USA head coach Bruce Arena (pictured) observes his squad ahead of an international friendly against visiting Serbia on January 29, 2017, in San Diego, California. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images/FIFA.com)
SAN DIEGO, California – In head coach Bruce Arena’s return to the U.S. bench on Sunday, there are two ways to look at the scoreless draw with Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium.
On one hand, the Americans were solid on defense, making it a relatively easy game for goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
On the other hand, they could not solve a defense that featured the best players from the Serbian first division, but no starters from the regular international side.
"We could be better with our chances," said Arena. "I think we could have been a little bit cleaner in final third of the field, getting the final shot or being a little bit cleaner with our passing and combination there. But overall I thought the midfield played well, our back line played well. Nick was solid in goal, so there were a lot of encouraging things out there."
Still, some of the USA’s more attack-minded players felt they could have been more productive with ball.
"We didn't play at a high enough tempo to create chances," midfielder Sacha Kljestan remarked. "They defended very well. When the ball turned over, they did really well to get 10 to 11 guys behind the ball, and they made it very difficult to break down. So, when we won the ball, we needed to play the ball forward faster in order to break a few of their defensive lines, but we weren't able to do that."
Striker Jozy Altidore, who became the 17th U.S. player to reach 100 caps in the match, registered the lone shot on goal by the home team.
"I thought we were a bit toothless in the attack," commented the Toronto FC standout. "We weren't really that dangerous going forward."
The U.S. will try to find the net on Friday, when it hosts Jamaica in another friendly in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That will be its final game before World Cup Qualifying resumes on March 24 against visiting Honduras in San Jose, California.