Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler were the starters in the game in Trinidad but Arena told FOX Sports that his preferred center-back pairing had the U.S. qualified could have been the duo starting the nation’s friendly against Portugal on Tuesday — John Brooks and Miazga.

“We had some injuries during the year, in particular at the center back position,” Arena said before the USA-Portugal match. “John Brooks wasn’t available for a long time and today we see John Brooks partnering up with Matt Miazga. If I were a betting man, I would have bet those two would have been our center backs at the World Cup.”

Brooks was sidelined with a thigh injury for both the September and October qualifiers. However, Miazga who was called in during the 2017 Gold Cup, was not on the roster for any of the four decisive qualifiers.

Miazga was not only youthful addition to the lineup as interim U.S. manager Dave Sarachan went with an experimental XI in the first game post-World Cup elimination.

Arena approved of the opportunity being handed to those young players, adding: “There’s a bunch of good young players here today. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Kellyn Acosta, Juan Agudelo — so I think today’s game is a great showcase for our young players.”

McKennie and Adams made their senior team debuts in the contest.

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