The second coming of Bruce Arena as USMNT manager did not exactly get off to a great start as the US played to an incredibly dull 0-0 draw against Serbia on Sunday. The game itself was nothing to write home about and very few (if any) US players did anything to help or hurt their case for inclusion in the US squad moving forward. The next friendly is the last chance for many of the players to seize their chance before World Cup Qualifying resumes in March. And they’ll get a CONCACAF opponent to do it against as the US takes on Jamaica.
The game against Serbia was a textbook example of the meaningless friendly. Nobody learned much of anything. The problem is that this January Camp and the two accompanying friendlies had taken on a much greater importance than January Camps of years past due to the disastrous start to World Cup Qualifying. As mentioned earlier, none of the players have yet made a solid case for inclusion in the next World Cup Qualifying squad in March. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore were not good but both are probably mortal locks to be called in. Nick Rimando was solid when called upon in goal but it’s hard to see him passing Brad Guzan or Tim Howard. Graham Zusi proved serviceable at left back but wasn’t tested too much so it remains to be seen how he fares against high quality opposition. Jordan Morris and Juan Agudelo both snatched at golden scoring chances late in the game. Darlington Nagbe proved to be the best player on the field, creating most of the chances but failing to finish any of them. Again, it’s worth noting that a number of the US’ best players are still in Europe and were not called into this camp.
After having a great 2015, Jamaica fell way off in 2016. They posted a record of 3-6-1. Not only did they finish bottom of their group at the Copa America Centenario (where they failed to score a single goal) they also finished bottom of their World Cup Qualifying group and failed to make it to the Hex. The lone bright spot was that they did manage to simultaneously qualify for the Caribbean Cup and the Gold Cup. Like the US, Jamaica has scheduled a pair of friendlies early in the year (with their next one on February 16 against Honduras in Houston, TX). After such a dismal year the JFF had no choice but to fire manager Winfried Schafer and has again turned to Theodore ‘Tappa” Whitmore to manage the team. This is Whitmore’s fourth different stint as the man in charge for the Reggae Boyz. Whitmore called 16 players in for these two friendlies and there are a good number of US based players on the roster (eight of them in fact, six of them with MLS clubs).