The sunny Southern California landscape helped paint a scenic backdrop on new beginnings for the US Men’s National Team’s first day of January training camp. Entering camp with a roster filled with younger and less experienced players, twenty one of the thirty players called into camp are twenty-four years old or younger, interim head coach Dave Sarachan is looking toward the potential for a brighter future for American soccer.
With failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup looming over their heads, the team is looking toward 2022 and making sure all their pieces are in order well before then.
“We had a good meeting last night and, basically, the past is the past,” Sarachan explained. “Today was day one of a new cycle, new group of guys. They say you learn from the past, but the focus is the opportunity that they’re being given right now. We have a good group, a young group, with a lot of energy, so I think they’re not thinking about anything but today’s first session and having a meal and going again tomorrow… Last January camp had a whole different tone and all primarily different players and this January camp is different, but once you get the boots on and get out here, you’re back to work, and that part never changes.”
Optimism seemed to be the focus of the day, as players carried themselves light-heartedly and plenty of laughs could be heard during the 5v2 drills toward the end of the day’s session. MLS based players make up twenty-eight of the thirty man roster, meaning most of the camp is coming off at least a month or two off season, ready and excited to step back on the field despite the dreaded fitness testing on the first day.
The player in camp with the most appearances (or caps) for the USMNT, LA Galaxy midfielder Gyasi Zardes, has just thirty-seven caps while about half of the roster has yet to step on the field for the US senior squad. “We’re moving forward, stepping in a new direction and it’s great,” Zardes commented. “It’s already been a high intensity training session on the first day and I love it.”
The future is pretty murky for US Men’s Soccer due to the upcoming US Soccer Federation’s presidential election on February 10th and USMNT head coaching roles not being finalized until a president is elected. But, in the meantime, this January camp is serving its’ purpose of identifying potential talent for the future and giving players opportunities to showcase themselves and gear up for the upcoming MLS season.
The USMNT will face Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 28th at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The team has no other games scheduled for 2018, but are rumored to be scheduling a couple more friendlies for the March fixture window.