnB6Ht4nDD— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) January 29, 2018
Philadelphia Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin stepped up to the spot, sent Steffen the wrong way, but hit the outside of the left post.
The U.S. again unlocked the Bosnian defense in the 60th, with a cross finding Cristian Roldan in the penalty area. Roldan had trouble playing the bounce and a heavy touch took him to his right. He had time to get to it first and take a shot but he fizzed his effort just wide of the left post.
Six minutes later, Steffen made his first big save. Menalo danced left to right across the top of the box with the U.S. defense unable to take it away. He eventually unleashed a right-footed shot. He didn’t get all of it but Steffen still had to make a diving one-handed stop to keep out the tricky-looking effort.
Bosnia got its second-best opportunity in the 73rd minute. Elvir Coljić got an open look from inside the box but his effort sailed over the crossbar. Six minutes later, Coljić nearly got a chance to atone for the miss but Opara got down to block the shot.
The best buildup for the U.S. came a minute later. Second-half sub Juan Agudelo found New England Revolution teammate Rowe across the field. Rowe chipped it over the defense with a lovely first touch to Morris. The Sounders forward took a touch instead of hitting it first-time and the effort was blocked.
The game was opening up with both teams tired but quality was poor in the final third from both sides. Ognjen Todorović shot well over the bar for the visitors from a decent spot on the left side of the box in the 82nd minute.
Four minutes later, a cross into the Bosnian box was knocked back out to Arriola but the D.C. United man slammed his shot too high.
That was about the last half-chance for either team and the two sides finished the full 90 plus three minutes of injury time without anyone finding the net.