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.
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."
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."
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."