USMNT camp update
Sarachan impressed by his team's "youthful confidence"
The United States national team is in its final preparations for its Tuesday night friendly against Paraguay and interim head coach Dave Sarachan likes what he has seen from his young squad so far in camp. ASN is in Cary bringing you the latest.
BY Brian Sciaretta & Blake Thomsen Posted
March 26, 2018
March 26, 2018
CARY, N.C. – On Monday morning, interim United States national team manager Dave Sarachan spoke with members of the press about Tuesday night’s friendly and the direction of the team in 2018.
Ahead of his third match in charge of the U.S. team following its elimination from the 2018 World Cup, Sarachan has continued to call-up rosters with a heavy eye towards the future. For the first time in over a decade a healthy Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and others are not selected. Instead, the roster consists of young players – some of whom are in their very first seasons at the professional level.
Sarachan is quick to point out that some of the veterans might be brought back into the fold next year or later this year. He also said this shift was done not as way to punish the veterans but rather to give the new players a chance to take their first steps in international arena with a clean slate, less pressure, and away from the distracting atmosphere that could follow surround veterans who were part of the failed World Cup qualifying campaign.
Over the past week, Sarachan has been impressed with how the group has responded despite the average age of the roster being under 24.
“We all get reminded of getting older,” Sarachan said. “When I walk in and see these guys, I get reminded that I am getting older. The message is that this is the natural progression. I was part of this in 2002 and on and off in all the different cycles. The natural progression is guys get older and young guys come through. And if the balances right, you’ll have a pretty successful group. I think having older veteran heads and voices is extremely important.... But you need some of the younger ones to come in and get their feet wet so they can take the mantle.”
“Leadership comes in all sorts of forms,” he added. “This is sort of a new group - personalities emerge and little bits and pieces of leadership start to evolve. I think that is all part of the evolution of the process I was talking about. When you say the older guys, I still believe there are a number of those guys that still will play a part.. but now it allows [the younger players'] personalities to shine and develop without any type of pressure.”
Sarachan said that he will continue to dedicate most of 2018 towards giving these young players opportunities with the team. He also made a case that the players he selected are ones that he believes will have a future with the team for the upcoming cycle – even if Sarachan is no longer in charge when they reach their potential.
It is unclear how much longer Sarachan will be running the national team but his contract was set to expire in March but was extended through June which will allow him to coach in friendlies against Bolivia, France, and Ireland before the World Cup in Russia. Many of the young players on the team have credited Sarachan with helping to foster a positive atmosphere in camp amid the setback following the World Cup failure.
Despite the uncertainty of how long his tenure will be, Sarachan insists that he is simply trying to take the job one day at a time with a vision for the long-term future.
“I don’t think about that, to be honest. I am on the job to keep this program going forward in my focus is on this group, training this group and preparing this group for the game on Tuesday. When that is over, we will get ourselves prepared for the next set of friendlies. I do not have a crystal ball for my future in occupation or in life so I take it one day at a time.”
Regarding the specifics of the team, Sarachan said that Schalke start midfielder Weston McKennie arrived in camp with an injury and hinted that the Dallas native might not play against Paraguay. He also said he has been playing the versatile Tyler Adams in a few different midfield roles in camp but mostly in the middle.
Regarding the new players on the team (Andrija Novakovich, Tim Weah, Antonee Robinson, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Shaq Moore), Sarachan said that all have made strong cases in their first camp. Against Paraguay, Sarachan will have six substitution and he plans on using all of them. With 17 players likely to see the field, it is almost certain that multiple first caps will be awarded along with several others who only have just a few caps to their name.
Paraguay, on the other hand, has brought a much more experienced team that included players that have played in 2017 World Cup qualifiers. So between the two teams there will be a contrast of styles, experience, and age.
Based on what he’s seen this week, Sarachan believes his team is up for the challenge
“A few things have stood out to me,” Sarachan explained. “One is that they have a youthful confidence. They come in from their environments where they’re playing, they are drawing a little bit from the past where we were playing Portugal & Bosnia. …They come in with what I would say it is a clean slate in their mind. They are looking to impress each day in training. They are pushing each day in training. The technical level of these guys has a shown to be very, very good. Obviously with youth comes enthusiasm and energy. But the soccer has impressed me in training…But we will see tomorrow how it looks when it really counts.”
“I think they all belong here and they all made a good case for themselves,” he added. “It is actually going to be a little bit of a challenge for me to put the first XI together. The margin between what I would say is the top and the bottom is very thin.”