U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan blames 'nervous start' not mentality against Brazil
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan blamed a "nervous start" for his team's 2-0 defeat to five-time World Cup champion Brazil on Friday night.
The Selecao scored two first-half goals. The first came via a tap-in from Roberto Firmino in the 11th minute after good work from Douglas Costa on the right flank. The second came just before halftime with Neymar converting from the spot after Wil Trapp was judged to have hauled down Fabinho, with replays showing minimal contact. The U.S. did threaten on a few occasions from set pieces, but Brazil cruised to victory in front of 32,489 fans at MetLife Stadium.
"I think it was pretty evident we had kind of a nervous start," Sarachan said after the match. "I thought the ability to connect passes was a difficult chore for our group early in the game. When you concede possession against a team like Brazil, it makes it hard. You do a lot of chasing."
But Sarachan still felt that the match was a useful lesson for his side, especially given that his side did improve a bit as the game progressed.
"These types of games when you're playing a team like Brazil, who is arguably as good as any team on the planet, it just challenges you in ways that will really improve this group moving forward," he said.
There is no denying that the U.S. team still lacks creativity, and this weakness was especially evident on a night when Borussia Dortmund forward Christian Pulisic was missing because of injury.
"We're always going to miss a guy like Christian [Pulisic] in any game for sure," Sarachan said. "I think if we had Christian tonight, I can't say we'd have [the] ball 40 more percent of the time, but when you add players into the mix who have a certain comfort level and can play out of tight spots like Christian it would help. Sure we miss Christian, but I'm not sure it would have changed the way the game went."
If that's the case, that only shines a brighter light on the fact that more options beyond Pulisic need to step forward, though Sarachan acknowledged this is an area that needs improvement.
"I think it's hard to judge [the lack of creativity] tonight in that respect because of the fact that we didn't really retain a lot of possession and have a lot of buildup with a lot of numbers," Sarachan said. "I think there's always room for more creativity in your team. I think tonight was a difficult night to show any of that to be honest. I still think we have a number of players in this pool that as we get deeper into games and more consistency they'll start to emerge a little bit in terms of creating more."
Sarachan did revert to the 4-1-4-1 system that he has used previously in his tenure, though he didn't think that was the reason for the team's offensive struggles from open play.
"It was a little bit a lack of quality, a bit of lack of patience and playing against a team that is pretty darn good," he said.
Sarachan felt that in terms of the positives, he liked his team's mentality, in particular given that the first goal came so early.
"There could have been a situation where maybe the shoulders lump, the confidence is blown," Sarachan said. "One of the things I've noticed in this group over the course of many of these friendlies now is that they don't lack confidence. I think nervousness, confidence, I don't believe they lack confidence, they still feel like, 'OK, let's get on with it.' I think that's an important mentality for this group and all the guys that we bring into our national team. I was pleased about that. I think I saw some good leadership on the field with several players, pulling the next guy into a good mentality saying, 'C'mon, let's get going.'"
The U.S. will need that leadership to help the team regroup ahead of Tuesday's clash with archrival Mexico.
"I think it's a rival that we've had and will continue to have," Sarachan said. "I think playing on 9/11, we went to the 9/11 memorial this week, and some of these young kids weren't even born then. But I think they came away with more meaning of what went on in this country and what playing really for the U.S. is all about. The game speaks for itself. USA-Mexico is always a rivalry, always a very intense game. Again, we're going to use that experience for sure in Nashville to further this group along because that is the team in our region that we're going to have to compete with.
He added, "We'll have a team that I can guarantee you on Tuesday is going to step on the field with the same mentality; no fear, we're going to compete, we won't be intimidated."