Coach Q&A: Sarachan Focuses on Future of MNT with 2018 January Camp Roster

This January Camp, more than any in recent memory, is focused on the future. Acting U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Dave Sarachan discussed the roster selection and his message to the group with You’ve called 30 players to the National Training Center for the MNT’s 2018 January Camp. Could you discuss how you went about putting this roster together?

Dave Sarachan: “We’re excited about our 2018 January Camp roster. It’s all about the future and opportunity. Twenty-one of these players are 24 and younger so we’re excited about that, and we clearly feel that we want to have a look at these players that have the chance to be a part of the National Team for a number of years to come. We think the balance was good and obviously we’re trying to bring in players that are coming off good seasons, are at a good age for the future, and to give the opportunity to those that have earned that right to be a part of the program.” What makes this January Camp different?

DS: “Obviously, this is a unique January Camp in that we’re solely preparing for the future and to give opportunity to players that have a future in the program. We didn’t bring in a lot of the veteran players for that reason.” There seems to be a particular emphasis on players that have a past in the Youth National Team program.

DS: “The Youth National Team programs have been very successful this year, which is very promising. This past year our U-17 and U-20 Men’s National Teams each reached the quarterfinals of a World Cup and we’re thrilled to have 12 players that have been part of Youth World Cups and four of which are coming off the U-20 World Cup with us this year in January Camp.”

“Overall we’re excited by the fact that we have a lot of young players. Twenty-one of these players are 24 years old or younger and 19 have been part of our Development Academy program. We’re doing a lot of good things at the youth level. We feel we have a lot of talent coming through and we’ll have a look at many of them at this January Camp.” What is your message to the group going to be starting January 11?

DS: “The message to this group is, ‘You belong here, and always take advantage of any opportunities that you have with the National Team. We have 18 days before we play our game against Bosnia. The whole idea for this group of players is to take advantage of the training, take advantage of getting to know one another and take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself because this is going to be part of our future going forward.” There are 15 players that will come to camp looking for their first cap with the MNT. In your experience, what’s the challenge for those players when it comes to raising the level from what they’re used to, to the international level and ultimately against Bosnia on January 28?

DS: “The January Camp is a challenge in a few ways. It brings together a group of players that have been off from their seasons, so fitness is going to be an important piece to the 18 days we’re together and getting into good form from a soccer perspective. For the young guys, for the 15 players that are here and really getting their first taste of things, everything gets a little quicker, everything gets a little faster and everything now is pushed to a level that will test them. I think that’s the whole purpose of bringing these young players together, to get a feel for the pace and rhythm of a National Team camp and prepare them for an international friendly against Bosnia. The challenge for all these players is how quickly they can adapt to the speed of play and the quality that each will be pushing one another with.” We’re a little under five years until the next World Cup. There’s not the same pressure, but these are still the first steps forward. How do you see this camp fitting into the larger picture of what the National Team is trying to do?

DS: “The January Camp is the start of a new cycle. Players will come into this camp with a lot of energy and excitement to be a part of it. It’s a long journey forward, but this is the first step starting in 2018 for the program and for these players to now get experience at this level.

The hope is that over the course of 18 days, we can introduce these players to what it’s like to be part of the National Team, the level at which they’re going to push one another and finishing up with a game against Bosnia. All of that will play into their experience as they move forward in their careers with the National Team, which we think many of them have great potential to be a part of for many years.”