Throughout the summer many fans of the U.S. Men’s National Team were wondering when Dave Sarachan would mix his squad with young and older players. There were mentions of it, but no real action taken in the summer or the start of fall.
Thursday begins the next pair of friendlies for the USMNT, starting with a date against Colombia in Tampa. Five days later the USMNT takes on Peru in Hartford, Conn. It’s a pair of countries who, unlike the U.S., participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Colombia advancing out of the group stage.
Sarachan added a pair of veterans into the squad for the matches, midfielder Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
“Over the last few months we wanted to implement some veteran guys with some younger ones to add some experience,” Sarachan said. “I felt the time was right to do so and I think adding guys like Michael and Brad to the mix will be a big benefit.”
“We’re talking about a collective group here that has over 400 caps, Michael has 140 himself so that’s a valuable resource to have especially with the young guys,” Sarachan continued. “This group is young and somewhat inexperienced at this level including meaningful games so having these guys together will create a good blend moving forward.”
A trio of big names originally named to the roster was midfielders Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, and Weston McKennie, but all three withdrew due to respective injuries. Bradley’s return was certainly a shocking one, due to the fact he hadn’t been capped in close to eight months while Guzan was close to a year without a cap. Regardless, the pair is excited to be leaders for the younger players while also fighting for their places in Sarachan’s starting XI.
“I’m very excited to be back and to be with some of these younger guys who have done well over the last 9-10 months,” Bradley said. “Going forward I need to show them that they will be a big part of things as we try to put a team together for Gold Cup and also meaningful matches.”
“We’ve got a lot of young and exciting players who are just starting to make a name for themselves in world football,” Guzan said. “From a U.S. Soccer perspective, the future is bright and I’m happy to be a part of the group.”
Like Brazil and Mexico in September, the pair of South American opponents will be a tough test for the USMNT. Stars like Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Christian Cueva, and Juan Cuadrado headline the rosters for both countries.
The final result may not be the biggest worry for Sarachan and Co. as they get another glimpse at their players against top competition. The goal will be to compete against these highly-ranked sides, but also continue to grow as a unit and gain more combined experience for the future.
“It’s nice to see, I think we have a lot of good young players,” Julian Green said. “I think we’re looking forward to the future and that’s the most important thing. We may be missing guys, but that’s soccer. We have a big group of guys here so now we just have to handle it ourselves.”
“These matches are a test for us, they are technically good teams that we’re facing,” Green continued. “We know it will be a tough test but we will try to go out and win these games.”
Green is one of the many attack-minded players looking for a consistent spot with the USMNT. Bobby Wood is coming in on good form after a brace for Hannover. Josh Sargent has had an impressive campaign so far with Werder Bremen’s U-23 side, while Andrija Novakovich has four goals with Eredivisie side Fortuna Sittard. Despite seeing his time reduced with the senior squad, Timothy Weah bagged his first competitive goals for Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.
We don’t know how the starting XI will exactly look against Colombia and Peru, but Sarachan has plenty of options to choose from for both matches. DeAndre Yedlin is the veteran of the bunch in the backline, and Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers will also look to lead as the centerback duo. At the end of this international period, the hope will be that the USMNT continues to take steps forward and not backward.
“Some players have done well in the past, but they also need to be around it more frequently,” Bradley said. “Sometimes you may need to get guys chances to see if they can be a part of it. As we get to the end of this year, we need to look forward to the future with Concacaf Nations League games, World Cup Qualifiers are approaching. It’s about putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”