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USMNT 0, Bosnia and Herzegovina 0: The SBI Breakdown

The U.S. Men’s National Team played a match on Sunday. It wasn’t a particularly good match and it wasn’t a particularly fun match. Largely, it was boring, disjointed and stagnant, even for a January Camp conclusion.

Still, it was a match that created several talking points and left several impressions from a U.S. team that remains in transition.

The USMNT played to a lackluster 0-0 draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday, opening 2018 on a low note. The entire 2018 campaign will be one filled with looks towards the past and future, but, even on that standard, Sunday’s performance was a disappointment.

There were some talking points and some impressive moments, though, giving some sort of intrigue to a match designed to identify and integrate new faces.

Here’s a look at some of the big takeaways from Sunday:


If there was ever a time to have a bit of fun, it was Sunday night. In what was almost certainly the most low-stakes friendly in quite some time, there was plenty of room to experiment and tinker, especially with a large group of young and exciting players joining the USMNT squad.

It didn’t happen, as Dave Sarachan opted to go with the safe and predictable over the new and exciting.

This isn’t meant to be any sort of knock on the experienced faces, but we know Jordan Morris. We know Gyasi Zardes. We’ve seen them dozens of times and we know what they’re capable of.

Yet, as January camp concludes, we don’t know Christian Ramirez. We don’t know Brooks Lennon or Danny Acosta or Justen Glad. We don’t know Russell Canouse or Ian Harkes or Nick Lima or Marky Delgado. The USMNT offered a taste of some newcomers with the likes of Matt Polster, Zack Steffen and Ike Opara earning their debuts, but it didn’t feel like enough.

Now, that could have been for a number of reasons, and the U.S. still has a whopping five years to cap and integrate new faces. But if you aren’t going to give some of the more promising young players a chance to play in January camp, when will you?


When it comes to the USMNT’s midfield pool, its easy to overlook Wil Trapp. Age-wise, he’s a bit of a tweener right now at 25 and, over the past few seasons, he hasn’t fully made the leap from January camp invitee to USMNT regular.

If Sunday was any indication, though, Trapp deserves more looks in the future.

The Columbus Crew midfielder was one of several standouts on the day as he put forth a confident, composed shift in the center of the field. His distribution was good and his defensive work was solid in what ended as a praiseworthy performance. He looked comfortable as that connecting piece, and his unique skill set as a deep-lying distributor fit well with the team around him.

Trapp was an ideal captain on Sunday night, and he put forth a performance that seemed inspired by the distinction. Going forward, he’ll battle with young bucks like Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, MLS standouts like Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan, European options like Danny Williams and Alfredo Morales and the incumbent No. 6, Michael Bradley. But it appears Trapp is finally ready for a bit more on the international stage.


The goalkeeping position is one that remains an interesting one heading into the new cycle. Tim Howard’s national team career is all but over and, at 33, it remains to be seen if Brad Guzan will still be in the running when the 2022 World Cup rolls around.

That puts the ball in the courts of players like Bill Hamid, Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath. While the latter is still trying to battle his way back into the Club Brugge lineup, the other two did well enough to stay in the hunt on Sunday.

Hamid started the match, and provided the game’s biggest moment. The goalkeeper’s save just before halftime was an impressive one, even if his distribution let him down in the moments prior. Going forward, Hamid will need to win the job with FC Midtjylland and impress in Europe but, for the time being, he’s doing fine.

Steffen was given the second half and didn’t make any sort of mistake. Widely seen as one of the top goalkeeping prospects in the pool, Steffen is still just 22 years old and has plenty of growing to do in the coming years.

Look for both to remain in the picture going forward as the U.S. looks to nail down a new No. 1.


Without a true No. 10 in the match at the start, Tyler Adams was placed in a position that’s not quite in his comfort zone. Still, the New York Red Bulls midfielder did well enough to close a camp where he very much remained a prospect to watch.

Adams is a lot of things, but he isn’t a No. 10. He’s a bulldog in the midfield and he’s a workhorse that provides energy all over the field. He’s a smooth runner and a strong presence. He’s a competent passer and good ball-winner. A creative playmaker, he is not.

