USA vs. Serbia preview: Bruce Arena’s first game again

There is somewhat of a trend in society right now where what’s old is new again. That certainly appears to be the case with the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) as former manager Bruce Arena retakes the reigns after the dismissal of Jurgen Klinsmann in November. Arena was the US manager from 1998 until 2006 when he was fired after finishing bottom of the group at the World Cup. He did however guide the US to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002. His mandate now is to simply get the US to the World Cup next year in Russia. Before World Cup Qualifying resumes however, Arena has a chance to work with the player pool during the annual January Camp that concludes with two friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica.

In keeping with the theme where everything old is new again, the roster for this January Camp certainly has a number of faces that have not been called into a camp since the Bob Bradley era. Chief among them is Benny Feilhaber who was very public is voicing his unhappiness at not being called in under Klinsmann. Others in that group include Chad Marshall and Dax McCarty, neither of whom got much of a look from the previous staff. Also interesting, and perhaps unsurprising, a good number of LA Galaxy players are on the roster: Brian Rowe, Jermaine Jones, Sebastian Lletget and Gyasi Zardes. Darlington Nagbe is also back after many thought his MNT career was over because he turned down a call up in October. There are also a few new faces to complement to old ones: Taylor Kemp, Keegan Rosenberry, Walker Zimmerman and perhaps most excitingly, Jorge Villafana. And of course, some Klinsmann staples are on the roster as well: Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya and Jozy Altidore.

There has always been debate about the value of the January Camp, but there is no doubting the value and importance of this one. The US is in a very deep hole trying to qualify for the next World Cup and Bruce Arena needs the two games of this January Camp to get a decent idea of where his team stands and where certain players fit in. It bears noting that there are also a number of European based players that haven’t been called into this camp and Arena will need to figure out what to do with them as well. It’s a tough challenge but with the next World Cup qualifier at home and these two friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica, there’s a lot of faith that Bruce Arena can get the job done.

Serbia is coming off a very good year in 2016. They went 5-2-3, were unbeaten in four World Cup Qualifiers and currently sit second in their World Cup Qualifying group (two points behind Republic of Ireland). However, they have failed to qualify for the last three major tournaments (Euro 2012, World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016) having last qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (where they finished last in their group). Like the MNT, this friendly is an opportunity for Serbia to test some of their non-regulars, as their roster for this game is composed mostly of out of season Serbian league players. Manager Slavoljub Muslin has brought in a pair of exciting strikers (Mark Mrkic of Radnicki Nis and Alesandar Palocevic of Vojvodina) that had good form in the most recent SuperLiga season.

Notes:

• Four of the US players called into the camp got married immediately before arriving: Taylor Kemp, Dax McCarty, Wil Trapp and Walker Zimmerman.

• The streak of six consecutive MNT friendlies drawing under 10,000 spectators appears over as the tickets sales for the friendly against Serbia had reached 11,500 as of Tuesday.

• This is the first January Camp since 2013 to not play a game at the StubHub Center.

Where to watch USA vs. Serbia on TV and streaming:

When: Sunday, January 29, 2017
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Kickoff time: 4pm ET
TV: ESPN2, UniMas and Univision Deportes
Streaming: Sling Orange, fuboTV, DIRECTV NOW (free trial)

All-time series

First meeting

Current FIFA ranking

USA: 28
Serbia: 45

Next game:

Friday, February 3, 2017
International friendly
USA vs. Jamaica
Finley Stadium
Chattanooga, TN

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