USMNT Report: Answers Sought in Sarajevo

Jurgen Klinsmann fielding an experimental lineup for friendly with Bosnia-Herzegovina
by Herb Scribner   |   Wednesday, August 14, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

Not long ago, the United States Men’s National Team, dressed in blue, raised the Gold Cup trophy after a streak of glory.

And later today, the Americans will be back at it with a friendly against Bosnia, this time emanating from Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But the end result isn’t necessarily what matters with this match. Instead, USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann will be looking for answers about his squad and whether or not some of the new experiments will work moving forward.

THE ROAD TO NOW: By swerving through the CONCACAF region with an 11-game winning streak, the Americans captured the Gold Cup trophy and secured a spot in the future playoff game for a chance to advance to the 2017 Confederations Cup. The run came with a blazing Landon Donovan, who soared to his previous heights after a self-imposed sabbatical from soccer.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: For Klinsmann, the clash with Bosnia is about testing his tried and true USA stars, as well as giving newer players an opportunity before crucial games in the fall.

“We want to have the highest benchmark to always measure ourselves up against,” he said. “We also want to see the new faces in our group and take that opportunity of getting a couple interesting answers on specific players.”

And for those new faces, Klinsmann said, it’s all about learning the routine.

“We just really want to give them the opportunity to adjust to the way we do things and understand this is how we work in the United States team, this is our routine, this is our daily schedule, our intensity in training, how we look at things, and our tactical principles,” he said.

ANALYSIS: The USA isn’t heading to Sarajevo solely to secure a victory.

Instead, this is Klinsmann being Klinsmann – he’s experimenting and tinkering with the United States formula. We saw a certain squad of players soar through the World Cup Qualifiers in the spring, and another set succeed stateside in the Gold Cup. He’s changed that lineup yet again, albeit only slightly.

Klinsmann’s included familiar faces like Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Michael Bradley, Tim Ream (after almost 2 years off the squad) and Jozy Altidore, but has mixed that with some of the Gold Cup champions, like Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona. Couple that with the youth movement represented by John Anthony Brooks, Bobby Wood and Aron Johannsson and you have a very uneven, untested and unique lineup.

Bosnia is stacked with top class players like Edin Dzeko, Vedad Ibisevic and Zvjezdan Misimovic, who have led the team on an undefeated sprint to the top of Group G in UEFA World Cup qualifying.

Currently ranked No. 13 by FIFA, the Golden Lillies have only played 3 other matches this year – outscoring its opponents 10-0 in that span. The eastern European side hasn’t lost on home soil since 2010.

Klinsmann has brought his squad to Europe 6 times in less than 2 years and has garnered a 2-2-1 record as the USMNT manager, which is considerably better compared to former USMNT manager Bob Bradley's 2-6-0 European record . But surely this match will test out how this group will compete in a tough European location, which could serve the team well come the fall and next year’s World Cup.

By bringing this lighter and experimental side, Klinsmann understands it’s merely a friendly where both sides, who are equally preparing for crucial fall qualifying games, can work out the kinks and bridge the gap between now and then.

And it’s certainly refreshing to see completely new faces included in the team. After seeing the resurgences of Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, Stuart Holden and Clarence Goodson, it’s a change of pace now that we have Brooks, Johannsson, Wood and 3rd-string goalkeeper Cody Cropper. Klinsmann is slowly building a future, even if many eyes are on him to succeed in the present.

That future includes integrating the successful members of the Gold Cup squad – who might not be shoe-ins for the fall – with some of the A team. This match will be an indicator to Klinsmann of whether or not Diskerud or Corona will continue to earn caps throughout the fall. It should also shed light on whether or not Evans is a major contender for the rightback spot or if his success in the spring was a random stretch of positive play.

Regardless of the result, Team USA and its fans are going to get answers about whether or not the achievements of the summer can carry over to the fall, and how this batch of American players will perform in a European setting. It's about bridging the gap between summer and fall, and making sure the best lineup is ready for the upcoming September games. 

A win today may be improbable and unlikely. But the answers will be good enough for Klinsmann.

NEXT UP: August 14 – Friendly: United States vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN2.


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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.