USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan unlikely to bring in old guard right now

CJ Sapong - US national team - with coach Dave Sarachan

CHESTER, Pa. — For the past decade, players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have been rocks of the US men's national team.

But after last year’s World Cup qualifying disaster, is it time to move on from the old guard?

Speaking with reporters Wednesday at a media roundtable at Talen Energy Stadium ahead of next month’s match vs. Bolivia, USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan offered a delicate take on a tricky situation.

“It’s a no-brainer at this point to allow these matches to be served by a lot of young guys,” said Sarachan, who will need to pick rosters for the friendly vs. Bolivia in Chester on May 28, followed by European road tilts vs. Ireland on June 2 and France on June 9. “They need these games. Jozy, Michael, Tim, Clint, you can go through a list of veteran guys, I know them well, we know them well, so it’s not like we need to see them moving forward. 

“The next real competition is down the line. But I do think those guys will factor in, in terms of the [2019] Gold Cup, in terms of the next round of [World Cup] qualifying. At some point, I think it will be important to bring some of those veteran guys back.”

Given that the US won’t be able to play in a World Cup for another four years, there are those that might argue to pull the plug entirely on the aging veterans and focus exclusively on developing young talent. But Sarachan said it’s important to have experienced players around the program to help ease the transition as the USMNT attempts to navigate a difficult crossroads.

"The national team isn’t just a given or a gift to anybody,” he said. “Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean we just throw you in and play. There’s a process I think that is critical in terms of understanding what it really means to be a part of the national team.”

For example, Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, who was busy practicing right next door while Sarachan spoke, is a veteran that the USMNT coach decided to bring along to Portugal last November in the first game after the team’s World Cup flameout in Trinidad and Tobago. The 30-year-old midfielder, Sarachan noted, is a “good leader” and part of a “pool of guys who down the road can still offer something.”

And Sarachan has tried to stay in constant touch with the longtime USMNT vets, whether by text, email or in-person talks.

“The feedback has been good,” Sarachan said. “They understand. They also have a love of the program and they really want to be a part of things, especially since it didn’t go so well, leaving that taste in their mouth. The general sense I’ve gotten, talking to those guys, is: We trust what you’re doing, we get it, but we really want to be a part of things if the opportunity comes. That’s a good thing.”

Sarachan insisted there's been no discussion as to whether to bring in Dempsey, the 35-year-old Seattle Sounders striker, for an opportunity to break Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT goal-scoring record. They both have scored 57 international goals,

“I haven’t even thought about that,” Sarachan admitted. “Honestly, that’s not my job. What I would say is guys like Landon and Clint, the older guys, they’re valuable in the succession of everything — to mentor, to show these young guys what it really takes to be a part of just a national team. That’s just a valuable piece.

“But as far as that [record] goes, sometimes a tie is all right, right? Share the spoils?”