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United States 0, Serbia 0 - Arena’s Second Tenure Begins Scoreless

Juan Agudelo had a late cameo but couldn’t get the US the breakthrough they wanted.

Soccer: U.S. Men's National International Friendly-Serbia at USA Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The United States and Serbia played 90 minutes of soccer and no goals were scored.

Serbia for the most part was content to sit back in their own half and break out on the counter, and had some success including forcing a stoppage time save from Nick Rimando. The US however with a 62% edge in possession mustered just one shot on target despite some decent build up play.

Darlington Nagbe and Jermaine Jones were lively in the first half combining for a trio of curling shots from the left that missed just wide. Jozy Altidore drew three fouls in the first half that led to a couple of dangerous free kicks but the US could do nothing with their set pieces.

It wasn’t all bad for the US however, as Sebastian Lletget, Jorge Villafana and Chris Pontius all made their international debuts. Here’s three thoughts on the match.

Graham Zusi is fine at right back

Is he a great long term option at the position? No. But that’s not what Arena is looking for right now. He doesn’t have time to cultivate a younger backup like Keegan Rosenberry, he needs someone who he can stick back there and get the job done.

Which is exactly what Zusi did today, with a few blocked crosses and a timely intervention on the back post to snuff out a dangerous cross and into the safe hands of Rimando.

The USMNT has players who can create

Darlington Nagbe, Sacha Kljestan, Lletget and even Benny Feilhaber all provided good moments in the midfield. Was it a clean game overall? Not really, the passing wasn’t great going forward, there was a lot of turnovers and disconnect between players but it’s also January so that is to be expected.

Despite some of the good movement and chances created, what the US lacked was assertiveness in the final third. They just weren’t aggressive enough and part of that is a credit to Serbia and their defensive organization. But if the USA “B” team can break down the Serbian Olympic/”C” team then how exactly will they be able to beat teams in The Hex?

Finishing remains a problem

It’s not that I’m upset the US only put one shot out of twelve on target today, it’s where a lot of those shots came from. Long range, outside of the box shots are low percentage, and despite the curlers from Nagbe and Jones that were good, what we need more of is another chance from those two.

Midway through the first half, Jones ended up near the endline and hit a wide open centering pass across the six yard box. Jones was looking for Nagbe on the back post and while the pass got cut out, that was a legitimate chance. Likewise, could Agudelo have tried a first time shot rather than a cutback in stoppage time? Possibly, but had the cutback succeeded I would’ve almost assured he scores from that spot, so it’s understandable.

But the USMNT didn’t get enough high quality chances today and we should give a lot of credit to Serbia for that. However, at the same time, I think the US wanted more from this game than a rather bland 0-0 draw. There might be some individual positives to build off of but what the US needs to turn around quickly are stagnant team performances that plagued the Klinsmann era.

The United States will play a friendly against Jamaica on Friday, February 3rd before resuming World Cup qualifying against Honduras and Panama in late March.