United States men’s national soccer team interim head coach Dave Sarachan is hopeful about U.S. soccer’s future after the team pulled off a 1-1 draw against European champions Portugal at the Estadio Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa in Leiria, Portugal, on Tuesday.
Sarachan, who was appointed as USMNT’s caretaker last month, called in young players to assemble his makeshift squad and witnessed a glimpse of hope for the nation’s future in the sport. The former Chicago Fire manager expressed optimism before the match, predicting his squad to have “a lot of energy, team spirit, and confidence” against a world-class opponent, per Goal. And he was not let down by his squad’s performance.
“We have a number of players who are young, and are still getting acclimated and used to this level, but I can tell you I think what we’ll see on Tuesday is a group that has a lot of energy, team spirit and confidence. We know we’re facing an excellent team in Portugal, and our group, I think, is coming together pretty well. They’re getting to know one another, we’re getting to know them, and we’re excited to see what it looks like on Tuesday.”
Sarachan temporarily replaced Bruce Arena, who resigned after USMNT’s heartbreaking 1-2 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in a 2018 World Cup qualifying match last month. The loss resulted in the U.S. failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Even playing without four-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, A Seleccao remains to be a tough and supremely talented squad with the likes of Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo, former Real Madrid star Pepe, Sporting CP’s Bruno Fernandes, Inter Milan’s Joao Mario, Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, and Valencia’s young striker Goncalo Guedes.
Meanwhile, the U.S. featured virtual youngsters with DeAndre Yedlin (24), Matt Miazga (22), John Brooks (24), Eric Lichaj (28), and Danny Williams (28) in the backfield; Tyler Adams (18), Weston McKennie (19), Kellyn Acosta (22), and Juan Agudelo (24) in the midfield; C.J. Sapong (28) up front; and Ethan Horvath (22) manning the goal as their starting XI.
Schalke 04’s McKennie welcomed his international debut with a bang as he scored the first goal of the friendly with a brilliant move in the 21st minute off an equally brilliant setup by Philadelphia Union’s Sapong.
However, a big blunder by Horvath allowed the hosts to tie the count 10 minutes later. Getafe left-back Vitorino Antunes’ volley slipped through between his arms and legs before gently passing the goal line, tying the match.
Despite conceding a goal in such a terrible fashion, it was an overall “good performance” for Sarachan’s side, according to the Washington Post‘s Steven Goff.
USMNT will next face Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 28 next year. The game is scheduled to be held at the StubHub Center in Carson.
[Featured Image by Pedro Rocha/AP Images]