Portland Timbers star midfielder Darlington Nagbe put on an inspired performance, but the US national team couldn't quite find its finishing touch in a 0-0 draw against Serbia on Sunday at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.
The match was the first-ever meeting between the two nations and it was also head coach Bruce Arena's first game back in charge after more than a decade. Arena opted for a 4-2-3-1, all-MLS lineup with Nagbe making his first start for the USA in a wide left position and proving the catalyst for the team's best looks at goal. He even came close to the mark himself on two occasions in the first half.
The match was sloppy at times on both sides, but the Americans enjoyed the brightest moments with new LA Galaxy signing Jermaine Jones making several energetic runs into the attack from his central midfield position. He was replaced at the break by his new Galaxy teammate Sebastian Lletget, who also pushed high up the field and created issues for a Serbian side which fielded many players from the country's domestic league.
Late US subs Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) and Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution) each had late opportunities for a winner, but it was American goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) who came up with the big play in the waning moments, preserving the shutout with a diving 89th-minute save on a close-range blast from late sub Lazar Jovanovic.
The scoreless draw will go down as the first US cap for both Lletget and Pontius, while former Timbers left back Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/Mexico) also came on for his first minutes in a US jersey, replacing starting left back Greg Garza in the 69th minute.
The USA will close out January camp with a second friendly against CONCACAF rivals Jamaica on Friday in Chattanooga, Tennessee (7 pm ET on FS1, UniMás, UDN).
Timbers coach Caleb Porter recently noted that Darlington
Nagbe's best position was wide left
and the 26-year-old proved him right on Sunday with a showing that MLS fans are used to seeing: exquisite touch, slippery movements and the ability to maintain possession and jumpstart the attack, including from his own half.
THE ZUSI EXPERIMENT:
It was Zusi's first match at right back on the international level and his work rate and athleticism served him well to keep up with winger Srdan Plavsic, who was one of the most dangerous Serbian players on the afternoon. The Sporting Kansas City winger grew more comfortable in the defensive role as the match progressed, but the transition definitely looks to be a work in progress.
- USA: Int'l Friendly - Friday, Feb. 3 vs. Jamaica (7 pm ET; FS1, UniMás, UDN)
- Serbia: World Cup Qualifier - Friday, March 24 at Georgia