News Live Scores
United States

Sarachan ready to let loose USMNT's confident youngsters against Paraguay

07:30 GMT+3 27/03/2018
Matt Miazga United States Portugal
The caretaker coach sees a young U.S. squad brimming with confidence heading into a tough test against Paraguay on Tuesday

Caretaker U.S. national team coach Dave Sarachan has had a full week to observe just what this young collection of talent has to offer, and it is clear he has seen enough to give his side plenty of freedom against Paraguay on Tuesday.

"They won’t be overcoached, I can tell you that," Sarachan said. "We’re going to allow them to make a lot of decisions on the field, and that’s what this is all about."

Sarachan has called in a team heavy on youth, but one with enough veterans to give the squad some needed experience, with Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin, Darlington Nagbe, Wil Trapp and Eric Lichaj anchoring the squad.

Of course, fans aren't nearly as interested in the older players as they are on youngsters like Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, as well as newcomers like Timothy Weah, Andrija Novakovich, Antonee Robinson and Erik Palmer-Brown.

As young as the roster is, Sarachan has come away impressed with the level he has seen in camp.

"The technical level of these guys has shown to be very good, and obviously with youth comes enthusiasm and energy, but I think the soccer has impressed me so far in the training," Sarachan said. "I think the confidence of a young group, and playing without a lot of fear, has been the two things that have stood out to me.

"Nobody's here that shouldn't be here," he added. "I think they all belong here, they've all made a good case for themselves this week. It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge putting the first 11 out because I think the margins between what I would consider the very top to the very bottom is very thin.

"They've all made a good impression, a couple maybe that surprised me that I didn't really know that well that have hung in there pretty well."

Christian Pulisic's absence from the squad — he was allowed to stay with Borussia Dortmund ahead of next week's derby against Bayern Munich — has opened the door for a starting role in the U.S. midfield, and another could be made available by McKennie's injury status. The Schalke midfielder is nursing an undisclosed injury that has limited his practice time in U.S. camp, meaning there's a good chance he doesn't start against Paraguay.

The good news for the Americans is that they boast depth in central midfield options, even without Pulisic and McKennie. Trapp is coming off an impressive January camp, while Adams continues his meteoric rise with the New York Red Bulls. Cristian Roldan is another option against a Paraguay side led by Miguel Almiron that boasts a high-powered attack.

"I think you'll see a lot of players who are committed to pressing and defending and bringing energy to the game," Roldan said of what he expects from the U.S. on Tuesday. "There's a lot of young guys who are here and our mindset is to play free and mentally we have to be ready, but also physically.

"I think this group is more than ready for a challenge. Paraguay brings a lot of counterattacking football and we have to be really keen and sharp on the day."

Tuesday's friendly is the only match being played by the U.S. in a nearly four-month gap between the January draw against Bosnia & Herzegovina and the May game against Bolivia, giving the match added significance for young players trying to make their mark in the months before a decision is made on a new full-time head coach.

"It stinks not to have too many competitive matches coming up in the near future," Adams said. "But at the same time we have to take these matches seriously because we know they’re important games in starting the rejuvenation process of getting these young guys minutes and games."

Here is a look at the squad the U.S. could start against Paraguay, and a closer look at some storylines around the potential lineup:


PROJECTED LINEUP



REUNITING THE 2015 U-20s


The last time Zack Steffen , Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers were in a starting lineup together was at the 2015 U-20 World Cup, when they helped the Americans reach the quarterfinals. Three years later, that same trio could take the field against Paraguay.

The tandem of Miazga and Carter-Vickers has long been seen as the pairing of the future for the national team and Tuesday is a perfect opportunity to reunite them. Both are playing regularly for their clubs, and Sarachan will surely be tempted to have them play together in order to tap into their already-established chemistry.

Steffen is far from a lock to start, with veteran Bill Hamid another option, but it can definitely be argued no American goalkeeper has been in better form over the past six months than Steffen. From his outstanding run in the 2017 playoffs to his strong start to the 2018 season, Steffen has earned a chance to start, and his history with Miazga and Carter-Vickers can't hurt his chance.


WEAH CAN WAIT


Timothy Weah has earned some minutes with Paris Saint-Germain's first team, and U.S. fans are already starting to call for the former Under-17 national team standout to be fast-tracked into a prominent role with the senior team. That can wait. This has been his first senior team camp, and while he has shown his qualities, it would be a bit fast to toss him into a starting role already.

Sarachan should give Weah a chance to make his national team debut against Paraguay, but the summer friendlies against Bolivia, Ireland and France will present a better opportunity for Weah to start — assuming he shows well enough to earn that chance.


OTHER STARTING OPTIONS


Rubio Rubin has been earning regular minutes with Club Tijuana and could form a forward partnership with Wood. He also could work on the left wing, though Kenny Saief seems like a better bet to start there.

Jorge Villafana is a candidate to start at left back, but Lichaj brings some more experience to the table, which should come in handy if Sarachan does go with Steffen, Miazga and Carter-Vickers as starters.

Could Andrija Novakovich earn a start in his first U.S. camp? The big forward has impressed, but he seems more likely to come off the bench and be one of Sarachan's six subs than start as a target forward.