Placed in a more advanced role due to the presence of Wil Trapp and Cristian Roldan, Adams showed signs of discomfort as he moved up the field. The U.S. too struggled to create as a whole.

Adams did fine, though. The energy was there and the effort was there, even if the final ball wasn’t. In the end, it was a U.S. team that lacked a true playmaker higher up the field, and it showed. Even Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris were slightly out of place as wingers when they should be center forwards, leading to a limited attack that never got off the ground.

Would it have been nice to have seen a pure No. 10? Sure, but aside from Kelyn Rowe, the U.S. didn’t really have one available. They don’t really grow on trees and, by and large, the next pure American No. 10 still hasn’t truly developed.

Rowe ended up changing the game in the second half, but credit to Adams, who will have plenty of other chances to shine in his preferred position going forward.


It’s easy to criticize Sunday’s performance. It’s easy to look at what ended as a drab, lifeless affair and find things to complain about. It’s easy to make overarching statements and fall back on old assessments of a program that still is very much in disarray.

But try not to look at the macro on Sunday night. It wasn’t a night for a big picture. It was a night for the micro and the individual moments that will build towards something picture.

If you expected the U.S. to suddenly put it all together over the course of a January Camp featuring a squad full of non-regulars, you expected far too much. The U.S. wasn’t going to emerge from this camp with any sort of cohesion because that was never the goal. When all was said and done, was it frustrating to have to sit through another disjointed performance from a program that couldn’t be more disjointed? Absolutely, but it was the most likely scenario.

Instead, look at the individual battles. Look at Wil Trapp and Ike Opara. Look at Matt Polster and Tyler Adams. Look at the players themselves, what they offered, and what they can offer going forward.

It’s a message that will remain throughout this year. Until there’s a new president, a new coach and a new direction, the USMNT’s results and style of play, by and large, don’t matter.

What does matter are the little things. Players can still impress and fail and lessons can still be learned. But don’t look at the big picture quite yet, because it’s all still so far away.


  1. Sarachan has three weeks and that’s what we end up with?

    The tactics were so poor…hoof and try to press.

    He basically sets Adams up to fail by putting all the weight on his shoulders to be the creative focal point…he’s not there yet…really not his bag. The logical choice as primary creator, Rowe, is sitting on the bench.

    Just a complete whiff all the way around from Sarachan…and he tops it off by eating a sub in a game that should have highlighted our youth.

    I really believe it is detrimental for him to continue as the caretaker coach…that crapfest was so uninspiring he has to go.

    Somebody needs to walk down the beach, take the Corona out of Porter’s hand and tell him his presence is required as coach for the next friendly…

    Sarachan out…

  2. The fans got what they wanted, a chance to look at what the young kids can do.

    I thought it was a lot worse than any game put together by the hated Bradley, Altidore, Gonzales, Chandler, etc. even the nightmare in T&T.

    Apparently players who are not the best in MLS are not better than the MLS stars, go figure. Wwhat did people expect?

  3. One of the worst games I have ever seen from the USMNT, really tough to watch. The guys did hustle and did have good energy, but there was no cohesiveness, no ideas, sloppy touches, sloppy passes, just sloppy. I agree this is an indictment on MLS, or at least the MLS offseason. Trapp was the only player that looked clean on the ball. None of the attacking players looked sharp at all. I lost track of how many times Morris wasted chances. These MLS guys who want to play with the USMNT need to find a way to stay sharper during the offseason. Ugh, it is hard to be a fan right now.

