On Tuesday, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Dave Sarachan announced a 28-player roster for the MNT’s closing Kickoff Series matches in Europe against England and Italy.
In this ussoccer.com Q&A, Sarachan discussed his roster decisions and the opportunity ahead in the MNT’s last camp of 2018.
ussoccer.com: Could you give us your overall thoughts on the composition of this roster?
Dave Sarachan: “These last two matches provide a fantastic set of challenges and experiences, so we’re excited to bring in this group of players for another huge opportunity,” said Sarachan. “We continue to build with a core group that has developed throughout the last year, while including some players who we haven’t seen in some time. Overall, this is a great way to end the Kickoff Series and what has been a very productive 2018.”
ussoccer.com: You have called 28 players to London. What is the reasoning for having a slightly bigger number of players reporting to camp?
DS: “My reasoning involves the timing for some of the players that are still involved with Major League Soccer and will be arriving later into camp. With a short week given the match is on Thursday, we wanted to expand the roster for the purposes of quality training while we’re over there and also to have the opportunity to see a few younger players that we have had in but maybe not seen as much. It’s a combination of those factors that made sense to have additional numbers for this camp.”
ussoccer.com: Seven players on the roster are on teams still involved in the MLS Cup Playoffs. What went into your decision to include them for the England and Italy matches?
“These are important matches and we only have so many opportunities every year to bring our players together. This is a FIFA window and we are one of many countries playing matches during this time, so you want to include players that you feel are vital to your program. There are other leagues around the world that have games right before and after these windows, but I feel when the National Team calls there is still an importance to bringing players that we feel will be significant to the team now and in the future.”
ussoccer.com: The games against Ireland and France back in June combined with the fall Kickoff Series matches against Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Peru have provided the MNT with a number of challenging matches as the group builds for the future. Could you speak more about the opportunity your team has to close out the year with the final Kickoff Series matches against England and Italy?
DS: “When you look at all the games we have played since June, each one has been a great test in so many different ways. Historically, England and Italy have been mainstays in the elite of national team football and the two teams find themselves at different places currently. Playing England at Wembley is the opportunity of a lifetime, and our players will have the added bonus of facing a team that is clearly on the rise as they showed with their run to the World Cup Semifinals this past summer.
“With Italy, they are sort of in a rebuilding process, but are still one of the elite countries in world football and so there is no question about the quality challenge they will provide. Overall, ending 2018 with these two matches really puts an exclamation point on the opportunities provided to the group this year.”
ussoccer.com: Did you consider bringing in more veteran players like Michael Bradley for these games?
“With the availability of some players that we didn’t get to see in the last fixture window due to injury, the thinking is this roster gives us depth with young players that still need the experience of big games, especially games abroad. With Michael Bradley, there are a couple reasons. The first is that after having earned 142 caps, his need for these games is far less important than it would be for players with less experience. Secondly, Michael’s schedule the past two years with Toronto FC has been virtually non-stop and he has largely played without a break. At this stage, it made sense to give him some extra time off and also allow these games to be a platform for players that lack that kind of experience.”
ussoccer.com: The one newbie in camp this time around is Swedish-based winger Romain Gall, who has 12 league goals this season, including two very nice ones this past week for Malmö. Why is now the right time for his first senior team call-up?
DS: “Prior to his current run of form in Sweden, I’ve only known about Romain Gall through his experience with the U.S. youth teams. He had been off the radar a little bit and sort of re-emerged this year with his strong play for Sundsvall which continued when he transferred midseason to one of Sweden’s top clubs, Malmö. When we talk about bringing along young guys and having the opportunity to see where they’re at, he has put himself in the conversation with the minutes he’s getting and his consistent production this season. He is an intriguing player in the attacking third, and I think you can never have enough guys to look at that can pull off plays in that part of the field.”