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Youthful USMNT given freedom to shine ahead of clash with Paraguay


Dave Sarachan’s job is a complicated one. As the U.S. Men’s National Team’s caretaker head coach, he’s preparing a team for a future without him. His job is to integrate new faces to a national team that will look very, very different when he is inevitably replaced.

But, while Sarachan’s job is an unusual one, his approach for Tuesday’s friendly is pretty simple: have fun with it.

“Any time you have a platform like Tuesday to showcase new faces, young players, give them opportunity, there are a lot of people that are going to find this group to be a group they’re going to look forward to in 2018 and beyond,” Sarachan said. “The opportunity for everyone to get out there and showcase against a good opponent is evident.

“You’re going to see a team that’s going to play with no fear and, hopefully, be aggressive, be assertive,” he added. “They won’t be over-coached. I’ll tell you that. We’ll allow them to make a lot of decisions on the field and that’s what this is all about.”

Heading into Tuesday’s clash with friendly, one word that came up several times was “freedom”. The young U.S. team, composed of five new faces and just five players with more than 10 caps, is being awarded the ability to express themselves, whatever that may be.

That part is just one part of the learning process. With an average age of under 24, the U.S. has a lot of learning to do. Against a more experienced Paraguay team featuring a number of World Cup qualifying veterans, the U.S. will most certainly get a bit of a lesson, one way or another.

“We talk about that each day: what it’s like to be in the national team camp and what it takes each and every day with the concentration level and the amount of effort required,” Sarachan siad. “That’s a daily process. It’s not something where I can hand them the book and say ‘this is how you do it’. Along with the senior leaders within the team, you hope by the end of camp, they’ve absorbed quite a lot of knowledge.

“Defensively as a group, it’s coming along well. The challenge is to score goals and be creative, and that’s the part where we want them to know that we want their personality to come out and to be unafraid.”

While Weston McKennie remains questionable due to a recent injury, the U.S. should have a full complement of young players involved. Young defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga and Erik Palmer-Brown lead the way after all shining at the youth World Cup levels. Players like Tyler Adams and Wil Trapp will look to build off strong January performances while newcomers like Andrija Novakovich, Timothy Weah, Shaq Moore and Antonee Robinson look to make their initial impressions as they join the team for the first time.

Paraguay, meanwhile, is not a team in full rebuild mode quite like the U.S. is. There are a number of experienced faces in camp, including Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron. Midfielder Cristian Riveros enters Tuesday’s match with 100 caps to his name. The U.S. team has just 126 combined.

“They have an experienced squad. They brought along a lot of players from qualifying,” Trapp said. “We know some of them, guys like Miguel Almiron. There’s quality, and that’s something we’ll have to deal with. It will be a difficult game but a fun game.”

Tuesday’s match holds extra meaning for a U.S. team because there aren’t many opportunities like it on the horizon. Sure, there are upcoming friendlies with France, Ireland and Bolivia before the coaching search truly begins but, until the Gold Cup returns in 2019, meaningful matches will be hard to come by.

Tuesday is one of few chances to shine on the international level before the program begins its rebirth, and that opportunity isn’t lost on the players.

“It’s still early on,” Adams said. “In a sense, it stinks not to have too many competitive matches coming in the future. At the same time, we have to take these matches seriously because we know they are important in starting the rejuvenation process by getting these young guys minutes and games.

“It always stinks when you don’t make the World Cup, but that’s behind us now. We take the positives where we can, and we move forward with it.”


  1. 1st 45:

    2nd 45:

    Go get em, boys.

  2. Steffen
    Moore CCV EPB Robinson
    Adams Saief Delgado Weah
    Wood Novakovich

    send McKennie home if hurt, no risk, start if well

    Play the kids. Not saying these guys must be better, or were even the best options available, but among this group they haven’t let me down already.

    • Relax dude. The game doesn’t matter, we can enjoy watching the next gen regardless of who trots out there. All you can ask for is that the old guard isn’t on the field.

      Oh, and I like how you were all over (22 year old) Miazga yesterday but have wood starting in your line up here. You know because anyone who played a single minute during qualifiers should be out.

      • You’re confused. I said, high quality mentors, or kids we haven’t played. Bobby Wood has 10 goals in 36 caps, and had 3 goals last qualifying cycle. He is not Pulisic but he’s close enough. He is just 25. He is part of the future team.

        Unlike Villafana or Yedlin or Miazga or Lichaj, now healthy, he is without any doubt ticketed back into the team. His inclusion is not some forced experiment. I’m not sure if I would have called him in (known quantity) but having done so, he is the sort of one to teach mentoring lessons and perform well.

        FWIW, it’s also as simple as that there are 3 forwards listed (perhaps 4 counting Weah), and of the two who have been capped, it’s Rubin versus Wood. Rubin has done literally nothing in the shirt so that’s a waste of time. Easy decision. But like I said, I wouldn’t have called him, I would have just called in U-23 types. Beyond having a mentor or two present there is little value is risking the more established players.

      • whammm:
        Like I said, there are 3 people listed at the position, I assumed we’d play 2, and Rubin has been anonymous when used. If you were being honest, you’d start Wood over Rubin too.

        Like I said, I don’t think he should have been called. I would prefer to see these rosters be more Weahs and Novakovichs. Pure experiment with a drop of veteran leadership. But once he’s there, Rubin has done so little why are you pretending.

      • Oh, I don’t doubt it. And I am not saying these mid 20s veterans should disappear or not get another chance. I just wouldn’t prioritize it since I’ve already seen him victimized in the national shirt. I want to see the people who haven’t had bad days for the US.

        I also think one impediment to rebuilding right now is a heavily cemented seniority system that encourages this sort of unthinking reliance on veterans, for the fact they are veterans. I recall discussion from the first Pulisic camp that he was amazing (before the game) and yet he was a rote 9 minute sub for Zusi. A year and a half later he scored the only goal vs TNT and Zusi watched the whole game. The USA has a slight veteran bias building up which shouldn’t exist when you lose more than you win and don’t qualify.

      • Put differently, you win and make the knockouts, perhaps it should be hard to force a change. But for a team that can’t qualify there should be basic questioning of most of the more frustrating players who either started but didn’t play well, or couldn’t even break into a team that bad. I don’t understand acting like a 5th place set of players earned any sort of incumbency rights, and a lot of these new players have star potential and I don’t want them going off the boil or focusing on club ball because we want to coddle mediocre veterans who don’t even get the job done that spectacularly.

        I mean, Wood, Pulisic, fine. But most of these people y’all are defending are mediocre people who have proven themselves about as much as the experiments they were called in with. Lichaj once played a good Gold Cup game back in 2011. Miazga is a bunch of promise in a shirt that also gave up some stuff in friendlies. I don’t get the reactionary defense other than “they are in Europe” or “have been capped before.” At this point in the cycle with new caps coming in, how have they earned special treatment or the right to shove EPB or CCV down to cameo appearances.

      • You’re talking about Miazga like he has more than a handful of caps in non-Hex games.

        To get rid of the hater pretense here, I was very high on him coming in, based on all the NYRB talk. I just haven’t seen anything near the level I hoped for.

        I felt like Omar was a joke. I don’t see Miazga that way. I see Miazga, however, as having been tried and meh. Tried and meh, keep auditioning people. Half the problem last cycle was it was like they could not break out of their own malfunctioning short list.

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