Good spells mix with bad in tepid U.S. draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina
CARSON, Calif. -- The U.S. men's national team started 2018 with a tepid 0-0 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bill Hamid and Zack Steffen combined for a shutout, though it took Haris Medunjanin missing a second-half penalty to keep the visitors scoreless.
Here are three thoughts from a typically ragged January encounter.
1. It's that time of year
The circumstances surrounding this January camp were unique, to say the least. While it has historically been comprised almost entirely of MLS players, a few national team regulars could always be counted on to augment the list of up-and-comers.
That wasn't the case year. With the World Cup qualifying failure still occupying the collective transom of the men's program, the U.S. squad was constructed with an eye toward the future and had little in the way of experience. There was no room for the likes of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore. That left the U.S. even more susceptible to the preseason-like nature that the camp takes on.
Anyone looking for scintillating attack play -- at least in the first half -- would have done well to avert their eyes. Nearly every promising moment was undone by a questionable decision or lack of accuracy. Case in point came in the 23rd minute, when Jordan Morris did well to free himself, but his cross was well within catching range of Bosnian keeper Ibrahim Sehic
That said, the U.S. cause wasn't helped by a starting lineup that was long on graft but short on creativity. There was no room initially for a Kelyn Rowe or a Juan Agudelo. Instead, interim manager Dave Sarachan opted for a central trio of Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan and Tyler Adams. That meant plenty of hustle but little in the way of cohesive attacking play.
Although the U.S. had some territorial advantages in the first half, it was Bosnia that created the better chances in the opening 45 minutes. A quickly taken free kick put Goran Zakaric free down the right side of the box, only for his attempted delivery to sail high. Two minutes later, it was Bill Hamid to the rescue, as he stoned Luka Menalo on a close-range attempt.
The match picked up in the second half, with Morris moving up top in place of Sapong while Rowe and Paul Arriola came into the match. But the U.S. dodged a bullet in the 53rd minute when Menalo won a penalty after being fouled by Walker Zimmerman, though it looked like Trapp was fouled in the run-up. Haris Mendunjanin sent substitute keeper Zack Steffen the wrong way but hit the penalty off the post, and the score remained level.
The U.S. huffed and puffed -- with Morris and Roldan each missing good chances -- but ultimately, the game finished scoreless.
2. Rowe, Arriola give U.S. offensive spark
Sarachan must have noted the lack of attacking thrust at halftime. Out came the disappointing Gyasi Zardes as well as C.J. Sapong, and in came Rowe and Paul Arriola. The two provided improved wide play, though in different ways. Arriola brought a more aggressive mindset to one flank, while Rowe tucked in to more central positions at times and brought some badly needed passing accuracy.
Rowe started one sequence with a deadeye pass to Matt Polster, whose cross found Cristian Roldan in the box, but a heavy touch forced him to rush his attempt, and he shot wide of the target.
Rowe then set the table for Morris in the 80th minute, but a wayward touch allowed Bosnia's defense to recover. Rowe has shown flashes in previous appearances with the U.S., and this was another instance of him showing the kind of creativity that the American side could use more of.
As for the defense, the central tandem of Zimmerman and Ike Opara mixed good moments with bad. Both were guilty of mistakes -- Zimmerman's conceded penalty the most egregious -- but they were also adept at covering for each other, and each came up with interventions at critical moments to prevent shots at the U.S. goal.
3. Has Trapp's time come?
There was a time when Trapp was viewed as a player on the rise, especially after drawing praise from none other than Thierry Henry. Yet chances to make his mark at international level have been limited. Sunday's match was just his third national team appearance and his first start.
But based on this appearance, Trapp helped his cause, as he was one of the more consistent U.S. players on the night. While he was deployed just in the front of the back line, he managed to find his moments to contribute to the attack. His gorgeous, lofted ball found Morris in stride in the 51st minute, and while the Sounders forward did the hard work of rounding the keeper, he couldn't manage to get his shot on target.
That didn't diminish Trapp's effectiveness on the night, and when the U.S. reconvenes in March, he should get another chance to further state his case.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.