CHESTER, Pa. — The U.S. Men’s National Team may not be partaking in this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, but they will be working towards a goal that they hope will pay off big in the long run.
Under the guidance of interim manager Dave Sarachan, the USMNT is preparing for a trio of friendlies over the next few weeks beginning with Monday’s fixture against Bolivia. While the final scoreline of those friendlies may not be important, the energy put in and the growth of the players as a whole is.
“There has been a progression within a number of these guys, and there is a comfort level beginning to take shape,” Sarachan said at Sunday’s press conference. “Every time we’ve been able to get these guys together in camp we have started to see partnerships being formed. I hope to see that continue through this match as well.”
Sarachan named his 23-man roster last week and youth has been the forefront of the names chosen. Leading the way is Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, who returns to his home state of Pennsylvania for his first match there since 2016. Pulisic may only be 19-years-old, but he is the veteran of his bunch when it comes to appearances with the senior squad.
After an up-and-down season in Germany, Pulisic is hoping to help build this squad for the next World Cup and is also happy to see some new faces among the bunch.
“A lot about me as a player has changed since the last time I played here,” Pulisic said. “I’ve had so much more experience lately not only in Germany but with the National Team which I think has helped. Overall, I feel like a much more confident player since then and I’m happy to be back.”
“I’m really excited to see some new faces, some younger faces. We want to continue to develop younger players, and it’s really important for our team moving forward. It’s definitely cool having younger guys around, guys that I can talk to. I can talk to these guys because we’re going through similar things.”
Schalke’s Weston McKennie is the second of two Bundesliga players chosen for this camp and is another bright face for the future of the team. The 19-year-old made 25 appearances for the Bundesliga runners-up last season, growing into his position as a defensive midfielder. Paired with Pulisic as the next set of stars for the USMNT, McKennie feels the two compliment one another and bring different values to the team.
“We come from the same league in Germany and our clubs are fierce rivals on the pitch,” McKennie said. “It’s kind of funny to see that now the National Team has brought us back together and we can potentially be playing together. It will be a good balance of him with his attack and me with my defense.”
There are 39 combined caps earned by this group of players, which means there is not a ton of international experience on this roster. This 23-man group may not be the one’s representing the country in years to come, but they have to be given a chance to show what they have in their arsenal.
Erik Palmer-Brown, Antonee Robinson, Keaton Parks, Josh Sargent, and Alejandro Guido are all players that are seeking their first caps for the senior squad. Andrija Novakovich is coming off a stellar season with Telstar and is looking for his second straight cap. Defenders Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers are coming off good seasons in their respective divisions. Julian Green returns to the camp after not making a U.S. appearance since 2014. There may be inexperience among the bunch, but Sarachan is expected to experiment with this bunch to see what he has among them.
“I think within our centerback position there is a comfort level there,” Sarachan said. “Also in the midfield there are guys there too. We’ve got some matches to experiment with new faces, but rather than single guys out it’s pretty clear that some of the guys that we’ve had since the first friendly against Portugal feel pretty comfortable in the setting we’ve established.”
Bolivia is a good match for the U.S. to see what a lot of the youth brings to the table. They will also be a good tune-up before Sarachan’s team travels to both Ireland and France in away friendlies. Regardless of who is next on the schedule, the interim manager still looks at every day as it’s own.
“One thing about our group, whether it’s myself, our staff, or the players that are here is we look at the task today,” Sarachan said. “Then we look at tomorrow, then the next day. Right now it’s focusing on Bolivia then we look ahead after that.”