The United States men’s national team just played its most meaningless match in a long time. And, frankly, it was about what we should have expected.
It was frustrating.
It was boring.
It was bad.
It was inconsequential.
It was billed as a proving ground for fringe national teamers and kids. It proved to be neither. The average age of the starting 11 was, inexplicably, between 25 and 26. Veterans failed to impress. Many youngsters didn’t even get opportunities, and the ones that did were mostly invisible.
The U.S. tied a Bosnia and Herzegovina B-minus/C-plus team 0-0, and probably deserved to lose. Bosnia missed several big chances, including a penalty.
The result doesn’t matter. What matters is the performance. But it, in all honesty, was worse than the result. Here are a few takeaways from it:
1. Jordan Morris is still Jordan Morris. Which is to say, he’s still big and fast, and will occasionally make decent runs in behind. But his end product is, to put it bluntly, awful. And it was the main reason the U.S. didn’t score on Sunday. Morris started out wide in a 4-1-4-1, then played the second half up top. He failed to connect passes with fellow attackers. He missed a glorious chance early in the second half, and failed to control a ball eight yards out with some space in front of goal later on.
Morris was one of two players in January camp who played a significant role in the disastrous 2018 qualifying cycle. He should have stood out in a game like this. He didn’t. And if he did, it was for the wrong reasons.
Unfortunately, there are no good alternatives in the U.S. forward pool. C.J. Sapong, Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes are similarly wasteful in the final third. Sapong started and played 45 minutes, and is probably the best of the bunch right now, but he’s also 29. That group, more than anything else, is the biggest source of worry for the program going forward.
2. Tyler Adams and Christian Roldan were two of the more talented players in January camp and on the field Sunday night. They, like the forwards, did not stand out. Adams made a promising debut against Portugal in November, but that was because he held his own when many in his position would have been overmatched. Against lesser competition, it would have been nice to see the creative side of Adams’ game. We didn’t really see it.
To be clear, Adams is still one of the top prospects in the U.S. player pool. He’s still only 18. He has a very bright future, and will be better with better players around him, in a more coherent system. But he and Roldan were disappointing in possession.
3. Wil Trapp was fine as the holding midfielder in the 4-1-4-1. He wasn’t too incisive with his passing, which is one of the reasons the U.S. attack was so painfully stagnant in the first half. But to be fair to Trapp, he didn’t have much in front of him to work with. And he did pick out Morris with a fine ball over the top that the Seattle Sounders forward really should have turned into a goal.
Minutes later, he raced back and probably did enough to break up a Bosnia counterattack. But a forearm to the back sent him tumbling to the turf, and seconds later, Bosnia had a penalty. Trapp might take some flak for not being strong enough in the challenge, but the referee should have whistled for a foul. Trapp actually was strong enough in the challenge; he wasn’t at fault.
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
4. Ike Opara might have put in the best 90 minutes of any player in red. He made a crucial block in the 79th minute, and was generally strong in the tackle and in the air. But you’d expect nothing less from an MLS Defender of the Year playing against a team of primarily Bosnian-based players who had never been capped by the national team before.
That, in a nutshell, was precisely the problem with this game. We didn’t learn anything new, in part because there was nothing we could have learned from 90 minutes of Opara or Bill Hamid or Zardes against a Bosnia C-plus team.
5. Bosnia was the better team on the balance of play. Which is embarrassing. If you spent a good portion of Sunday’s game thinking, “Man, I’ve never heard of this Luka Menalo kid before, but I wish the U.S. had a player like him,” you weren’t alone. Menalo is a 21-year-old who plays for Široki Brijeg, and who had never been capped by the full Bosnian national team before. The U.S. had nobody who matched his fearlessness and clean skill on the ball. And that’s a problem.
Again, with no permanent head coach, no first-team veterans in camp and many promising young players with their clubs as well, this game didn’t mean anything. You can and should delete it from your DVRs and erase it from your memory. But if it did anything, it cemented the pessimism surrounding the program right now. And oh, man, is there a lot of it.
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