BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA vs. USA
Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 2:30 pm ET
Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium
Watch on ESPN2 and UniMas
Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com
The US national team takes on another rugged European challenge in the ancient city of Sarajevo on Wednesday as they meet rising continental contender Bosnia-Herzegovina in an international friendly at the Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium.
It's a timely opportunity for Jurgen Klinsmann and his charges to test their sizzling recent form against one of the toughest opponents they'll face all year. The Zmajevi (Dragons) are a skilful, powerful team whose dominance of UEFA World Cup qualifying Group G has fueled their climb to No. 13 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, their highest position ever.
The USA's German-American coach has also seized the occasion as a chance to introduce several intriguing new faces to the squad, which is a dominantly European-based group with only two MLSers and two Mexico-based players taking part.
These teams have never met.
The Yanks are sitting pretty as a busy summer winds to a close, having posted a perfect 3-0 record in June's CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers before last month's dominant Gold Cup triumph. That has put the USMNT on a program-record 11-game winning streak and raised hopes that Klinsmann and his staff are moving the team towards the long-stated goal of “next-level” performances and results.
But as successful as they've been in their own backyard of late, the USA's trans-Atlantic trips have traditionally been a different matter entirely. The US carry a discouraging 17-54-9 all-time record in Europe. Last year they earned an historic 1-0 win over Italy in Genoa and a respectable 2-2 draw against Russia in Krasnodar, however.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated angle of Wednesday's match is the introduction of newcomers Aron Johannsson (pictured, right), John Anthony Brooks, Bobby Wood and Cody Cropper. The four European-based prospects carry a range of backstories into their first senior-team camp and will be eager to make a solid initial impression even if game time eludes them.
“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,” Klinsmann told USsoccer.com this week. “We also want them to make friends with their teammates, to feel comfortable and to be part of a special group that is shooting toward the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”
Boasting the strong technique and instinctive nous that Balkan nations are known for, the Zmajevi have grown steadily in stature since their federation's birth amidst the horrific civil war that racked the region in the aftermath of Yugoslavia's disintegration in the early 1990s. Four years ago they fell agonizingly short of their first World Cup berth via a UEFA playoff loss to Portugal, and were similarly close to earning spots in the past two European Championship tournaments.
Many consider their current crop of talent to be the best yet, with characters like Edin Dzeko (center right), Emir Spahic, Asmir Begovic and Miralem Pjanic carving out important roles at major European clubs. They've been imperious on the road to Brazil 2014, topping UEFA Group G with a 5-0-1 record and a gaudy goal differential of plus-20 with four matches to go.
With a World Cup well in sight, manager Safet Susic can expect that every player called in will work their hardest to prove their worthiness of a place in his plans over the next year. After the disappointments of the past, the home fans are as optimistic as ever and will expect a fluid, confident display against the US in Sarajevo.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
USA – Geoff Cameron
The Houston Dynamo product has been one of Klinsmann's favorite Swiss Army knives over the past year or so, performing well in three different positional roles. But he craves a starting center back spot above all and it looks as though he'll get a meaningful runout in that position against elite opposition this week, especially with Michael Orozco Fiscal bowing out due to a hamstring injury.
Bosnia-Herzegovina – Vedad Ibisevic
Born in Bosnia when it was still part of Yugoslavia and raised mainly in St. Louis after his family fled the strife in their homeland, the rangy Stuttgart striker could well be wearing US colors this week had a few turns gone differently in his past. He made his name with an 18-goal freshman campaign at St. Louis University in 2003, then quickly moved on to Europe, where he exploded onto the German scene with Hoffenheim six years ago. Blessed with good feet and aerial ability, he provides B&H with a sharp foil to Dzeko up top.
GOALKEEPERS: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City, England), Asmir Avdukic (Borac Banja Luka, Bosnia), Jasmin Fejzic (Aalen, Germany)
DEFENDERS: Ermin Bicakcic (Braunschweig, Germany), Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Toni Sunjic (Zorya Lugansk, Ukraine), Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg, Germany), Ervin Zukanovic (Gent, Belgium), Avdija Vrsajevic (Hajduk Split, Croatia)
MIDFIELDERS: Miralem Pjanic (Roma, Italy), Senad Lulic (Lazio, Italy), Sejad Salihovic (Hoffenheim, Germany), Adnan Zahirovic (Bochum, Germany), Elvir Rahimic (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Haris Medunjanin (Gazientepspor, Turkey), Miroslav Stevanovic (Elche, Spain), Zvjezdan Misimovic (Guizhou Renhe, China), Edin Visca (Istanbul BB, Turkey)
FORWARDS: Edin Dzeko (Manchester City, England), Vedad Ibisevic (Stuttgart, Germany)
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Southampton, England), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England)
DEFENDERS: John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg, Germany), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers, England)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Michael Bradley (Roma, Italy), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg, Norway), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04, Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium), Danny Williams (Reading, England)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland, England), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna, Austria), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich, Germany)