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USA vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina 2013: International Friendly Preview

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The United States Men's National team is in Bosnia-Herzegovina at Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium in the capital of Sarajevo, where they play the leaders of Group G in UEFA's 2014 World Cup qualifying.

George Frey

All of the talk leading up to this match up from the US perspective will be on the talented crop of youngsters who could make their international debuts for the USMNT. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called up German-American defender John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin, GER), striker Bobby Wood (1860 Munich, GER) who was on the preliminary 35-man Gold Cup roster, goalkeeper Cody Cropper (Southhampton, ENG) and the much anticipated debut of Icelandic-American striker Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar, NED), who recently completed his switch from Iceland to the USMNT in time for today's match.

All four of these players have experience with various US and international youth teams, mostly at the U-20 level and only Johannsson has never represented the USA before. All four players have been called up for their first USMNT camps and while they might not feature prominently in the match, getting some time in camp and possibly off the bench could prove to be a valuable learning experience.

GOALKEEPERS

Tim Howard has already been named the captain of the match by Klinsmann, which indicates that he's starting and will have Brad Guzan and Cropper behind him. I think it's a great gesture to include Cropper, who's been spectacular for the USA in various youth levels and had a solid showing at the U-20 World Cup and CONCACAF Championships.

DEFENDERS

Michael Orozco Fiscal withdrew from the squad due to an injury (and was not replaced despite Timmy Chandler and Eric Lichaj's omissions), possibly creating an open starting spot at center back. The US isn't exactly deep with center backs in this squad, at least on paper. Certainly former Rev Michael Parkhurst could slide in after his solid Gold Cup at right back, utility man Geoff Cameron is an option and Tim Ream has gotten his first call up to the national side since 2011. Combined with Brooks, the US should be able to put together a decent central pairing. On the outside, the USA is much deeper, with Edgar Castillo and Fabian Johnson on the left and Brad Evans looking to cement his spot at right back after a stellar summer qualifying campaign.

MIDFIELDERS

There are these two guys, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, they play holding midfield, and they're okay. There are a ton of questions as to the rest of the midfield however, mainly, who is going to man Clint Dempsey's withdrawn striker role up top. There are plenty of options for Klinsmann to choose from. If I were picking starters, I'd go with Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud in no particular order or formation. As long as Bradley gets some space to operate and move forward in, I think the US midfield will be fine on the attacking side.

FORWARDS

Well, assuming Jozy Altidore starts up top, that would leave Terrence Boyd in reserve along with Wood and Johannsson. I expect to see Eddie Johnson deployed somewhere in the midfield eventually, but I wouldn't be shocked to see in the final minutes in a more traditional 4-4-2 and Wood/Johannsson pairing up top for their first caps.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

You know, for a team that hasn't exactly been around that long (used to be part of Yugoslavia), these guys are on the doorstep of the international stage. They've been thwarted in playoffs for the World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 by Portugal, currently sit 13th in the FIFA World Rankings and lead Greece by three points in their qualifying group for Brazil. Oh, and they haven't lost in a full calendar year and hardly ever lose at home. No big deal.

Now defensively, Bosnia looks thin at the back, only captain Emir Spahic with 65 international caps has made double-digit appearances after Mensur Mujdza withdrew with an inury. If Bosnia uses the same 4-1-2-1-2 that they have during qualifying, expect to see Miralem Pjanic as an attacking mid sitting underneath strikers Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic. If the USA wants to shut down the attack, I'd expect Jones to be marking him as much as possible, making it tough to get the ball to the forwards. If Dzeko and Ibisevic are getting the ball easily in the attacking third, it might be a very long day for the USA defensively.

OUTLOOK

At the end of the day, this is a friendly, and much like the games against Belgium and Germany a few months ago, a good way to judge your players against good competition. This is not the best team the USA can put out there, but it's not terrible. I think the weakness for the US offensively will be the advanced midfield. Can the combination of Kljestan, Diskerud, Bedoya, E. Johnson, etc. get the ball forward to Jozy and create chances? In the absence of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the driving attacking forces in qualifying and the Gold Cup respectfully, the US needs to figure out how to generate offense as a team, something they've generally struggled to do.

On defense, I don't want to see a repeat of Belgium or the end of Germany game. I understand that it's a makeshift backline but this is an opportunity for some of these players to get a look against a very capable attacking opponent. Dzeko especially is a world class talent and he will punish a mistake much like Belgium's Christian Benteke did a few months ago. Every opportunity is a chance to make the roster for the fall qualifiers and another call up to camp going into next year and to the World Cup. Guys like Tim Ream have been on the outside looking in of late and need to seize the chance to keep themselves in the conversation while Geoff Cameron could be asked to lead and organize the backline, something that could cement his value to the team going into next year. The game might not matter, but the individual performances do.

Judging by what I've seen, Bosnia is no joke. This is a team, much like Belgium that has been knocking on the door internationally and are now poised to not only open it, but to the proverbial door off its hinges. A few months ago against Belgium, the USA took a giant step back, but learned from it, rattled off a few wins in qualifying, won the Gold Cup and won eleven straight games in all competitions. They've struggled on the road in CONCACAF but a solid performance, not necessarily a win, is something the USMNT can take to Costa Rica in a few weeks.

Besides, only Spain (and occasionally Portugal) beats Bosnia at home, and only the USA beats Spain in international competitions.

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