It was a very long and sad plane ride home United States of america After losing 2–1 to the men’s national team Trinidad and Tobago On 10 October 2017 in their final World Cup qualifier for Russia 2018. It was a result that meant the US would miss its first World Cup since 1986. Dave Sarachan, then an assistant to head coach Bruce Arena, sat next to Arena. Tom King, managing director of US Soccer Administration, appeared when on the flight.
“Tom King said, ‘By the way, Bruce, we have this friendly portugal, ” Sarachan told ESPN. “And Bruce’s response was basically, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not going to coach that sport. I’ve done.'”
With the team’s failure and a fan base angered by the US Soccer presidential election in February, which took a very different turn after that night, many people inside US Soccer are worried about the team facing Portugal on November 14 in Leiria. Wasn’t thinking ,
“The keys were originally handed over to me,” Sarachan said. “There hasn’t been a lot of conversation with anyone in particular in the federation. I met with my staff and said, ‘We have to represent ourselves in this game.’ I just took the ball and ran with it. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out that we have to start a new cycle in November of 2017. It’s that simple.”
Now, five years later and set to play in their first World Cup since Brazil 2014, the USMNT has come a long way since assembling that first group of players. It was the dawn of a new era.
Sarachan said, “At first, not everyone we reached out to was available or wanted to be available in some cases, but my thinking was that we would have to introduce new blood.” “We need to start the cycle with some of these budding youngsters. But I also had to call on people like Tim Ream And alejandro bedoyaBecause they understood the national team, what it meant, what it needed.”
Teenagers were among the new faces called up in Portugal that week Weston McKenney And Tyler Adams – He has since become the leader of the national team, but at that moment, his eyes were a little wide at what was happening.
“Maybe we were a little naive at the time,” Adams said at a September news conference. “I would say a lot of the youngsters who were called up were really excited for the opportunity. We all probably went through that before when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup because we weren’t part of ” That group, though we knew it probably affected US Soccer in the bigger picture.
“We were just youth national team players who were focused on what we were doing for our clubs. will be called.” Camp. In a sense everything had accelerated.
Spong told ESPN, “You really felt that creativity in that camp. It was very loose.” “I think the coaching staff didn’t know what their fate was, so they were inclined to allow us to express ourselves creatively, but also with coaching in signaling the youth. You can understand. There was a thirst. And a hunger to get better and push my game.”
other young players were like josh sargent, ethan horvath And Cameron Carter-Vickers called to the camp. In the game itself, 10 players who played in the game were 24 or younger. Yet it was 19-year-old McKennie and 18-year-old Adams who caught everyone’s attention. McKennie’s smiling, outgoing personality took hold from the first minute, including rapping an entire Lil’ Wayne song at the team’s first dinner – “And doing it with swag!” According to Sapong.
Meanwhile, Adams brought a boundless amount of energy to training. “I remember the first training session, I literally had to stop and pull Tyler Adams aside and say, ‘Tyler, you have to slow down,'” Sarachan said. “He covered more ground in 15 minutes than the whole group combined. So those youngsters came with great energy and enthusiasm.”
Sapong said: “I could see immediately that Weston and Tyler were special. I remember thinking, ‘This is the grit and personality that America needs.’ It’s actually more indicative, I think, of hunger and fire because of the nature of their upbringing.”
A group brought together in the wake of the biggest failure in US soccer history was providing some much-needed optimism, and Sarachan was at its core.
“What stands out to me about Dave is his professionalism,” said George Villafana, who was one of just three players to start against Trinidad and was then called up by Sarachan for the friendly against Portugal. “He was very good with the communication with the young players and I think that was very important at that time for the process. I remember when we were in meetings, he conveyed to all of them that he wanted to renovate and rebuild He was in the process of joining the national team and he was going to bring in young players.”
By the time kickoff arrived, American fans tuning in were eager to see how players like McKennie and Adams would perform on their debuts. There was nothing to feel positive about for weeks, so a strong start for America, punctuated by a well-timed goal by McKennie on a Sapong assist, was the first sign that America was heading in a different direction.
Adams said, “It was a special moment for us, Weston, to score on his debut, and we tied that game up against a really good opponent.” “It showed that the young guns can play and manage themselves against an opponent like that.”
“It was a great moment,” said Sarachan. “I’m not naïve. I know the football community didn’t move beyond Trinidad, but one way you can reduce some injuries is to introduce some young guys and play on level terms. Here we are in Portugal are in, although none Cristiano Ronaldo, But they still had some good players, so it was nice to get the first goal. That’s the whole thing with these young people. You are going to succeed, you are going to fail, you accumulate these experiences. It was a good start for the next cycle.”
A mistake by Horvath allowed Portugal to equalise, but the US fought hard and could consider themselves unlucky not to find a second goal, especially in the second half when an Adams header hit the post. Overall, a 1-1 result at full-time signals brighter days ahead.
“It was important to finish the year the way we did, both from an emotional level and from a football level, to start the healing process, but also to build the next circle of people,” Sarachan said. “The feeling was that we can enter this next cycle and have a good group of players who can represent the country.”
While McKennie and Adams will be part of the US team to start the World Cup against wales Players like Sapong, Villafana and Sarachan will not be there for the US in Qatar on Monday. But for those three and others who were part of the US delegation in Portugal that week, it can always be said that they did their part to navigate America through the worst of times. For some, this is enough.
Sapong said, “It’s good to talk about it now because looking back, I remember it resonated with me what was going on there and I felt honored.” “It’s honestly my favorite memory with the national team.”
When it’s all said and done, this may go down as the genesis of US Soccer’s golden generation.