CHESTER, Pa. — Have a little hope.
That’s the message US national team interim coach Dave Sarachan has been trying to spread to players, fans and everyone else still reeling from the USMNT’s shocking omission from this summer’s FIFA World Cup — a moment which he admitted felt like “rock bottom.”
“I’d like to think there’s a little more hope with the program, with the direction we’re going, the exciting young talent that’s emerging,” Sarachan said at a media roundtable Wednesday. “That makes me feel proud because the work kind of speaks for itself at this point. Young guys are getting great minutes.”
While Sarachan does expect some of the more veteran players to stay involved down the road, he said the upcoming friendlies vs. Bolivia, Ireland and France will present a good opportunity to feature a younger group, as most would expect.
And he announced that the USMNT’s most exciting young player, 19-year-old wunderkind Christian Pulisic, will play in the friendly vs. Bolivia on Memorial Day at Talen Energy Stadium, less than 100 miles from where he grew up.
“He loves the national team,” Sarachan said. “And I think he’s champing at the bit to get it right.”
While he didn’t reveal much else about the rosters for the games in May and June, other than to say it will be a “delicate balance” choosing between MLS and European-based players, he did offer high praise for fellow teens Tyler Adams of the New York Red Bulls and Weston McKennie, as well as 22-year-old Matt Miazga. All three, Sarachan said, could have been “in the conversation” to make the World Cup roster had the US qualified.
As for who’s impressed him over the first couple of months of the MLS season, the former LA Galaxy assistant pointed to two more established players that he knows well: Columbus Crew SC’s Gyasi Zardes and the Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget.
“The good news in all of this is I think we have a tremendous pool out there,” Sarachan said. “As a pool, I would say on paper, given the success they’ve had at the youth levels, you can argue it’s one of the better ones we’ve seen.”
Sarachan understands he may not remain in charge to see the rebuilding process bear fruit.
“I hate using the word interim; I’m the men’s national team soccer coach until they tell me I’m not,” he said.
Yet Sarachan called it “refreshing” to coach young guys with “no baggage, who are hungry to be there,” while helping to put them in situations where they can learn how to win.
“It’s kind of laughable when reporters are talking about, ‘Is Dave trying to win these games for his career?’ That’s just nonsense,” Sarachan said. “It’s not about that. It’s about trying to have a really better, optimistic light on US Soccer. There’s a lot of negativism out there, which really bothers me. I get it, it comes with the territory. But it’s time to move on, and I think slowly but surely we’re moving in the right direction.”