Opara, Polster set make US debuts against Bosnia
CARSON, Calif. (AP) Defenders Ike Opara and Matt Polster were made their U.S. national team debuts in Sunday night’s exhibition against Bosnia-Herzegovina, the second game for the Americans since they failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.
Just two players started from the group that opened the 1-1 tie at Portugal in November: midfielder Tyler Adams and forward C.J. Sapong.
Interim coach Dave Sarachan ran the team for the second straight match following the resignation of Bruce Arena, who quit after the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances ended with a 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago in October.
Bill Hamid was in goal after entering to start the second half at Portugal. Polster was at right back, Walker Zimmerman and Opara at central defender and Justin Morrow at left back.
Wil Trapp was in defensive midfield of a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Gyasi Zardes, Christian Roldan, Adams and Jordan Morris in front. Sapong was the lone forward.
Opara, a starter at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup, was making his debut at age 28. He was selected Major League Soccer’s defender of the year in 2017.
Zardes was back at the StubHub Center after the LA Galaxy traded him to Columbus on Jan. 20. Zardes and Morris were the only starters with more than five international appearances. Trapp captained the team in just his third international appearance and first start.
Nine players were on the U.S. bench: goalkeeper Zack Steffen; defenders Nick Lima and Tim Parker; midfielders Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, Marky Delgado and Kelyn Rowe; and forwards Juan Agudelo and Rubio Rubin.
Canouse, Delgado, Lima, Parker and Steffen have not previously played for the national team.
Nine Americans who trained leading up to the match did not dress: goalkeepers Alex Bono and Cody Cropper; defenders Danny Acosta, Justen Glad and Brandon Vincent; midfielders Marlon Hairston, Ian Harkes and Brooks Lennon; and forward Christian Ramirez.
Harkes is a son of former U.S. captain John Harkes.
Bosnia also failed to qualify for the World Cup, and Robert Prosinecki was coaching for the first time since replacing Mehmed Bazdarevic. Prosinecki, a former Yugoslavia and Croatia star, gave six players their debuts.
The match was not on a FIFA international date, and both teams were missing many top players. The U.S. also elected to bypass most veterans who are in MLS.
This was the last men’s national team match of Sunil Gulati’s 12-year-reign as U.S. Soccer Federation president. Eight candidates are running to succeed him, and the search for a new coach has been put off until after the vote on Feb. 10.