Dave Sarachan joined the U.S. Men's National Team staff January 1, 2000, as the first full-time assistant under Bruce Arena. Sarachan previously served as an assistant to Arena at the University of Virginia and D.C. United. He spent nine years as head coach at his alma mater, Cornell University, where he led the Big Red to successive appearances in the NCAA tournament in 1995 and 1996. We talked to Sarachan about his overall impressions of training camp thus far, and in what direction the team is headed as the Countdown to Korea continues...
ussoccer.com: Tell us how training camp has been going...
Dave Sarachan: "I think training camp has gone very well so far. We've focused a lot in the beginning of the camp on fitness and form, and each day that part of things had gotten better. As far as the soccer is concerned, as we began the process of getting the guys back together, I think each day has gotten a little bit sharper and a little bit better from the standpoint of movement as a group, as well as individually. The fitness is pretty good, although we think it could be a little bit better, so in the next week we have to tailor that a little bit with our three upcoming games. So far, so good in training camp."
ussoccer.com: How would you rate the new facilities at SAS Soccer Park?
DS: "Being here at this training park has been terrific. When you come into a training facility you have to have a few critical components. One obviously is the playing surface. You need the infrastructure, in terms of proximity to hotels, travel, restaurants, etc. As far as all of that is concerned, things have been really outstanding. As far as the park itself, you couldn’t ask for a better surface to play on. The conditions, we think, will mirror in some ways what we are going to face when we get into our environment in Korea, both in terms of the field and the climatic conditions. It's been warm here, but that's a good thing. We've been welcomed here in Cary, but I also feel from a technical standpoint this has been just what we had needed."
ussoccer.com: How would you assess the progress of the group at this point, both individually and collectively?
DS: I think when you have a camp like this, when you bring your group together for the first time in a long time, it takes a little bit of time to get reacquainted on the field. Starting in the back, our goalkeepers have shown great form and fitness, and I think in goal it's been a good solid week of training. All three goalkeepers - Brad, Kasey and Tony - have worked very hard. Defensively, I think we can do a better job collectively as a group in terms of our coordination and movement. Individually, I think the defending has been pretty good. that's something we've worked on this week as well. In the midfield again, it's a situation of pretty good fitness, and it's just a matter of getting coordinated and getting players to play their roles. I think players like Chris Armas, Cobi Jones, and Earnie Stewart have shown good form. In the attacking group, you can always work on finishing, but they are showing that that side of it is getting better."
ussoccer.com: Obviously there is a lot of pressure on the team heading into the FIFA World Cup. As a coaching staff, how do you manage that pressure, while at the same time keeping the team focused?
DS: "Coming into this camp we had the mindset that this has to be a camp where you have a lot of balance. You work hard, but you have to have a period of time in your day where you have to get away from the game and relax. A lot of guys are coming off long seasons; even the MLS guys are now in full swing. We know that there is inherent pressure once we get to Korea on May 23, and obviously on June 5, 10 and 14. The key component is to find a balance where we work hard and play a little bit. They play a little golf, and the guys go to dinner and relax so they can bring more energy into their training. We know there's going to be a lot of pressure once we get over there, so the combination of hard training and personal time has been good."
ussoccer.com: Now that Camp Cary is completed, what your expectations for the upcoming friendlies?
DS: "Phase one is just about complete in terms of getting our fitness and form coordinated. Now, the real test is once you play an opponent, which will give us a better understanding of how our partnerships are on the field, collectively how we move as a group, and how we play in the attacking and defending end of things. We'll be playing three quality opponents. Phase two is a key part of the process so we see how we work together. In phase three, once we get to Korea, preparation will be fine-tuning. At that point I believe that we would have decided our core starters and role players who will be coming in to help us. Then all the focus narrows in on playing Portugal on June 5."