If this was the last time Dave Sarachan
coached the U.S. men's national team, it was a game he'll remember it for a long time.
Starting the second-youngest team in the modern
history of the national team program, the USA held France, one of the favorites to win the 2018 World Cup, to a 1-1 tie. When it came to grading the players and the coaches, the sports daily L'Equipe
gave Sarachan a solid edge on his French counterpart with a "7," compared to a "4" for Didier Deschamps
, who has taken France to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup and second place at Euro
"You couldn't have scripted it any better," Sarachan said of how the game played out for his players. "The whole idea of programming games like this is to offer young players the
opportunities to understand what it's like to play away, in front of a home crowd which was fantastic tonight for the French team, against what I think is a team that can legitimately win this World
Les Bleus outshot the USA, 19-2, but could only put eight shots on target. Still, the player of the game was Columbus Crew keeper Zack Steffen
, who made a strong case that he
should be the No. 1 keeper moving into the next four-year cycle.
"There were a couple of moments tonight that were spectacular from his free kick [on Nabil Fekir
] towards the end
and his save that had to be pushed out wide [on Ousmane Dembele
]," said Sarachan. "I thought he was outstanding. I think he offers a good calm presence, and goalies are expected to make saves
when you have to and he did that tonight. Zack has certainly made a great case for himself."
After aligning the USA in a 4-1-4-1 formation for the first five games of
his tenure, Sarachan chose to play five in the back, bunkering down against one of the most dangerous attacks in the world. He was particularly happy that the defense held on after conceding an
equalizer to Kylian Mbappe
. A week earlier, the USA blew a 1-0 lead against Ireland, falling, 2-1, on a late goal in Dublin.
"Defensively, I thought our team did a terrific job in
terms of understanding what we were trying to do, the shape throughout the match, the ability to close the match out, which painfully we didn't do it against Ireland," he said. "We talked about that.
We knew that we would do a lot of defending tonight with the quality of the French team and their players. I thought overall, I can't point out a poor performance."
The trio of captain
, Weston McKennie
and Tyler Adams
has merged as Sarachan's go-to combination in midfield. The young Americans aged 25, 19 and 19 went up against the likes of Paul
and held their own, though Sarachan believes they will need to do better.
"I think each one tonight had moments when I thought they were a little shaky with the ball," he said.
"But again, I think it's very understandable that when the game gets fast and you have a team like France that has lot of numbers centrally ... but I thought they came through it OK. Because they
understand one another, I thought for the most their movement when they had to cover for one another was consistently good all night. If I had to be critical, I would only say that when these games
get real fast, can their feet get a little bit better with the ball. But overall they were very good, very solid."