NASHVILLE — U.S. Soccer needs to stop playing the waiting game and hire a permanent head coach for the men’s national team.
While the spin surrounding the September friendlies against Brazil and Mexico will be getting young players experience and defeating rival Mexico, interim head coach Dave Sarachan never put the USMNT in a consistent spot to win over 180 minutes.
A defensive-minded 4-1-4-1 with four central midfielders in the starting XI isn’t a good enough formation to trot out at home against your biggest rival.
The only reason Sarachan switched up the formation Tuesday night to a 4-2-3-1 right before halftime was to suit Julian Green’s skill set after he came on for an injured Weston McKennie.
However, that lineup was still flawed because Kellyn Acosta, a natural central midfielder, was left out wide on the right.
Keeping Acosta in an unnatural position triggered unwanted memories of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, and it felt like the USMNT was taking a step back instead of the leap forward it was supposed to take at the start of the fall Kickoff Series.
Luckily for the Americans, they rallied around the intensity of the Mexico rivalry and left Nissan Stadium with a victory, confidence and a sequence that will live on in U.S.-Mexico lore.
But 23 minutes of proactive play is expected with a man advantage. What wasn’t expected is the drab affair that occurred before Matt Miazga made fun of Diego Lainez’s height.
If Miazga didn’t ignite the dormant match, we would probably be sitting here the morning after lamenting a wasted 90 minutes for a young squad under an interim coach.
If the same staff leads the USMNT into the October friendlies against Colombia and Peru and even further, the November matches with England and Italy, the developing core of the program won’t be able to reach maximum potential.
Sure, a victory or two might appear from the games in October and November, but ultimately they’ll serve as a set back if a new head coach can’t get into the program and implement his tactics.
On one hand, it’s understandable if USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart wants to wait until the end of the Major League Soccer season to hire a head coach, whether it be Gregg Berhalter, Peter Vermes or someone else.
Let’s get this clear, though: the U.S. men’s national team is leaps and bounds more important than the playoff hopes of the Columbus Crew or Sporting Kansas City or any other domestic side.
If Stewart is taking the MLS route, which his latest actions suggest, he knows who his targets are and he should have done his due diligence on which coaches would be the best fit.
If a coach from outside MLS is the choice, he should be ready to pull the trigger and institute a new system ahead of the clashes with the pair of South American teams in October.
Regardless of which route Stewart takes with the hiring process, the current hold isn’t acceptable. Pushing the USMNT forward as early as possible is best for the program. There’s no need to get the group of young players used to one system when Sarachan won’t be the man in charge for the long haul of the 2022 World Cup cycle.
Sarachan deserves a bit of credit for sticking with the young players and giving them opportunities, but he won’t be able to advance them to the heights the group needs to reach before the competitive matches at the 2019 Gold Cup and at the beginning of World Cup qualifying.