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Next

Dave Sarachan: Must manage expectations with Christian Pulisic

LONDON -- U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan said he is "thrilled" to have midfielder Christian Pulisic back in the fold ahead of Thursday's friendly against England.

Pulisic has played just once for the U.S. in 2018, a May friendly against Bolivia, due to injury and various club considerations. In that time the U.S. has struggled with its attack, albeit against some high-profile opponents including France, Brazil, and Mexico. Now Pulisic appears to be fit, healthy and ready to contribute.

"Having [Pulisic] here, first and foremost he's excited to be here," said Sarachan at his pre-match press conference. "He's got a lot of friends and peers within this group, and I think it raises our level in many ways; on the field for sure, I think off the field, as well."

But Sarachan cautioned that Pulisic shouldn't be viewed as the only cure for what ails the U.S. attack.

"We don't want to put too many expectations on Christian," he said. "To think that by having him now we become a magical group is unfair. But I will say any time you add quality, especially in the way that Christian can bring quality on the field, it makes us better. I'm hopeful that he'll have an opportunity to have an impact in a game like [Thursday]."

The presence of D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney in the England team, for what amounts to a testimonial at Wembley, has created some pushback in some English football circles, with the criticism centering on how Rooney's presence is devaluing the game. Sarachan made it clear he doesn't share that view, and that he applauds the English FA for honoring the former Manchester United star in this manner.

Sarachan said, "I would say I'd think differently if Wayne had retired from football three years ago, and they'd said, 'Hey, why don't you jump in?' He's coming off a very impactful season in the States [with D.C. United]. He's fit, I'm sure he will not be out of place. It's not the kind of thing where now the game changes. In fact, he's in good form. I think given all of that, I think when you have the opportunity to reward a player like that, I don't think that's a bad thing at all."

Sarachan's spell in charge is expected to end by the end of the year, at which point a new manager will be hired. In that time Sarachan has given caps to 50 different players, 19 of whom have made their international debuts. Sarachan also feels his team has reestablished its identity, even if the technical side remains a work in progress.

Sarachan said, "I think when people watch this team, they do see a young team that's got energy, plays without fear, tries be aggressive. On the technical side, as a manager, I always [think] there's improvement, but I think this particular generation has ability on the technical side to raise that level as well. That's the goal from each friendly opportunity that we've had, to progress that as we move forward."

Sarachan stated that forward Josh Sargent remains "day-to-day" with an ankle injury. But Sargent could be seen training off to the side, apart from the group, so his participation in Thursday's friendly seems unlikely.

"Hopefully he'll move in a direction where he'll be available, if not tomorrow then Tuesday [for the friendly against Italy]," said Sarachan about Sargent.

But even without Sargent, Sarachan his hopeful his side can produce a solid performance at one of the most iconic venues in the sport.

"We're not out for moral victories," he said. "We're out to represent ourselves in a way where we can be competitive and win. Any time you step on the field against a team like England and some of the others I mentioned, it's a great measuring tool for our group. It always goes a long way when you win. I think our fan base and people that follow us are excited about this group, and so if we compete and do well and get a result that furthers that along, it always goes a long way.

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