Ahead of the U.S. men’s national team playing Colombia in a friendly in Tampa on Thursday, interim head coach Dave Sarachan was asked about what identity his team has developed over the past 12 months.
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Bearing in mind he’s largely called up young players and cast aside serval veteran USMNT stars after their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup last October, it was not easy for him to answer.
Add in the fact that the U.S. Soccer Federation has since hired Earnie Stewart as a new USMNT GM, plus a new USSF president, Carlos Cordeiro, has arrived and there are plenty of moving parts around the national team setup right now.
When it comes to the play on the pitch over the past 12 months following Bruce Arena’s resignation and Sarachan standing in, the experienced coach wants his young squad to stay true to the values U.S. Soccer holds dear.
“It is a broad statement but in the years that we’ve all followed the national team, through many cycles, the takeaway usually is that when you watch the U.S. play you see a team that is organized, competes and plays without a lot of hesitancy and fear of an opponent. The messaging I and my staff have continued to harp on with this group is to check all those same boxes,” Sarachan explained to the media in Tampa. “Each and every time it is still about the honor of wearing this crest. It is still about competing. It is still about trying to win games. It is still about being yourself and showing your personality. I think when I’ve bumped into people over the past few months who have watched our teams, that is one of the first things that is said. ‘Really enjoying watching your team’ and that they are ‘competing and playing hard’ and ‘playing without fear’ and I hope that continues. That is when you see the real personality and players play without any kind of handcuffs on them. I’d capture it in that way.”
Heading into the October friendlies against Colombia and Peru, Sarachan is without three of his most-talented youngsters due to injury.
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams all suffered injuries in recent weeks and that has opened the door for the likes of Marky Delgado and Fafa Pacault to be called up.
“The guys that are missing, of course we would like to have our full complement of players. Referring to Weston, Christian and Tyler, so now what I say is the ‘next man up’ we would loved to have had those guys but they are not here. Now we got a group of 23 who are competing to have an opportunity,” Sarachan said. “That is what you do when someone is not here. It is an opportunity for other players and we have a few good young candidates who are excited to be here and get on the field and show what they’re about.”
With Brad Guzan and Michael Bradley back in the national team setup for the first time since that defeat at Trinidad & Tobago exactly a year ago, the loss which crushed the USA’s hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup, Sarachan didn’t reveal who will captain the team in Tampa on Thursday as he played his cards close to his chest.
Many have been frustrated with the U.S. not hiring a new permanent head coach since they failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986, and while Sarachan has done a very decent job standing in, it feels like any progression has been limited.
Yes, Sarachan has picked very young teams who have come through some tough tests swimmingly, but what direction are the U.S. heading in?
“Looking back on all of these friendlies since the match in Trinidad until now, there’s been a progression,” Sarachan said. “It is by no means a finished progression but I think it is moving along in a good direction.”