USMNT notebook: Weah's confidence grows, new core emerging
The United States men's national team camp opened in New Jersey. Brian Sciaretta was on hand and here were some of the key quotes from the day.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedWHIPPANY, N.J – The United States national team camp opened in New Jersey at the New York Red Bulls training facility ahead of Friday’s friendly against Brazil.
September 03, 2018
September 03, 2018
There was some news to report in that Toronto’s Marky Delgado was added to the roster to bring the total to 25 players. A few of the players were yet to arrive but all were expected to be there for Tuesday’s training.
United States interim head coach Dave Sarcahan and some of the players spoke with the media and here were some of the highlights.
John Brooks has dealt with a lot of injuries over the past 18 months and it forced him to miss the end of the failed World Cup qualifying campaign. He was most recently with the team last November for a 1-1 draw with Portugal in its first friendly after qualifying but has not been part of the team since – either due to injury or a long season with Wolfsburg that forced it to avoid relegation via the playoffs.
Sarachan told the media he has seen Brooks grow both on and off the field with the U.S. team.
“People forget he's still pretty young,” Sarachan said. “You think of John as being an old veteran, and he's really not. I think part of the maturation process is not only on the field but off the field. I think he's really embraced that part of things in terms of being much more integrated in the group. I think we saw that in November and he's truly excited to be back this week.”
Dave Sarachan’s contract as the caretaker national team head coach only runs through the end of the year. Earnie Stewart is leading the charge to find the next coach but Sarachan is happy with the core group of players that have emerged under his watch.
“My instincts have told me to look forward and vet some of these prospects that we think have a future,” Sarachan said. “I think so far, since I've been doing it, it's been an honor and the group has responded. I think we have established now somewhat of a core of guys that have sort of taken on that responsibility of turning that page and looking forward. I feel good about it but as a coach you're never completely satisfied. There is still a lot of work to be done.”
He also added that he hopes to add new players in the upcoming camps this year.
“This is a group we kind of established since November - a few new faces. Hopefully each camp we have, we'll incorporate some new guys.”
Antonee Robinson, 20, is one of the new players that has been a regular so far this year. Signed to Everton, last season the English-born Robinson impressed at Bolton in a successful relegation battle in the Championship. In the summer he played for Everton in preseason before joining Wigan Athletic in the Championship on another season-long loan.
Thus far he has been a regular starter for Wigan and has earned positive reviews for his performances from the local media.
Robinson was one of the U.S. team’s better players against France in a 1-1 draw in a pre-World Cup friendly. Sarachan discussed Robinson’s growth within the U.S. team.
“Antonee is still learning the ropes, especially at the senior level of national team play,” Sarachan said. “He is still new to this but he's getting valuable minutes overseas. He brings a good amount of pace to the position. He's comfortable getting forward. He's still learning the defending tactical adjustments that need to be made at this level. But the progress is there.”
Will veterans return?
There was some speculation as to whether or not veterans like Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore would return to the U.S. team for this camp. In the end Sarachan decided not to call them even if some players who were on the field in the loss to Trinidad & Tobago, like Paul Arriola, Bobby Wood, and DeAndre Yedlin, were called up.
Sarachan admits that he does not know when those players will return although he does anticipate it at some point. For now, he wants to push forward with the young core that he has built upon so far at the end of 2017 and into 2018.
“I still felt that in this early part of the fall Kickoff Series to continue the way we have sort of established this group,” Sarachan said. “I don't have a roadmap as to when the exact time it makes the most sense. But the focus is on the group that we have here. Down the line, we will address that issue.”
“This is a very ambitious schedule with these six games that we have coming up,” he added. “The value of the experience for young players is invaluable. I do know a lot of the veterans and I do know what they can bring. They're part of the future when we get into the meat of things next year but right now I think these are some important games for these guys [here].”
Weah’s growth in confidence
Tim Weah, 18, made his U.S. team debut against Paraguay and scored his first goal against Bolivia in May.
There was talk about his confidence on Monday from Weah and Sarachan – both of whom admitted that he has grown a lot over the summer after earning first team minutes at an uber-talented Paris St. Germain team.
“As you saw against Bolivia, coming in as a young 18 year old playing against professionals and playing with professionals I used to watch, I came in with a little less confidence and a little less swagger because I was kind of holding back,” Weah said. “I wanted to play it simple. I am a lot more confident now. I am training with the best players. So in this camp, I really want to show the world and show our supporters what I can really do on the ball.”
Sarachan echoed those feelings.
“You still have the next step,” Sarachan said. “You can't jump three places. Tim is certainly coming in with confidence and he now knows me, my staff, this team and what's expected. But he's still very young and we can't expect him to be a seasoned guy today. But his comfort level now is a little bit better.”
But a bit of the more eye-opening news came when Weah said that the reason why he didn’t go on loan to start the season is because he turned down the opportunity in order to remain at PSG. Playing time will be harder to come by with the French champions but Weah wants to train in that environment for a extended period before discussing the possibility of a loan – which he believes could be possible in the future.
“I was supposed to go on loan earlier this season and I chose not to,” Weah explained. “I chose to stay and work on my game because I feel under Thomas Tuchel with the players we have, it's going to be great for me. My game is going to develop so much and I am going to mature so much. I felt it was the best thing for me.”
Zardes and Novakovich as number 9's
The forward depth chart has been a bit up in the air in recent camps but Sarachan discussed two of his players who are options at center forward: Columubs Crew’s Gyasi Zardes who has also played on the wings under former U.S. coaches Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena and Fortuna Sittard’s Andrija Novakovich – who is on loan from Reading.
“[Gyasi] is having a great season and he's earned the right to be here,” Sarachan said who added that he sees him as a forward and not as a winger. “He's embraced the system in Columbus. I think he can be a real handful as a number 9.”
“[Novakovich] offers a little bit of a different skillset for a number 9, if you want to call him that, being a little bit longer, range-y, good feet, and deceptively crafty in his movement,” Sarachan said. “He's interesting. The jury is still out with how the transition will be at our level but also he's earned the right to continue to have a look.”