Unless you’ve been studying the US youth players in recent years, it’s difficult to cheer for your national side when the players donning the red, white, and blue of the USA are just as unknown as the opposition. Against Mexico, interim coach Dave Sarachan fielded a team with an average age of 23. Considering the US isn’t known for producing precocious talent that makes a splash abroad – Pulisic being one of the few exceptions – most of the 23-man roster were unknowns to the majority of the US fan base. And if the recent friendlies are any indication of future form, they might stay that way.
Since dropping the assistant label for only the second time in his professional coaching career, Sarachan has been more than generous with his call-ups. Thirty three players with less than ten caps to their names have been called up since his takeover. Sarachan’s role seems to be less that of a coach and more akin to a job recruiter. The incoming coach will no doubt be aware of all the options he has at his disposal, but as the friendlies roll on, this policy of showcasing the various youthful options almost highlights the lack of bonafide talent the squad has coming through the ranks.
With the US in a limbo of sorts and friendlies having been rendered seemingly meaningless, here are some changes I’d like to see take place when the US faces Colombia on October 11th that will inject some sort of direction back into the game.
1. Look Dangerous Going Forward
Before the criticism begins, credit must be given to the USMNT’s defense. Recent friendlies against Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Paraguay, Bolivia, France and Mexico all saw the back line either concede a single goal or keep a clean sheet. Conversely, the squad has only scored more than one goal on a single occasion since Sarachan’s reign began. Even though the side we’ll see step out against Colombia won’t be our A team, from the visceral standpoint of the spectator we still want to see goals.
2. Sarachan On The Bench
The USMNT doesn’t play a competitive match until qualifying starts for the World Cup in 2019. With meaningful matches not to take place until next year, naming a coach isn’t a pressing matter. The US Soccer Federation has taken advantage of the lull in competitive play to meticulously wade through the field of applicants. Such patience will ensure that a desired candidate will be found and demonstrates the federation’s calm demeanor despite not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The search may be over as soon as early December according to the USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart. The date offered by Stewart is conveniently the month when the MLS comes to a close. Coincidence? I think not.
3. Realistic Glimpse of the Future
I’m all for having a look at the newest generation of American youngsters, but ever since we failed to qualify for the World Cup we haven’t been provided even a glimpse of what our newest A team will look like. With Dempsey retired and Bradley, Guzan, Cameron, and Johnson all in decline, the USMNT will no doubt look much different to the side that lost to T&T in 2017. If you’re a US fan, can you confidently name a player apart from Pulisic who would definitely start for the US in a competitive match?
The legions of young players called up haven’t given US fans the optimism they so desperately need after their first failed World Cup campaign since 1986. A good showing against Colombia with a side comprised of youth and experience would make fans get behind the team again. The meager 32,000 that turned up for the national side’s match against a fully stocked Brazil team goes to show that supporting the USMNT is not a priority.
4. At Least One Young Player That Captivates
Even after a handful of games in charge, Sarachan’s team selection has become very predictable. If we’re going to see unknowns step on the pitch for yet another game, we’d like to see something we haven’t before: genuine skill.
After the Mexico game, all the talk has been on Tyler Adams, and rightly so. He scored the sole goal of the match, and did so as a New Yorker on September 11. It’s a beautiful story, but the fairytale narrative overshadows his performance. Apart from the center-back pairing – which has been solid for some time now – there were no bright spots on the pitch.
Adams is someone the team will hope to count on in the future as he looks ready to transfer to RB Leipzig in the winter. But an American youngster on the books of a quality European club doesn’t immediately translate to success. Julian Green was predicted to be the next big thing for US soccer after appearing for Bayern – at the same age Adams currently is – but hasn’t panned out. Let’s hope Adams doesn’t go the way of Green or Freddy Adu.
Fans aren’t asking for a dominant performance from a starlet, just something akin to what Diego Lainez did for Mexico against the US. As Matt Miazga uncouthly noted, he may be small but size doesn’t matter when your defender is on all fours and bowing after having been cut in half by a slaloming run. Right, Wil Trap?