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Youth movement doesn’t cancel out damage done by U.S. Soccer’s terribly long coaching search


The interregnum that defined the U.S. Men’s National Team is likely coming to a close after Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Italy, and it’s really about time. By the time the fall friendlies rolled around, the Dave Sarachan era was dragging on and should have ended over the summer.

Sarachan’s tenure as USMNT head coach had a singular purpose: prepare the young American talent for the competitive matches that begin again in the summer of 2019. He more or less did what he could in that regard. He handed 23 different players their first National Team cap, including 20 this year alone. That 2018 debut list is the largest since 1992, when 21 players put on a U.S. shirt for the first time.

But the debuts fizzled out after the pre-World Cup friendlies. The last significant player to come on for the first time was Josh Sargent in the May friendly against Bolivia. Since then, Reggie Cannon has been a nice addition, but after Sargent, the backbone of the 2019 Gold Cup team, and, really, the 2022 World Cup Qualifying squad, has been formed. Those teams will rely on Sargent, Tim Weah, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and, of course, Christian Pulisic. As cool as it was to see Luca de la Torre, Keaton Parks, and Jonathan Amon, they will be role players at best for the next slate of competitive matches and could have made their debuts after a full-time head coach was brought on with a consistent style of play coming into view.

Waiting until the end of the year has cost the USMNT the time it takes to develop a system of play, something Sarachan has admittedly not been focussing on.

“I don’t get too caught up in systems as much as communication and movement,” Sarachan said after the team’s 3-0 loss at England last week. That communication and movement is important to develop in young players, but even recent performances showed that he wasn’t drilling that into the team well enough.

These last two matches against Italy and England were perfect examples of how the USMNT doesn’t have any sort of clear vision under Sarachan. Defending was erratic in both matches. England consistently took advantage of poor defensive organization and blew them out of Wembley Stadium. The heroics of Ethan Horvath were the only reason Italy didn’t do the exact same thing in Gent on Tuesday.

The delay in hiring anyone falls in line with the popular theory that U.S. Soccer has been set on hiring an MLS coach (Gregg Berhalter) for quite some time, which is fine. However, if that’s been they case, why have they kept everyone, including their own team, in the dark? You imagine that MLS coach (Berhalter) wanted to finish the season with his team, but the federation still could have announced the move early on. That way the MLS coach’s team (the Columbus Crew) would know what was up in the future and they could get started on some coaching ideas for next year. Meanwhile, the coach himself (Berhalter) could relay instructions to Sarachan to start building they system he eventually wants to implement.

Now, the new coach will have limited time to get the team ready for the 2019 Gold Cup. He will come in for January Camp, where the most important players won’t even be available, and be forced to start building his program with a bunch of players that won’t matter when the real games begin. The next FIFA window doesn’t take place until March and there will only be three or four friendlies before the competitive fixtures begin in June. That’s not enough time to implement a system capable of defending their Concacaf title.

U.S. Soccer taking its time to find a new coach is understandable. The program was at a low point following the failure to qualify for the World Cup and the federation wants to make sure it has the right guy to drag the USMNT from the ashes.

That said, the search for the next USMNT coach has gone well past being long, and reached a point where it has become detrimental to the development of a program in desperate need of repair.


  1. The problem is the US Federation. Its clear that the Belhalters are trying to form a ” click” or ” mafia ” to control de Us Soccer Federation : Jay Berhalter as Federation CEO and his brother Greg as a Us Soccer coach.

  2. Lets try Olosunde and Palmer-Brown as our Centerbacks. Miazga and Brooks does not work. Having Olosunde and Palmer Brown playing together well will make the coach force their hands calling them up to the first team or will give them a transfer to another club.

    • Olosunde’s inability to get on a field anywhere leads me to believe he probably wouldn’t magically outperform two players who are starters in a European professional leagues. As for EPB he’s been on 3 professional teams and with each he’s struggled to get minutes at some point you have to look at what all three situations had in common. There are many options better right now than Olosunde and a couple better than EPB that aren’t named Miazga or Brooks.

      • Miazga is not even a starter anymore for Nantes. He has also been sent to their reserves and have seen articles saying he has been so horrible Nantes wants to terminate his loan.

      • As I said I have no problem replacing Miazga but to go with Olosunde as your replacement is nonsense. He’s not even a top 10 CB in the US pool. I am not even sure he’d qualify as top 5 at RB his regular position. There were loan rumors last Summer but nothing happened and now he isn’t even dressing, so there could be an undisclosed injury. English clubs report very little on their U21 sides.

  3. A coach should look at the talent available to them and build a team and philosophy of play his around “his” players. A good coach can make players better by putting them in positions to succeed. We have wasted a year in this process by playing meaningless games without that coach. We should have a philosophy and player pool established by now.

  4. To add to the mind boggling spectacle of negligence or good old boys corruption….. word has it that Lopetegui contacted US Soccer to express interest in managing the USMNT and was shut down. He was told they were too far in the process to consider him. Process? The process being that they had THEIR one guy in mind all along and were flat out not considering anyone else- even if it meant hanging out a young team to dry for over a year!

    • Well his agent said that was a lie, so there is that! Don’t believe everything you hear, sometimes it’s better to do your own research instead of bashing the federation on the back of a trumped up media farce!

