USA-Mexico: The biggest test of Dave Sarachan's tenure

We won't know the next time the USA and Mexico will meet in an official competition.

It could be at the 2019 Gold Cup or the new Concacaf Nations League that begins next year.

Or we may have to wait until 2022 World Cup qualifying, which won't begin until 2020. (Whether Concacaf keeps the Hexagonal remains to be seen.)

What we do know is that Tuesday's USA-Mexico friendly in Nashville will be the start of a new era.

Both teams will field young teams that should provide the nucleus of their national teams going forward. For the USA, the rebuilding follows its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Mexico's El Tri is regrouping following its failure to get past the round of 16 at the World Cup for the seventh straight tournament.

Just how the USA and Mexico will look and who will play in a year or two will depend in part on the strategies and selections of the permanent head coaches that should be hired later in the year.

The USA has just six players with senior national team experience against Mexico, but Coach Dave Sarachan said his young team knows all about the rivalry.

"I think these players understand the significance," he said on Monday.

In many ways, Tuesday's game is a bigger test for the USA than Friday's 2-0 loss to Brazil. It's clear the USA remains miles behind Brazil -- the Brazil that includes Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Co.

The Nashville encounter -- the 68th match in the USA-Mexico series -- will be an important measuring stick for the U.S. program and its young players in what could be the first of many meetings against their Mexican opponents over the next few years.

Having already released defender John Brooks and winger Paul Arriola, Sarachan says he'll make 4-6 lineup changes from the team that started against Brazil.

Some things to look for ...

1. Brooks' absence will mean a start for Cameron-Carter Vickers, Tim Parker or uncapped Aaron Long in the middle of the backline, where Matt Miazga should keep his starting job after an overall solid outing against Brazil.

2. In place of Arriola on the outside, Tim Weah, who came on in the second half against Brazil, could get the start.

3. Against Brazil, the USA started with captain Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in central midfield, but Kellyn Acosta, Marky Delgado and Cristian Roldan all got into the game. Of the three starters, Adams is the most likely to again start Tuesday night.

The bottom line is that if the USA is to take the game to Mexico and set a marker for down the road, its young players will have to play much better than they did on Friday.

Said Sarachan, "I think a few things that we talked about -- and hope to improve upon -- is having the game a little bit more on our terms, and by that I mean in terms of a little bit more possession, a little more quality when have the ball, a little more imagination and creativity when we get into good spots going forward."

The one-sided nature of the USA-Brazil game was to be expected. There can't be a repeat of that on Tuesday night at Nissan Stadium.

"I thought defensively our shape and collective effort against Brazil was good," he added, "and I expect the same against Mexico. But I'd like to see us be a little more useful with the ball, get into a little more advanced positions and threaten a little bit more."

Yes, it's only a friendly, but Tuesday's USA-Mexico game shapes up as the most significant of Sarachan's 10-month tenure holding down the fort.

1 comment about "USA-Mexico: The biggest test of Dave Sarachan's tenure".
  1. s fatschel, September 11, 2018 at 11:38 a.m.

    PK, not really that significant.  These kids are still in try out phase. It's going to take 1-2 years back with their clubs and getting play time before we see significant progress on USMNT. 

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