Coaching USA against Portugal is 'special' for Sarachan in more ways than one

Preparing the USA for its match against Portugal on Tuesday has been a bittersweet experience for Dave Sarachan.

He's only in charge of the team because the USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and his longtime boss with the U.S. national team and LA Galaxy, Bruce Arena, stepped down as head coach.

No one expected the USA not to qualify for the World Cup, and that notion is something Sarachan has had to try to come to terms with over the last month.

"In some ways, it's been good therapy for me," he said of working with the team on the Portugal game, "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. Being here, being in charge, is always a privilege. I've embraced it. We're professionals, we have a job to do."

Sarachan is proud of the approach of his staff and his players.

"What makes this week so special for me personally," he said, "is the fact that we've assembled a group of players that I feel have a bright future, young players that have shown up with no bitterness in their mouth, no chip on the shoulder 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."

It's not Sarachan's position to speculate about the future of the team and the young players called in or the veteran players not in camp. But he can talk about the past, and one of the national team's greatest achievements, its 3-2 win over Portugal in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup.

Then as in 2017, Sarachan was an assistant on Arena's coaching staff. Portugal came into the game in Suwon as one of the tournament favorites with a star-studded team.

"I remember being in tunnel leading to the field before the game," said Sarachan, "and seeing two teams next to one another. I have a vivid memory of our group taking the field with a lot of confidence against a team that was very intimidating with the likes of [Luis] Figo, Rui Costa, Jorge Costa, Nuno Gomes. I could go on and on."

Within 36 minutes, the USA led, 3-0, and it held on for a 3-2 win.

"It was a surreal day," added Sarachan. "Tremendous memories and a great example of sport that no matter who's favored, and whether a team has more experience or less experience, superstars vs. no superstars, sport is like life. Anything can happen. And on that day, we beat Portugal in the World Cup. It was quite a proud moment for all of us."
2 comments about "Coaching USA against Portugal is 'special' for Sarachan in more ways than one".
  1. feliks fuksman, November 14, 2017 at 8:27 a.m.

    Very good memory!!  Lets do it AGAIN!!  Si se borrow a phrase from our neighbors...

  2. Wooden Ships, November 14, 2017 at 9:55 a.m.

    'No one expected the US to not make the World Cup", that in and of itself is a surprising statement. Perhaps the team felt somehow that they deserved a Russian summer. There was never consistent play or leadership from the players and coaches. There were countless warning signs. Ready to move on from the last several years.  

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