Without World Cup, U.S. men's national team goes young for friendly vs. Bolivia
By Steven Goff
The Washington Post|
May 20, 2018 | 12:55 PM
Had the United States qualified for the World Cup, as it had done every four years since 1990, the roster announced Sunday for an upcoming friendly would have been packed with internationally seasoned players preparing for soccer's ultimate test next month in Russia.
But because of last fall's failure, the Americans are turning attention to the long term instead of the short term, passing on veterans and introducing a new batch.
Along those lines, interim coach Dave Sarachan named a 22-man roster with an average age of just under 23 for the May 28 match against Bolivia at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.
"As I've talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program," Sarachan said in a written statement. "We've had first-time call-ups in every camp since November, and this is another extension of that."
The group includes Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, who play regularly in the German Bundesliga, and midfielder Tim Weah, who on Saturday made his first first-team start for French champion Paris Saint-Germain. All three are teenagers.
Other young players include Premier League prospects Matt Miazga (22), Cameron Carter-Vickers (20) and Matthew Olosunde (20); Andrija Novakovich, who, at age 21, scored 22 goals in all competitions in the Dutch second division; and Josh Sargent, an 18-year-old forward with Germany's Werder Bremen.
Olosunde, Portuguese-based Keaton Parks and Mexico-based Alejandro Guido were invited for the first time. Four others are seeking their first U.S. senior appearance. Nine players are age-eligible for the 2020 Olympics, which, in men's soccer, is an under-23 competition.
The only players born before 1990 are defenders Eric Lichaj and Jorge Villafaña.
Training camp will open Monday at the University of Pennsylvania.
After the Bolivia game, Sarachan will make about 10 roster changes for friendlies against Ireland on June 2 in Dublin and France on June 9 in Lyon. At that time, he is expected to add other European-based players, such as Newcastle's DeAndre Yedlin.
In making his choices, Sarachan had to take into account the needs of teams in MLS, which plays a summer schedule and will not take a break for the World Cup until the group stage begins in mid-June. Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono and Los Angeles FC defender Walker Zimmerman were the only MLS selections for the first camp.
Sarachan also consulted with clubs abroad about player fatigue after long seasons.
"It has been challenging to build the roster given that we have these three matches - one domestic and two in Europe - while trying to be sensitive to the fact that MLS teams are in currently in-season," Sarachan said. "Having players available for all three games was a big ask. It was a challenge to try and balance that out in terms of time away from their club team and also the needs we have."
Sarachan has been in charge since November, when Bruce Arena resigned in the wake of the U.S. team's 2-1 defeat at Trinidad and Tobago in the final World Cup qualifier. Sarachan is under contract through June. The Americans will not play again until September. By then, the U.S. Soccer Federation is expected to have hired a general manager, who will lead the search for a permanent coach.
Pulisic, 19, is joining the squad for the first time since the qualifying mishap. Although Borussia Dortmund's season is over, he has remained with the German squad for a friendly against MLS's Los Angeles FC this Tuesday. The Hershey, Pennsylvania, native is expected to begin training with the U.S. team Thursday.