  5. Adamantly disagree with the lack of a hire has held back the USMNT?
    Yes, a coach is absolutely needed for direction and expectations. However, the onus is on players to get better at club levels. International clubs scoure the earth for talent and lack of options are limitless. An individual player performances and accountability get you playing time. Being timid, lazy, poor work ethic, poor on field decisions, and most of all being poor with the ball at your feet limit a players opportunities. The trend is for players to get opportunities and only stagnant with a lack of minutes or flat out fail with Euro clubs. It doesn’t mean individuals should not stop trying. Also, MLS coaching needs to be better at teaching on the field pragmatism with formation dexterity so no matter what the situation a player can work through it.
    The same old tactics of pressing and pressuring the ball works becasue the USMNT is an athletic team and lacks on the ball technique. Which forces the US into being a counter, long ball outlets, set piece team. The middle of the field is constantly lost becasue none of the new midfielders can hold the ball and win a dribble. Also, even with a possession player a running mate is needed to play balls to when pressed and double teamed.
    I’m not trying to be contrarian for Internet forum chatter. A national team coach is only as good as the players he has available. National teams meet for a handlful of weeks throughout the year and every four years for almost two months during the World Cup. Players need to continue to challenge themselves everyday!

      • What? The US has maybe 6 players getting starts in one of the top leagues (Pulisic, McKinnie, Yedlin, Wood, and ? I guess I was being generous). How many players do England, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, Portugal etc. have? The answer is easily 5-50 times as many. There is no way with the present size of the US player pool and its talent that it can compete with any of the above countries, save by athleticism, a bunkering defense and a counter-attack.

        When the US has 20 or 30 players in top leagues and when MLS get better, a coach may make a big difference, but until then expect only intermittent success, even vs Mexico we will struggle at times.

      • Weston has been coming of the bench lately for club, clearly an indication that his game has fallen off a bit, or that injuries have started to hamper his form. That form has started showed with his play for the NT of late so he needs to regain his starting spot and continue developing!

    • World class talent makes up for a lot. A talent gap makes having everyone on board in a cohesive, organized system that highlights team strengths and lessens exposure to weaknesses. In other words- stability, direction, a fully endorsed/supported/permanent quality manager- is even more important for a team like ours.

  6. I think Sarachan was a horrific coach and set back the team’s curve of improvement, but I would like to believe also that if you took this unit with a coach and a system you could beat a team like TnT already. There is no way to verify this because the Fed didn’t schedule anything reasonable much less easy. The hint at this is we did beat a Mexico B. The other games, for a young team with a crap coach are almost designed to expose their flaws. The coach has plenty and some of the players are probably also not really the future of the Nats. But I don’t think you know whether it’s panic time until a real coach gets them for 6 months and a long camp or two. If you put them up against Panama next summer and they lose then we should worry. Until then I think it’s poor coach meets rote selection meets cynical and ineffective tactics meets a harsh schedule.

    • One concern I have is I heard Costa Rica is one of the Camp Cupcake opponents. I assume it would be only their players who can get released for a non international date game, but they have a decent domestic league and some MLS players, etc. Would the people scheduling these games quit indulging in the fallacy that playing good teams makes you good, and give the coach a schedule where he can play normal tactics, try to win, and evaluate players in something other than panic mode?

      • Nations leagues and travel rules have greatly limited the number of available opponents. Like this fall most of Concacaf has been in qualifying for the Nations League group stage round. Nations league has kept European nations from traveling to the US. In January you are limited to countries whose leagues are not running which isn’t many even Northern European leagues are in mid-season friendly mode. This years schedule was not dramatically different from previous years after a World Cup, but with the turnover in the roster it was several steps above our level.

    • there has to be someone willing to accept the gig in the interim, and not too many coaches will want to drop what they are doing just to be looked at as a hold over until a real coach is determined thus Sarachan was the choice. He not only wanted the gig because he thought he was the right person for it, and in a sense he was a “suitable” choice in the interim because he knows the players, but again there has to be willing parties to accept a job that not many people were reported to have wanted!

      • Let’s be real, the length of Sarachan’s tenure reflects the Fed’s varied and evolving thoughts on the matter, which is why he was hired then extended twice. It’s not like we pursued some consistent thought process, we repeatedly punted the timeframe. Gulati was going to pick it last year, then it was a presidential prerogative subject to election, then it was a GM decision subject to his hiring, then we had to wait for the GM to finish another job, and now it’s been 3-3/4 months of his plodding process.

        I say that in part because if a potential candidate had known they’d have 13 months with the team then the calculus is actually probably different. Bradley was once an interim that earned the tag off. It is possible a coach knowing they could shape the team in their image for that long would have taken the job and made something of us.

        I think this is a case study in how not to do things, both because of the obvious and because at some point here this fall maybe Sarachan should have been replaced. At some point here results stopped, we won one game the rest of the year, bunch of losses and ties, they had to have an idea how long it would take, and then there is no accountability coach to fed and no accountability team to coach.

        If Ramos really turned down the job re interim I would consider canning him from U20 because that doesn’t sound like a real team player. For that matter, you could make an argument against Ramos based on how his graduates have played this year. Pulisic and some others look good, but a lot of the U20 products look over their heads at the senior level. A development job s supposed to produce, you know, development. That plus creating this crisis perhaps should be a strike against Ramos.

    • Ramos who just guided the U20 squad to a second consecutive Concacaf title out scoring opponents 46-2 should be fired from that job because he’s not “a team player”? And because his 19-22 year olds couldn’t win against the full teams of England, Italy, France,and Brazil? Just when I thought lowercase letter guys fan vote for National team roster was the dumbest thing I’d read on SBI!

      • Ramos has only 6 years experience as an assistant and head coach of the U20 , thats all. Did you call that experience?

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