Opara, Polster, Steffen make US debuts in 0-0 tie vs Bosnia

CARSON, Calif. (AP) Defenders Ike Opara and Matt Polster made their U.S. national team debuts along with goalkeeper Zack Steffen as the Americans played a listless 0-0 tie in an exhibition against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday night.

Haris Medunjanin sent a penalty kick off Steffen’s right post in the 53rd minute as the goalkeeper dove the other way, a kick awarded when Walker Zimmerman fouled Luka Menalo just inside the penalty area.

The Americans played their second game since they failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup and they used an inexperienced roster. 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.

Opara, a starter at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup, made his debut at age 28 in central defense after earning Major League Soccer’s defender of the year honor in 2017. Polster started at right back, and Steffen replaced Bill Hamid at the start of the second half.

Midfielder Wil Trapp captained the U.S. for the first time in just his third appearance and first start.

With the match not on a FIFA international date, both teams were missing many top players. The U.S. also elected to bypass most veterans who are in MLS and instead relied on an inexperienced group at the end of its January camp. Nine American starters had made four or fewer appearances, with Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes the only national team veterans.

The Americans’ best scoring chance in the first half came when C.J. Sapong forced Ibrahim Sehic to make a one-handed punch in the seventh minute. Morris and Cristian Roldan each put shots wide early in the second half.

Bosnia also failed to qualify for the World Cup, and Robert Prosinecki coached for the first time since replacing Mehmed Bazdarevic. Prosinecki, a former Yugoslavia and Croatia star, gave six players their debuts in the starting lineup. Nebraska Omaha sophomore forward Elvir Ibisevic played in the second half. He is a cousin of Bosnia forward Vedad Ibisevic and a former member of the U.S. Under-17 team.

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.

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