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Zack Steffen: Young USMNT lacks an identity now after lost year without full-time head coach

Zack Steffen said the US men’s national team lacks “an identity now,” and the program lost a year without a head coach in place in an interview with ESPNFC’s Herc Gomez.

The former Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper has firmly established himself as the No. 1 goalkeeper in the USMNT pool, but he said the young group is still wet behind its collective ears when it comes to international soccer.

“We don’t have an identity right now,” he said. “We’re very young and inexperienced and immature in the international soccer world right now. We’re trying to find our feet, we’re trying to find leadership, we’re trying to find our playing style.”

Steffen said there is still a veteran presence, but “three quarters of this team is new.” Trying to meld young players from across the globe and build a bond and a camaraderie is a difficult process.

“It takes time,” he said. “It’s tough, it’s not easy.”

Steffen’s entry into the USMNT came during a time of transition, after Bruce Arena stepped down following the failed bid to qualify for the 2016 FIFA World Cup. While a thorough search for his full-time replacement was underway, which came after the establishment and hiring for the program’s general manager, Dave Sarachan was the interim head coach.

The length of that process, which culminated with Gregg Berhalter’s hire in Dec. 2018, has been highly criticized and didn’t sit well with Steffen.

“I wasn’t happy with how we just pushed off the head coach [selection] and all that stuff. I know it’s not easy … but 13 months? That’s way too long,” Steffen said. “It just makes no sense why to have that interim [tag]. For us players, we didn’t like it because we’d just go out there and have fun, work hard, compete. We didn’t really have a system, we didn’t have very many details or directions.”

Steffen said it felt more relaxed than his time under the detail-oriented Berhalter at the Columbus Crew SC.

“That felt like the national team and then we went to the national team and that felt like a club team where we were way more laid back, he said, adding. “It was more fun than business and serious like it is now.”