Greg Garza notched the first appearance for an Atlanta United player in an US men’s national team shirt Sunday, making it the first time he’s suited up for country in over two years. In a match that saw the USMNT play fluid, attacking soccer in the first half, Garza made a few promising defensive highlights, while notching at least one lowlight – an uncalled foul inside the 18-yard box that in any meaningful match is probably called a penalty kick.
As for the rest of the MLS-based squad, it’s clear new head coach, Bruce Arena, was trying to develop partnerships with players who have showed the most promise recently. Darlington Nagbe looked strong in his first cap since being ostracized by Jurgen Klinsmann. The Portland Timber had two curling shots go just wide off nice build up through midfield play.
Graham Zusi was a pleasant surprise from his new right-back role. While he doesn’t have the speed we’re used to seeing in players like DeAndre Yedlin, he pushed up the right flank in a similar fashion, creating a few half chances and contributing overall to the attack.
Overall, however, the USMNT play seemed to contain much of the same we’ve seen in the past: missed chances in the final third. Against a team like Serbia, those chances should’ve been finished. Although he didn’t score, Altidore seemed be in the same form he was in last we saw him in MLS Cup. Sacha Kljestan and Nagbe is a partnership to keep an eye on moving forward, while Sebastian Lletgett was involved in the attack early after coming on at half for Jermaine Jones.
Outside the two shots from Nagbe, the best chance for the USMNT came from Chris Pontius in stoppage time who tried connecting a low curler past the Serbian keeper, ultimately going just wide for the Philadelphia Union player.
For Atlanta United fans, they should be hopeful in what they saw out of Garza, and happy about the most important aspect of this game – he didn’t get hurt. His hustle will certainly be appreciated even if we see the occasional clumsy mistake, a product of his two-year absence off the field, no doubt.
The USMNT next face Jamaica in Chattanooga on Friday. We could see the same core group of players to start against what should be a similar or tougher squad. We could also see a different lineup surrounded by the core players we’re used to seeing. This is simply a product of trying to identify partnerships that could improve the overall play of the USMNT. The Raggae Boyz forced the USMNT into settling for the third place match in the 2014 Gold Cup, eventually losing to Panama in penalty kicks.
That game will be broadcasts on Fox Sports 1 on Friday, February 3 at 7:30.