U.S., Still Treading Water, Loses to England at Wembley

U.S., Still Treading Water, Loses to England at Wembley


LONDON — For another week or so, at least, the players on the United States men’s national team can enjoy the relative innocence of their youth.

Their mistakes these days are mostly forgiven, their naïveté largely dismissed.

This is the freedom of a team that has torn everything down, as the Americans did after stunningly failing to qualify for the World Cup last fall.

Unencumbered by any weight of expectation, unburdened by anything so pesky as a track record, the United States has pushed through a year of experimentation with a temporary coaching staff that has given opportunities to dozens of promising, young players, the equivalent of dumping a box of puzzle pieces onto a table to see which ones fit together best.

The in-between period lurched closer to completion on Thursday night at Wembley Stadium, in a game against England that had been billed as a gathering of some of the brightest young talents in the American player pool: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tim Weah, Tyler Adams. The result, though, could only be seen as a letdown: a shapeless, lifeless and directionless loss that felt more lopsided than the 3-0 final score indicated.

“We need to get a lot better as a team,” said Pulisic, 20, who made only his second appearance for the team in the year since the World Cup qualifying humiliation. “We can talk about continuing to gain experience but that’s not why we’re here. We want to win now. We want to win these games. I’m a competitive guy, and everyone else is in that locker room.”

The Americans will play another big opponent, Italy, on Tuesday in Belgium. And then, sometime in the weeks after that, they are expected to name a permanent head coach to replace Dave Sarachan, who has been serving as a caretaker of the team since last fall.

Until then, however, the team’s setup will continue to feel like a sleepaway camp without the head counselor: The average age on the team in camp this week is 23 years 187 days. Sixteen of the players are 23 years old or under.

Fans and observers of the team have not complained, for the most part. Few things in sports engender more earnest, and sometimes uninformed, anticipation than the arrival of unproven prospects. In that regard, it was an exciting night for the United States, with promising players like Adams (19), McKennie (20) and Weah (18) at last sharing the field with Pulisic, the Borussia Dortmund winger who is now the biggest name on the national team and a relative veteran with 22 games played.

An announced crowd of 68,155 showed up at Wembley for the mostly sleepy game. On a night when youthful promise served as the overarching motif, a chunk of time was nevertheless carved out for reflection, in the form of a second-half appearance by the English striker Wayne Rooney, 33, who made his 120th (and final) appearance for his country after receiving a ceremonial, farewell call-up.

Before the match, Rooney was presented with a plaque by his teammate Harry Kane. After the game, he received a commemorative jersey from the American players in their locker room.

In between it was the young English players who shined: Midway through the first half, 25-year-old Jesse Lingard scored with a stunning, swerving shot from the left side, and minutes later Trent Alexander-Arnold, 20, scored from a tight angle on the opposite side. Callum Wilson, the 26-year-old Bournemouth striker making his England debut, added the hosts’ third in the second half.

The United States might eventually find inspiration from this England squad, which rode a young group sprinkled with veterans to the semifinals of the World Cup this summer; for now, though, the Americans are merely in the embryonic stages of building their group, with longtime regulars like Michael Bradley, 31, and Jozy Altidore, 29, left out for the moment.

“We’ve moved it along so that when the calendar year flips, and we get into 2019 and we begin the next cycle, there’s a great starting point there,” Sarachan said. “It’s not an end point.”

The current games most likely represent an end point for Sarachan, who has earned praise for making the best of a difficult situation but acknowledged this week he had not been asked to interview for the manager job.

“It’s tough,” Pulisic said. “Dave is doing what he can. Obviously he wants to win these games too, just like we do. But it’s going to help a lot once we get a permanent head coach moving forward, a guy with a real plan and style of how we want to play.”

That person — Gregg Berhalter, the coach of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, is widely viewed as the front-runner — will have a host of challenges when more important games begin in early 2019.

The past year, for instance, has put into plain relief the extent to which a passing of the torch to a certain generation of players — established ones in their mid-to-late 20s who would enter their prime at the next World Cup — failed to materialize.

“There’s been a big generation gap while we’re trying to rebuild the pool, which is the right step,” said Steve Cherundolo, who played 87 games for the national team between 1999 and 2012 and went to three World Cups. “But it’s a process, and I do think the men’s team has taken a little knock as far as not being as well-respected as previous teams. But that will come. There’s plenty of time for that.”

Cherundolo, who has been serving as an assistant for Sarachan during the team’s 10-day overseas trip, suggested two possible explanations for the gap: that there was indeed some sort of tangible dip in soccer talent produced out of the United States for a period of years, or that the team’s management had fumbled the integration of an entire generation of potential players. He declined to guess which was more accurate.

The responsibility of correcting the situation will fall on the team’s next manager. Then comes the challenge of fitting the pieces together.



Source link

About The Author

We are independent. we bring you the news from around the world.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.