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US Soccer: Building For The Future With Teenage Talent

By Michael Lewis, 09/06/18, 11:00AM EDT

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US Soccer: Building For The Future With Teenage Talent In Upcoming Friendlies

 
US Soccer vs. Brazil Preview:  Neymar & the Verde-Amarela Come To New Jersey For Kickoff series

Dave Sarachan is constantly thinking about building for the future when it comes to the U.S. men's national team these days.

So, when it comes time to select a squad for the Sept. 7 international friendly against Brazil at MetLife Stadium, expect the U.S. head coach to pick several teenagers.

It's all a part of moving forward and looking to the future with the national side after last year's disappointing failure of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

“I would say that the roster, if you followed our team over the last six friendlies, will be composed pretty similarly to what we’ve done in the past,” Sarachan said recently. “But I feel very confident that the group we’re going to bring will be very competitive.”

For the 3-0 victory over Bolivia in Chester, Pennslyvania on May 28, Sarachan called in a roster that averaged 22 years, 286 days before two more games in the Republic of Ireland and France, which went on to win the World Cup title. The oldest players were Jorge Villafana and Joe Corona, who both are 28.

Teenage Talent

Sarachan will most likely look towards the likes of midfielders Christian Pulisic (19), Weston McKennie (19), Tyler Adams (19), Josh Sargent (18),  and  former EDP player Timothy Weah (18) for the 8 p.m. encounter in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Some of those players just made their first national team impact under Sarachan in June friendlies.

Videos courtesy of  US Soccer

For example, Weah, the son of Liberian president and soccer legend George Weah, found the back of the net in his first international start, a 3-0 home triumph over Bolivia on May 28. He recently scored his first goal for Paris St-Germain in French Ligue 1. Weah is a club teammate of Brazilian star Neymar, who was chosen to the Brazilian side.

Sargent, a member of Werder Bremen (Germany), who scored several vital goals for the U.S. in the Under-17 and U-20 World Cups in 2017, made his full international debut against Bolivia on May 28, 2018, scoring his first goal in that match.

Adams, who has forged a reputation as one of Major League Soccer's leading defensive midfielders for the New York Red Bulls, has continued impressive performances since he made his international debut in a 1-1 draw with Portugal last Nov. 17. He reportedly is headed to RB Leipzig (Germany) after the MLS season.

McKennie, who plays for Schalke 04 (Germany), scored in his U.S. debut against Portugal last year.

Of course, many, if not all American soccer fans know about Pulisic, who will turn 20 on Sept. 18. He is considered the shining light of the U.S. team as the most consistent offensive force during World Cup qualifying despite his young age. Pulisic already has nine goals in 21 international appearances, also having assisted on several goals.

Pulisic, who hails from Hershey, Pa., had an encouraging start to the Bundesliga season on Sunday, Aug. 26 as Borussia Dortmund trounced RB Leipzig, 4-1, in its 2018-19 Bundesliga opener. Pulisic didn't score, but he was fouled to set up the go-ahead goal by Marco Reus and his corner kick was turned into a goal after a goalkeeper save. He also induced a yellow card from a Leipzig player.

Moving On From MLS Veterans

There are many talented American players in their early 20s who have started to make a name for themselves in Europe and Mexico who could see plenty of action.

Sarachan certainly hasn't forgotten about veterans such as Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, who has captained the squad the past several years, and striker Jozy Altidore, but he just didn't know when he would bring them back into the fold.

Bradley is 31 and Altidore 28, although they will be four years older when the next World Cup rolls around -- Qatar 2022 and they could be too old to be regulars.

“We’re not discounting the value of veteran leadership, and Michael falls into that category,” Sarachan said. "There will be a time, I’m sure, when we’re going to count on those players like Michael to be a part of this. We had a good conversation, and I think he understands where we are.”

The Brazil encounter will be the 28th time the USA plays in the New York-New Jersey area since the Americans lost to Canada, 1-0, in their very first international encounter in Newark, N.J. on Nov. 28, 1885.

The last time the U.S. performed in New Jersey, the result was not very encouraging as the hosts walked off the Red Bull Arena pitch in Harrison, N.J. (just outside of Newark) after a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in a vital World Cup qualifier for Russia on Sept. 1, 2017.

Whether Sarachan will be a part of the program, it remains to be seen; his contract is up at the end of the year and the U.S. Soccer Federation is seeking a permanent coach to fill the position vacated by Bruce Arena last November. But at the moment, the veteran coach is looking ahead and not behind.

It certainly will be a busy fall for the USA. Beyond Brazil, the Americans will meet Mexico in Nashville, Tenn. on Sept. 11, host Colombia in Tampa, Fla. on Oct. 11, visit England at historic Wembley Stadium on Nov. 15 and take on Italy at a site to be determined on Nov. 20.