EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Hours before the U.S. national team kicked off against Peru on Tuesday night, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced a friendly against Italy in Genk, Belgium on Nov. 20. That fixture will conclude a European trip that also features a Nov. 15 friendly against England at Wembley.
Still unclear after a 1-1 draw against La Blanquirroja is whether interim head coach Dave Sarachan would still be leading the group by then.
“Until they tell me I’m not, I’m full-bore, man, keep going,” Sarachan said. “This is too much fun.”
Sarachan took over the national team from Bruce Arena following the USMNT's failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. He holds a 3-3-4 record across 10 friendlies, highlighted by a 1-1 draw in Portugal last November and home wins over Paraguay and Mexico earlier in 2018.
That has included bringing new players into the fold, even following tough results. Following Thursday's 4-2 defeat to Colombia, the 10 field players who made Sarachan's starting XI had 48 combined caps, including only six combined among four defenders.
“From all the friendlies I’ve been a part of, each set of games over the past 10 months, we’ve progressed from one set of games to the next,” Sarachan said. “They’ve established an identity of competing, playing aggressively, coming together, understanding each other, building a camaraderie on the field and off the field.
“I think the progress from camp to camp and game to game is moving in the right direction that I feel there’s real good hope with a lot of these young guys and this group,” Sarachan added.
A massive part of that shift has been integrating a youthful generation of American players. Key among them has been New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, and overseas youngsters like midfielder Weston McKennie and forwards Tim Weah and Josh Sargent. The latter bagged the Americans’ sole goal vs. Peru, while the former two missed out on this pair of friendlies due to injury.
Another key shift under Sarachan has been an increased role for midfielder Wil Trapp, who wore the captain’s armband vs. Peru.
While Trapp plays his club football for Berhalter, he empathized with the situation Sarachan inherited and gave him a major vote of confidence after Tuesday's match.
“As an interim, it’s always a tricky position, right? In many respects he could mail it in, but he’s never done that,” Trapp said. “From the first game in Portugal last year to this game tonight, he’s always put out a lineup he’s confident in. He’s always given the group a plan. I can’t say enough good things about how he’s approached this situation and the way he’s brought this group along.”