Three takeaways from the U.S. draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina

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Tyler Adams and Ike Opara were among those who impressed for the U.S. in a friendly that didn't yield great soccer, but some good individual efforts

January friendlies are known for two things when it comes to the U.S. national team: signaling the end of the annual January camp and delivering what winds up usually being some pretty ugly soccer.

That is what we saw Sunday in a 0-0 draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina, and we really shouldn't have been that surprised. Even January camps filled with veterans have produced lackluster performances in friendlies. Take a squad loaded with players lacking national team experience, who are just making their way into preseason, and you wind up with disjointed and oftentimes forgettable soccer.

"The soccer was spotty at times I thought," caretaker U.S. coach Dave Sarachan said after the match. "There were moments we were OK, and then there were moments where I thought we gave away possession pretty easily. Maybe still a little bit of rust is on a few of the guys."

Not all was lost on Sunday though. There were several promising individual performances, and the second half did offer a better showing from the Americans than the first half. Unfortunately, the goals never came, leaving the few U.S. fans who turned out at the StubHub Center feeling about as unfulfilled as they have been feeling for the past three months.

The announced crowd of 11,161 was sparse, with the Bosnian fans in attendance offering up more of a vocal presence than the American supporters. That's an unfortunate scene to take in given the lasting memories of Costa Rican fans converging on Red Bull Arena in September. It was to be expected given the lingering hangover caused by missing out on the World Cup, which has left many fans feeling a bit melancholy and disinterested heading into a World Cup year with no World Cup for the United States.

It still felt like a bit of a wasted opportunity by U.S. Soccer to try and do more with Sunday's friendly. It's easy to forget after what happened last fall, but the U.S. team has been struggling to draw good crowds for friendlies over several years, with some fans pointing to ticket prices and lack of marketing and promotion of the friendlies as causes.

Perhaps it was better that more American fans didn't show up, because the soccer wasn't exactly memorable. On the bright side for those who were there, they were able to get a glimpse at some young players who will definitely be a factor in the coming years, and will have key roles to play once the matches start becoming important again.

"I think we did a really nice job of coming together as a group," U.S. midfielder Wil Trapp said. "It's a lot of inexperienced players. The ability to come in off the offseason and put in the work, and then find a result against Bosnia. We had some chances, they had some chances, but it's the beginning of preseason in a lot of ways so you have to expect some growing pains in that. But I think the group did a really nice job of sticking together."

Here is a look back at some takeaways from the match:


IRREPRESSIBLE ADAMS IMPRESSES AGAIN


Tyler Adams USA Bosnia

Tyler Adams' second U.S. national team appearance didn't have any highlight-reel moments and no goals or assists to point to, but anyone who watched the 18-year-old New York Red Bulls midfielder buzz around the field could get a sense of what all the growing fuss is about.

Adams may have taken some time to really get a hold on the game, partly because he started out trying to push forward and get involved in the attack, but once he settled in a bit deeper in midfield, he started to show his influence playing in a central midfield trio with Trapp and Cristian Roldan.

"In terms of the defensive structure of the group, it was solid," Sarachan said of the play of the aforementioned trio. "With those three, they had the freedom to release and join in with C.J. [Sapong] early, whether it was Cristian or Tyler. I don't consider them pure passing No. 10s, but at the same time I think with their runs out of midfield I thought we were dangerous actually. So it wasn't so much the creative passing that we expected, but it was the dangerous third-man running that guys like Tyler can make out of the midfield.

"I thought (Adams) did a good job of that, and I thought there were moments where if we picked him out a little bit earlier we could have been even more dangerous."

As he showed last November against Portugal, Adams can offer something getting forward, but he is at his most effective working as a box-to-box midfielder, setting up deeper in midfield where he can see threats developing, as well as opportunities to race forward and join the attack. In the first half against Bosnia, Adams found himself in the final third a few times, but never with teammates around him to combine. In the second half, playing deeper in midfield, Adams was able to cause more problems as a defensive presence while also seeing more of the ball.

Based on comments made by Sarachan and other players in camp, Adams enjoyed an excellent camp, showing why there is such a growing buzz about him as he looks to build on his breakout 2017.

"It's an exciting future for us," Trapp said ."When you look at a guy like Tyler Adams, who went 90 minutes tonight. There's a handful of other guys, here and not here, that people should be excited about because the quality is real and they have good heads on their shoulders and they want to learn and they want to get better. That's all you can ask for at age 18, but they're pushing the level and it's exciting to see."


TIME TO LET ZARDES FOCUS ON CLUB CAREER


Gyasi Zardes Darko Todorovic USA Bosnia & Herzegovina

We all know that 2017 was a year to forget for Gyasi Zardes.

Injury and the implosion of the LA Galaxy season left Zardes out of the national team picture, and the offseason has seen him traded away from his hometown team and shipped to the Columbus Crew. Sarachan, who was an assistant with the Galaxy in Zardes' early years as a pro, handed the 26-year-old a start on Sunday after he came into camp in what Sarachan called excellent shape, but the result wasn't pretty to watch.

Zardes struggled with his passes and touches, and just looked lost in the attack, with the only saving grace being the effort he showed in tracking back defensively — some when he was trying to clean up messes he made. To be fair, he wasn't the only player who had struggles, but the reality is throwing him in the starting lineup, ahead the likes of Paul Arriola and Kelyn Rowe, felt forced and like a sentimental nod. He was the only player in the U.S. lineup Sunday who wasn't coming off a strong MLS season.

With that in mind, Sarachan should do well to let Zardes now focus on his move to Columbus, and certainly not consider him for a nod in the March friendlies — assuming Sarachan is still in charge then. Zardes needs to focus on his new team and finding his best form, which we haven't seen for more than a year now.


OPARA MAKES MOST OF LONG-AWAITED DEBUT 


Bill Hamid Ike Opara Gyasi Zardes Walker Zimmerman USA Bosnia & Herzegovina

Ike Opara's road to the U.S. national team was a long and difficult one. From his promising early years as a college and youth national team standout, to the serious injuries that derailed his ascent and threatened to end his career. On Sunday, Opara followed up what was already an outstanding 2017 with a solid shift in his U.S. national team debut.

"Ike was great," Sarachan said. "I thought he was in good spots most of the night. He broke up a few plays. He distributed the ball decently tonight, and held up physically."

Opara said he played "well enough, I think."

"I was happy with the performance for this time of the year. Working in the fitness and working in the form," he added. "I wish we would have got a win. Ultimately, at the end of the day, that's what we're here to do."

The 28-year-old showed off the athleticism, poise and improved passing ability that helped him lead Sporting KC to the stingiest defense in MLS in 2017. While he is facing plenty of competition in the U.S. center-back pool from younger options like Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Walker Zimmerman, Opara showed that he is capable of stepping in as a solid option in the near future.

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