BRIGHT FU­TURE for US foot­ball

US FOOT­BALL LOOKS FOR­WARD A YEAR AF­TER WORLD CUP QUAL­I­FY­ING FAIL­URE

The Nation - - FRONT PAGE -

ONE YEAR af­ter a hum­bling fail­ure to qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup, the United States are hop­ing a string of up­com­ing friendlies will show they’re on the path to re­demp­tion.

This week marked the an­niver­sary of the USA’s shock loss to Trinidad & Tobago that ended their bid to reach this year’s World Cup.

Mid­fielder Michael Bradley, back in the squad for the first time since then, said play­ers are look­ing for­ward, not back.

“It doesn’t linger,” said Bradley, who has been re­called to the US squad by in­terim coach Dave Sarachan for yes­ter­day’s friendly against Colom­bia and next week’s against Peru.

The pro­file of the sport will also be greatly en­hanced by the re­cent ad­mis­sion of former Eng­land cap­tain David Beck­ham’s new Ma­jor League Soccer fran­chise, In­ter Mi­ami, which is ex­pected to start in 2020.

It has also at­tracted an impressive list of A-list play­ers from the world in re­cent years, most re­cently Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, who plays for LA Galaxy, but in­ter­na­tional suc­cess has been fleet­ing.

Sarachan, mean­while, says it has al­ways been his plan to rein­tro­duce a vet­eran el­e­ment to com­ple­ment the young play­ers who have stepped for­ward in the past year, but Bradley ad­mit­ted he was never 100 per­cent cer­tain he would be back.

Time for the younger guys

“I don’t think any­body ever knows that, so you en­joy ev­ery op­por­tu­nity you have with the na­tional team and you don’t ever take it for granted,” Bradley said.

“For me, the op­por­tu­nity to be back now and start to get to know some of the younger guys that have been around the last nine or 10 months is great,” he said. “I’m very ex­cited.”

US Soccer, aware that the wound from that night in Trinidad & Tobago is still raw for fans, marked the an­niver­sary with a state­ment on their web­site.

“To­day we look for­ward,” the state­ment said. “With the march towards 2022 un­der­way and the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North Amer­ica as our guide­post, the US Men’s Na­tional Team has em­barked on a new jour­ney.

“The hall­marks of the cul­ture re­main, with per­se­ver­ance, grit and dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion fu­eled by the pride to rep­re­sent the United States and each and ev­ery one of you.”

The fed­er­a­tion played a key role in land­ing the 2026 World Cup for North Amer­ica, along with Mex­ico and Canada.

There has been change at the top with the de­par­ture of Su­nil Gu­lati and the elec­tion of former vice pres­i­dent Car­los Cordeiro as the new US Soccer pres­i­dent and the ar­rival of Earnie Ste­wart as gen­eral man­ager of the na­tional team.

But the Amer­i­cans are still search­ing for a per­ma­nent re­place­ment for Bruce Arena, who stepped down as coach three days af­ter the Trinidad de­ba­cle.

With Sarachan at the helm they split friendlies against Brazil and Mex­ico in Septem­ber, and he said he’d seen a “pro­gres­sion” in the re­build­ing team in the eight matches played to date un­der his guid­ance.

“It’s by no means a fin­ished pro­gres­sion, but it’s mov­ing along in a good di­rec­tion,” he said.

James key to Colom­bia win

The Amer­i­cans’ busy run of games had a los­ing start as a Colom­bian team led by James Ro­driguez roared past a en­thu­si­as­tic but in­ex­pe­ri­enced US team 4-2 in a friendly in Florida.

James put the Cafeteros in the lead with a spec­tac­u­lar ef­fort from the edge of the penalty area in the 36th minute, thrilling a largely pro-Colom­bia crowd in Tampa.

The US re­sponded with two goals in the space of three min­utes by Kel­lyn Acosta and Bobby Wood early in the sec­ond half that gave the hosts a 2-1 lead. But Colom­bia rose to the chal­lenge with goals from Car­los Bacca, Radamel Fal­cao and Miguel Borja to se­cure the vic­tory.

Colom­bia drew on the world-class tal­ent of Fal­cao and Bay­ern mid­fielder James, who made his pres­ence felt on his re­turn to in­ter­na­tional duty.

Colom­bia’s North Amer­i­can tour con­tin­ues on Tues­day against Costa in New Jersey, when the United States will face Peru in Con­necti­cut.

David Beck­ham is a key el­e­ment in the op­ti­mism of a new era for foot­ball in the US.

Kel­lyn Acosta gave the US brief hope dur­ing their game against Colom­bia yes­ter­day.

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