11/20 19:09 CST Pulisic captains US in Sarachan finale, 1-0 loss to Italy
Pulisic captains US in Sarachan finale, 1-0 loss to Italy
By The Associated Press
In his final match as U.S. soccer coach, Dave Sarachan gave Christian Pulisic
the captain's arm band for the first time and sent out the youngest lineup
since the American team started keeping records.
Matteo Politano scored his first international goal in the fourth minute of
second-half stoppage time, and Italy beat the United States 1-0 in an
exhibition Tuesday night at Genk, Belgium, as Pulisic became the youngest
captain since the American team's records began in 1990.
Pulisic was the only holdover in the U.S. starting lineup from last Thursday's
3-0 loss at England. At 20 years, 63 days, Pulisic bettered Landon Donovan, who
was 22 years, 220 days when he first captained the Americans in a World Cup
qualifier at El Salvador on Oct. 9, 2004, a match regular captain Claudio Reyna
missed because of a quadriceps injury.
"It's a huge honor. For the coaches, the staff, the team to trust me to be
captain of the team, it means everything," Pulisic said. "I was never a captain
in my life and now to be for the United States men's national team, it's an
incredible honor. It doesn't matter what age you are. I will never forget this
Before last week, Pulisic had played just once for the U.S. since the October
2017 defeat at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans' streak of seven
straight World Cup appearances. He missed some games because of minor injuries,
others to concentrate on his club career with Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
Coach Bruce Arena quit after the loss in Trinidad and was replaced on an
interim basis by Sarachan, his top assistant. As the U.S. Soccer Federation
restructured under new president Carlos Cordeiro, Sarachan transitioned to a
younger roster and guided the Americans to three wins, five losses and four
ties in 12 exhibitions.
"Well, it was my last game. I haven't been told that, but it's evident there's
going to be a change in the very near future," Sarachan said. "To look back on
the games that we played, the players that we've exposed to this level, that we
brought forth, I'm certain it's going to pay dividends down the line. So for me
I feel as though when the next person comes in, they're going to have a great
starting point and that makes me feel good."
Pulisic was moved from wide midfield to forward in a 3-5-2 formation against
Italy. The new coach will face the issue of where to deploy Pulisic, who
usually is wide for Dortmund.
Romain Gall, a 23-year-old midfielder, replaced Pulisic in the 83rd minute and
became the 23rd player to make his debut under Sarachan. New U.S. general
manager Earnie Stewart has said a new coach will be hired later this year, and
Columbus Crew coach Gregg Berhalter is the favorite. The new coach will take
over for a January training camp followed by a pair of friendlies, and his
first competitive matches will be next June at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"In a lot of ways with the interim role, it's a difficult space to navigate,
and I think he did it extremely well," midfielder Wil Trapp said of the
64-year-old Sarachan. "He could have mailed it in in a lot of ways but he
didn't do that one bit. He did all of us as a players a real service."
Nine of the 11 U.S. starters were 23 or younger, and the lineup's average age
of 22 years, 71 days was an American record low, besting the 22-160 against
Bolivia on May 28.
Ethan Horvath, a 23-year-old goalkeeper on his home field for Club Brugge, made
his third international appearance and first since last November at Portugal.
He had five saves before the goal by Politano, a 25-year-old winger playing his
second match for the Azzurri.
Politano passed to Marco Verratti about 25 yards above the penalty arc and
sprinted through the penalty area. Roberto Gagliardini beat defender Aaron Long
to Verratti's feed into the area and poked the ball ahead to the onrushing
Politano, who cut past Jorge Villafana, touched the ball from his left foot to
his right and beat Horvath from 8 yards. The goal with about 25 seconds left
capped a buildup that included a dozen passes.
"I'm kind of disappointed with the late goal, but on the other side I think I
can be proud of how I performed tonight," said Horvath, who in the last month
has gotten regular club playing time for the first stretch this season. "The
past year has not been easy. And all I can do is believe in myself and believe
what I'm doing each day is the correct thing."
Notes: The U.S. will play Costa Rica in an exhibition on Feb. 2 at Avaya
Stadium in San Jose, California. ... The U.S. finished with three wins, five
losses and three draws in 2018, its fewest games in a year since going 1-2 in
1987, all that June at the President's Cup in South Korea. The Americans have
one win and three draws in 12 matches against Italy.
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