Sarachan discusses March friendly & 2018 philosophy
United States national team interim head coach Dave Sarachan was in Cary yesterday to discuss the framework for next month's friendly against Paraguay. He spoke a number of different issues and ASN's Blake Thomsen spoke with Sarachan following a conference with local reporters.
BY Blake Thomsen PostedCary, N.C. — At an upbeat press conference ahead of the USMNT’s March 27 friendly against Paraguay, interim coach Dave Sarachan delivered a clear and consistent message: the future of the USMNT is bright, and the time is now to start giving big minutes to the young players who will feature prominently in the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle and beyond.
March 01, 2018
March 01, 2018
The March Roster
“The composition of the final roster is not finalized,” Sarachan said, “but the pool is going to be a much more experienced group [than the Portugal friendly and January camp], although it will be young in nature because I think, philosophically speaking, 2018 is a year to offer opportunity to a lot of players we think have a real future and really getting to know some new players.”
Sarachan then offered a telling response to a question about whether longtime veterans like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore would be called up.
“For me and I think the program, it’s about getting to know players we don’t know that well,” Sarachan explained. “Michael, Jozy, and I could name a number of guys that have been through qualifying that I’ve personally coached and known over the years. I still believe there is a future for all those players going forward. I believe that. Because after 2018, begins the next four year cycle for qualifying for the next one. Although some of the players will be a little older, I think their value is going to be huge in that process. However for the March game and the games in May/June, I still believe it’s a platform to allow players to sort of get their feet wet internationally and be in the frame for the following year in qualifying. I wouldn’t rule out anything but that’s kind of philosophically where I feel the direction it will take.”
Sarachan spoke with ASN about whether Kenny Saief’s recent performances in Belgium had him back in the USMNT picture, and Sarachan spoke enthusiastically about the 24-year-old. “I’ve been in touch with Kenny. And he would tick the box of guys. We’re keeping an eye [on Saief] and a bunch of guys that have sort of been on the peripheral now are being watched.”
Beyond Saief, Sarachan was generally coy about naming specific names, but the sense I got was that this will be something of a “U-25 A-team,” meaning we should absolutely expect to see young but experienced players such as Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks (if healthy), and Bobby Wood. I think we will also see teenage talents such as Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie (if healthy). On the other hand, it would be a surprise to see players such as Bradley, Altidore, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, and Fabian Johnson.
“Many of these young players feel it’s their time to establish themselves and get this program moving forward and not looking back,” Sarachan said.
Gonzalez & future dual nationals
Sarachan spoke to ASN about whether the fallout from the Jonathan Gonzalez situation had changed how he and the national team program thinks about recruiting dual-nationals.
“We’ve always kept an eye on [dual-nationals],” Sarachan said. “Whenever something like [Gonzalez switching national team allegiances] occurs, there is a lot of debate and discussion. So I think that is all good. But it’s not quite all dire. I think we’ve kept track of a lot of this.”
Regarding Gonzalez specifically, Sarachan offered a colorful explanation.
“I think it was a perfect storm. It was perfect timing for him. He just started playing for Monterrey and he was in their neighborhood and backyard and got pressed. And he was offered the opportunity to go to the World Cup. It doesn’t mean he’s going to make that roster. A perfect storm lent himself to that. You’re facing a steak dinner and a buffet right there, and you’re hungry, you’re going for it.”
A Donovan Return?
Speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl recently, Landon Donovan expressed interest in potentially being involved with the USMNT. “If the idea is that for the next couple years there’s going to be a group of young players that are being brought in to get experience and learn, I would love to be there to help them through it,” Donovan said. “Not even necessarily playing, but just being in camp to help them and use my experience. So if that’s possible— and whoever the coach is is interested in that. I would absolutely love to do that and be a part of that.”
In light of those comments, Sarachan was asked about Donovan’s possible involvement moving forward. “I love Landon,” Sarachan said. “Landon slept on my couch when he was 18 on a trip back from Europe before we were preparing for Korea/Japan. So I’ve known Landon a long, long time. He’s a personal friend. He’s a terrific person and a great competitor. He’s like Michael Jordan in terms of coming out of retirement a few times. Look, I wouldn’t rule out anything but I would tell you 2018 is the year for opportunity. We know Landon well. I think Landon’s value moving forward will certainly be his experience and at one point maybe coming back into the program to help our younger guys. But you know what? You never know. You never know.”
Given Sarachan’s comments, it sounds like the two have not spoken about Donovan joining up with the USMNT in a sort of coach/mentor role. But given the closeness of their relationship with Sarachan having coached Donovan for years with the Galaxy as well as with the national team in the Bruce Arena years, it is not impossible to imagine Donovan being involved in some capacity. Although with Sarachan serving only as the caretaker manager, many of these types of decisions will come down to whoever becomes the next permanent coach.