USA vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina: Why Friendly Is More Significant Than the Gold Cup

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 05:  USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks on prior to the start of the game against Guatemala at Qualcomm Stadium on July 5, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Before restarting World Cup qualifying in September, the United States national team has one important international friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

While most Americans cannot find the country on a map, this match will be a significant test to truly see where this team is compared to the rest of the world.

At this point, the squad seems to be playing as well as ever. It is currently in the midst of a record 11-game winning streak that includes a dominant run through the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Prior to that, the team had a couple of narrow wins in World Cup qualifying.

The problem is that the region simply is not that good compared to the rest of the world. Looking at the official FIFA world rankings, it is clear that the competition from North and Central America is well below that of Europe and South America.

If you do not trust the ranking system, simply look at the World Cup, which has been dominated by these two continents over the years. Not a single squad has even reached the finals from any other region since the tournament began.

This is why if the United States wants to attempt to be a world power in the sport, it will need to match up with the best. At the moment, Bosnia-Herzegovina is playing as well as almost anyone in the world.

Led by Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, the squad is a few matches from clinching a bid to the 2014 World Cup. It is unbeaten in nine contests and has dominated the current stage of qualifying with five wins and a draw in six matches.

The group has defeated opponents 23-3 in the recent stretch and is now up to the No. 13 spot in the world rankings.

Beating an opponent of this quality would be much more impressive for the USA than defeating virtually anyone in its own region.

The last time the United States matched up against European competition, it competed in back-to-back friendlies against Belgium and Germany.

In the first contest, Belgium was completely dominant in a 4-2 victory, showing that the United States still had room to grow. The team came back with a 4-3 win over Germany, although the European giants kept most of its key players at home.

This shows that it is also important to consider the players on the pitch instead of just the team when evaluating performances.

At the Gold Cup, manager Jurgen Klinsmann elected to bring what many called a "B" team full of players trying to earn a spot on the World Cup roster. Obviously, Landon Donovan provided plenty of experience, but most of the squad that competed in World Cup qualifying were not in attendance.

While this would seem to make the tournament win even more impressive, the truth is that most other countries used the same strategy. For example, Mexico kept top goalscorers Giovani dos Santos and Javier Hernandez off the roster as well.

The event that set out to decide the best team in the region ended up being the same as a NBA Summer League game. It was good to evaluate the players, but the scores really did not matter.

Conversely, both sides are expected to bring a legitimate squad in the upcoming friendly.

Bosnia-Herzegovina certainly is not holding back with its roster, according to

For the United States, regulars like Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard and Fabian Johnson ensure that the U.S. team will be well represented in the contest. Many other European-based players will also be available on the roster, provided by ESPN.

Of course, this exhibition will additionally be a chance to see some up-and-coming players compete against some of the best in the world.

One person who will be scrutinized is former Iceland player Aron Johannsson, who only recently switched his allegiance. Hopefully, the forward will get a chance to show what he can do this week.

Contributors like Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud should also get a chance to prove they are worthy of a spot on the World Cup roster.

Finally, it is important to remember that while this is a friendly, the final score is still significant. A win over a successful team like Bosnia-Herzegovina would be a huge boost in the world rankings, which is used for seeding in the World Cup.

If the United States keeps climbing at the same rate it has been, it could end up with a relatively easy group in Brazil.

There are a lot of positives that can come from a win. Unfortunately, a blowout loss would likely ruin the confidence that was built up as the team would see it is not as good as it hoped.

This makes the match quite significant and much more intriguing than yet another contest against weak opponents from CONCACAF.


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