Dave Sarachan - US national team - training session as caretaker coach
John Dorton/ISI Photos

Sarachan's message to young US players facing Portugal: Now it's up to them

LISBON – The US national team’s youth movement has arrived, with 12 players aged 24 or under called into camp for Tuesday’s friendly vs. Portugal. Caretaker head coach Dave Sarachan believes that large contingent of young players “have a future” – and beginning on Tuesday, “it’s up to them.”

Sarachan was spirited and optimistic on Sunday in the pregame press conference previewing the match against the defending European champions in Leiria (3:45 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UniMas). The longtime assistant to former US head coach Bruce Arena made it clear that this group has an important responsibility.

“We would not have brought them if we didn’t feel they have a future,” Sarachan said at Lisbon’s Cidade do Futebol. "I would have liked to have projected that if we did qualify and began work in 2018 there would be newer and younger faces. Would that be Tyler [Adams], Weston [McKennie] or Cameron [Carter-Vickers]? It is possible, but it would be difficult to project that.”

Sarachan’s roster features five uncapped players, two of them being the 22-year-old FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and Adams, the New York Red Bulls' standout Homegrown midfielder.

“We believe the players,” Sarachan said. “We have here have a future in the program and now it is up to them.”

With an almost entirely new roster, it is unclear who will start in different parts of the field, beginning with goalkeeper, where three players — former D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid and Club Brugge’s Ethan Horvath are competing with Gonzalez — have a total of just four caps among them.

“A lot of the players we brought in are inexperienced, but we thought the process should be to look at youngsters that have a future, including the three goalkeepers,” Sarachan said. "Each one of them has shown very well this week. The word I would use is opportunity.”

What role will veterans like Brad Guzan and Tim Howard have on the team moving forward? Sarachan didn’t feel it was his place to hazard any projections. 

“My feeling is that we know them [Guzan and Howard] very well and we wanted to introduce some of the players for the next cycle of qualifying,” said the former Chicago Fire head coach. “It is not my place to say today how it will look like in the next four or five years. Things change all the time. Some players are in good form today but may not be in good form later.”

Despite the absence of household names like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and captain Michael Bradley, all of whom are involved in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, Sarachan was adamant that he feels now is not the time to “start from scratch” and that the situation is not “drastic or dire.”

“When there is success and certainly when there is failure, there should be a time for reflection and taking a broader look at what we can do better,” he said. "We hit a bump, no question, but we still think we have a good foundation of young players and we will be better under the big picture, although the short picture is tough.”

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