  4. I was very critical while watching the game last night and then watched it again just to see if I missed anything and I don’t think I did. Very dissapointed in the lineup and a few subs especially not using all 6. I’m still trying to understand the praise for Trapp and why Agudelo is still called in to camps, it’s just not gonna happen for him. Trapp was nothing more than a poor man’s Bradley and the entire back line should probably never get a call again. I understand the Jan camp thing and there was only certain players from MLS available and they didn’t call in a few of the older players that could have helped out like MB and JA but this was a time for some guys to step up and they just didn’t. How good is the Bosnian league compared to MLS cuz I really don’t know but that’s where their players came from and I think that is a big thing to look at when people are trying to tout MLS progress. If the USMNT can’t send out a respectable squad of domestic based players I think that is a huge issue that should hopefully be addressed with the next Prez. Hopefully in March some of these players if they get called in will be in better form and mixing them in with the other regular players will help. I’m not trying to be looking at all negatives about this game but I didn’t see any positives, just disappointed.

  5. Pretty terrible viewing. Most January camp games are borderline unwatchable, but this really set the bar. I guess we’ll see how I feel in a few months when drab 0-0 draws are replaced by ruthless beatdowns at the hands of clubs going to the WC. Sigh….

  6. I watched most of the game and I was not impressed at all…first touch lacking, passes were slow and predictable, overall pace of play was poor. BH was of a decent quality that the team should have been able to play better. The team had an overall lack of awareness that is missing in all MLS players. We should have seen every player with zero caps yesterday. I’m not happy with yesterday’s performance. And I don’t think the media should try to convince us that yesterday’s performance was acceptable. This was not a hopeful presentation.

    • Why? Those players with zero caps have not performed better than the players who did play and all play in MLS so past year league performance is likely a better guide than a single game.

      What are people smoking that they believe unsung players who perform in the middle of the pack in MLS would be better than the guys who have excelled in MLS in the recent past? Other than Opara all the newcomers looked, well, like newcomers. Of course, Opara did very last MLS season. Zardes and Morris played about like you might expect given their last seasons in MLS, not particularly effectively.

  7. No one’s mentioned this yet but we didn’t even use our sixth sub. Isn’t the point to get as many looks at players a possible?

  8. zzzzzzzz

    preseason for a bunch of mls players that don’t have a USMNT future (besides adams and steffan), playing for a coaching staff that has no USMNT future.

    and for some reason this lame duck group decided to play it safe

    well hopefully that was rock bottom and from here we have new management, better friendlies leading into a more exciting future.

  9. I can’t be as forgiving as this article. First, it wasn’t just the player selection, but the formation and tactics that were lacking. The US played as if their goal was not to lose. You’re playing at home in a totally meaningless friendly against a B/C team from a country that also didn’t make the WC, for God’s sake, why not attack and play for a win? It’s not like the coach has reason to be worried about his record. When the MLS all star team plays a European top team, as they have in the last several years, they play with a lot more cohesion with far less practice time than this US team did. US play generally consisted of a lot of back and forth passes from the back line to the midfield and vice versa, interspersed with square passes, then a pass down the wings and occasionally a cross that led to nothing. When the US played Portugal and had some European based players, they looked so much better. In part this is an indictment of MLS as a developer for young US talent.

    • What makes you think they weren’t tying to attack? I thought they tried, but were just incapable of any creative play, just a lot of pretty pointless running around.

  10. Like the article. Thanks.

    I didn’t think the team did badly at all. Just missing someone to be the number 10, make a killer offensive play. They forced many turnovers with good pressure and hussle, they had opportunities to get dangerous, just couldn’t do much with them.

  11. I think the “Sarachan Goes Safe” summed up the night.

    I was surprised he did not use more subs. How Gyasi Zardes continues to make the field still baffles me. His growth as a player seems to have waned the past couple of years.

    Give credit to Bosnia, they were well organized and attacked open space well.

    What’s the point of a friendly, if you are not giving more players a shot on the field. Even the sophomore from Nebraska made it for Bosnia.

  12. Wow am I glad I didn’t stay up to watch this… Not so much because of the final score, but because of the fact that Sarachan wasn’t willing to blood more newcomers. Wasted opportunity.

    • Why, the uncapped players, save Opara, did not perform better in MLS last season than those with caps? If you want to see them play, watch them in MLS, but why put them in International games, even against a 2nd string B-H team? They already have shown the inability to make a particularly strong case that they are better than Altidore, Bradley, Besler, or Wondo in MLS.


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