U.S. shouldn't 'start from scratch' after World Cup failure - Dave Sarachan
LISBON -- Acting United States manager Dave Sarachan says he doesn't think the U.S. Soccer Federation "needs to blow up the template and start from scratch" in the wake of the team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Sarachan was an assistant under former manager Bruce Arena when the U.S. was beaten 2-1 by Trinidad & Tobago on the final day of qualifying, which eliminated them from qualifying.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Portugal, Sarachan was asked if the USSF needed to "start over."
He said: "I think wherever there is success too, but also failure, it's a time for reflection, time for discussion, time to take a broad look at what we can do better.
"I would also tell you that there's certain cycles that every national program goes through, good and bad. I think we hit a little bit of a bump, no question, but we still think the foundation of our pool of players is strong, and we will be better for this in big picture.
"In the short term it's very difficult, but in the big picture I don't think it's a drastic or dire situation."
Tuesday's match may be the only one in which Sarachan will be in charge, though there has been some talk of having him oversee the annual January camp. That hasn't stopped him from looking to the future in terms of his roster.
The squad that Sarachan has selected trends strongly on the younger side, with five of the 21 players uncapped, and another seven having made fewer than five international appearances.
Sarachan said the fact that many of the players have no connection to the debacle in Trinidad has helped the United States take its first steps to moving beyond that failure.
"In some ways it's been good therapy for me, because the taste of that last match had taken a while to get out of my mind and out of my mouth, that taste of the fact that we're not going to the World Cup," Sarachan said.
"Being here, being in charge, is always a privilege. I've embraced it. We're professionals, we have a job to do. What makes this week so special for me personally is the fact that we've assembled a group of players that have a bright future, players that have shown up with no bitterness in their mouth, no chip on the shoulder.
"They've shown up with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy. I think in the short term we've created great team spirit. For me and my staff, it's been very refreshing."
United States will benefit from the absence of Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as other regulars like midfielder Joao Moutinho, attacker Ricardo Quaresma, and goalkeeper Rui Patricio. That said, 11 players from the roster that clinched qualification with a 2-0 win over Switzerland will be on hand, including defender Pepe.
"Not having Cristiano here, I'm not going to cry over it," Sarachan joked. "But I think our players understand that there is still a great challenge ahead."
Sarachan declined to speculate if players like Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley and Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey will be brought back for the next cycle.
"I don't have a crystal ball, but I would tell you that the players that we brought in here, specifically the younger players, we wouldn't have brought them if we didn't feel that they had a future," he said. "For those that were involved in the national team, it's not my place today to say what it's going to look like in the next four or five years.
"Things change all the time, so some players that are in good form now may not be in good form later. I would have liked to have projected that if we did qualify and began in 2018 that there would be some newer, younger faces in our team."
Sarachan added that he would know more about the availability of forward Josh Sargent after Sunday's training session. Sargent came into camp with what Sarachan described as a "lower body injury."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.