U.S. boss Dave Sarachan: We must show no fear, create more vs. Mexico
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan said that part of what he has tried to establish since taking over late last year was "getting our identity back."
The U.S. is set to face arch-rivals Mexico in a friendly on Tuesday (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), one that's likely to see several U.S. players experience the rivalry for the first time. Speaking at his pre-match news conference ahead of the game, Sarachan stressed what that identity consists of.
"It's going to look like a team that's going to compete, that plays with no fear, is aggressive, that's not afraid and I think when we get beyond that into the tactics and systems, that will all be an organic process as we develop players," he said. "The foundation of being a U.S. soccer team and what that brings each and every time is critical and I think this group has sort of established that."
Sarachan later clarified his remarks to state that the team's identity has had those qualities in the past, but needs to be instilled from the beginning when working with younger players.
"I don't think if you look at last year, or [the last] two or five years, that the team didn't compete or play with heart," he said. "But I think with the young group that needs to be reinforced each and every time we get together and that's still an important component to what we're about."
In terms of Tuesday's match, 15 players on the current 22-man roster will be facing Mexico for the first time at the senior level. But Sarachan isn't concerned about that level of inexperience, especially since some have played against Mexico at the youth level.
"I think these players understand the significance," he said.
Sarachan said he plans to make between four and six changes to the lineup that started against Brazil. Wolfsburg defender John Brooks and D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola, who both started Friday's 2-0 defeat at MetLife Stadium, have already been released back to their respective clubs.
He's also looking for an improved performance from his attack.
"I think a few things that we talked about -- and hope to improve upon -- is having the game a little bit more on our terms, and by that I mean in terms of a little bit more possession, a little more quality when have the ball, a little more imagination and creativity when we get into good sports going forward," he said.
"The balance of when we don't have the ball versus not having the ball the other night against Brazil was a little tipped, and we knew that. I thought defensively our shape and collective effort against Brazil was good, and I expect the same against Mexico. But I'd like to see us be a little more useful with the ball, get into a little more advanced positions and threaten a little bit more."
Sarachan added that on the defensive side of the ball, he'd like to see his side have more coordination in terms of when to press the opponent.
"It has to be a little more of a collective effort as opposed to individuals on their own because what happens is now space opens up for teams that are good with ball that can pick you apart a little bit," he said.
"Having watched the film, I thought in a general sense we were pretty good but I think that part can be improved, and this group has played enough together in the system that we play where I think they understand the improvements that need to be made on that end."
Tuesday will likely see Mexico midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez play against the country of his birth. Gonzalez, a dual U.S.-Mexico national, opted to pledge his international allegiance to El Tri last year, a move that saw the U.S. Soccer Federation come in for considerable criticism given that the player had represented the U.S. at the youth level.
Sarachan insisted that Gonzalez's decision was personal, and that the player had "a good understanding of weighing out his options."
"Every person has to make those important decisions, and Jonathan had to make his," said Sarachan. "I don't think any more beyond that to be honest. I think it's obviously worked in the reverse cases for us as well. As we move along, there's probably going to be more examples of that.
"In the case of Jonathan, he made that choice, it was a personal decision that he had to make, and there's not much more to it in my mind. We'll be approaching this game and looking at personnel and looking at Jonathan and evaluate him because he's on the other side. Personal decisions, I respect that."