Dave Sarachan: “Being here, being in charge, is always a privilege. I’ve embraced it. We’re professionals, we have a job to do.” (Andy Mead/ YCJ Photo)
LISBON, Portugal — For Dave Sarachan, the U.S.’s international friendly against Portugal in Leiria Tuesday is more than a soccer match.
It is also therapy for the national team’s acting coach.
Getting an opportunity to be acting coach has allowed Sarachan to rid himself of the disappointment of the Americans’ failure to reach the World Cup for the eighth consecutive time. The U.S. was eliminated from contention with a 2-1 loss in Trinidad & Tobago Oct. 10.
“In some ways it’s been good therapy for me, because the taste of that last match had taken a while to get out of my mind and out of my mouth, that taste of the fact that we’re not going to the World Cup,” he told reporters Sunday.
“Being here, being in charge, is always a privilege. I’ve embraced it. We’re professionals, we have a job to do. What makes this week so special for me personally is the fact that we’ve assembled a group of players that have a bright future, players that have shown up with no bitterness in their mouth, no chip on the shoulder.
“They’ve shown up with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy. I think in the short term we’ve created great team spirit. For me and my staff, it’s been very refreshing.”
Third-ranked Portugal will play without Cristiano Ronaldo, whose partner Georgina Rodriguez, gave birth to their first child Monday, a daughter named Alana Martina. It was his fourth child.
“As a coach, it doesn’t bother me because it’s one less superstar we have to worry about,” Sarachan said. “But I think it’s always a great challenge when you face the very best, whether its individual players or teams. To have Cristiano here would certainly be a real challenge for our team, no question about that.
“The ultimate goal for this group that we have here is to get the best experience against a good player and a good team. Not having Cristiano here, I’m not going to cry over it, but our players understand there is a great challenge ahead.”
In wake of the U.S.’s failure to reach Russia 2018, Sarachan said that U.S. Soccer doesn’t “need to blow up the template and start from scratch.” He was an assistant under Bruce Arena during the CONCACAF Hexagonal run.
“I think wherever there is success too, but also failure, it’s a time for reflection, time for discussion, time to take a broad look at what we can do better,” he said.
“I would also tell you that there’s certain cycles that every national program goes through, good and bad. I think we hit a little bit of a bump, no question, but we still think the foundation of our pool of players is strong, and we will be better for this in big picture.
“In the short term it’s very difficult, but in the big picture I don’t think it’s a drastic or dire situation.”