USMNT youth show promise, but patience required, Dave Sarachan says

CHESTER, Pa. — As the US national team move forward from their encouraging 3-0 victory over Bolivia on Memorial Day, interim boss Dave Sarachan is trying to balance two semi-competing thoughts.

On one hand, he wants weary US supporters to know that the young kids they just watched dismantle overmatched Bolivia are, in fact, really good. On the other? Let’s maybe not get too far ahead of ourselves.

“I think it’s my responsibility, our staff’s, and our program’s, to make sure that they understand there are still steps,” Sarachan said from Talen Energy Stadium after the win. “If you want to get to A, you still start at D and then C and B. We’re very quick to jump into that A category. That’s a process we have to manage, with expectations, with a lot of noise on the outside.

“They’re going to feel good about [Monday] but when I go through the tape and we have meetings with the guys and we talk, there’s a lot of room to get better.”

If nothing else, Monday’s game was certainly a positive first step — quite literally — for six players who made their senior national team debuts: Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono, former Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown, Josh Sargent, Antonee Robinson, Keaton Parks and Matthew Olosunde. And Sargent, along with fellow 18-year-old Tim Weah and LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman, all scored their first international goals.

Sarachan admitted the quality of opponent played into his decision to give so many players their first taste of action, because they’d have the opportunity to “settle in and not be overwhelmed.” But he knows that may change when they they travel to Europe for friendlies against Ireland on Saturday and France on June 9.

“You hope the next time these players are in these situations, and the next time and the next time, it becomes an experience you can draw on,” he said. “That’s the purpose of games like [Monday] with a lot of young guys.

“When the games get faster and harder, it will reveal where [Sargent’s] at even more, and that’s true for all of the young guys. I think what you see in many of them is a good starting point but there’s still a lot of room for each and every other player.”

Can the youngsters build off their performance vs. Ireland, and a France squad that’s one of the favorites to make a deep run at the World Cup? Many fans will be interested to see if Sargent, Weah and influential midfielder Weston McKennie can stay hot, while some of the new players called in for the European phase of camp — including the MLS quartet of Tyler Adams, Tim Parker, Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp — can successfully mesh with everyone who had been training in Philadelphia for the last week.

Sarachan said that each of these friendlies “will begin to add up where I think you’re going to realize there’s good talent coming through.” Still, it’s all about those baby steps.

“I think U.S. Soccer has identified a number of guys at younger ages that have progressed and now they’ve gotten to a point where they’ve had a taste of it with the senior team and, as I think I’ve alluded to in the past, I believe we have a wider pool of good young players than we’ve had in many years,” the USMNT coach said. “But they’re still young. We want to be optimistic. And there is hope. But I think we need to let this play out before we start anointing the next generation.”