<
>

United States still has 'a lot of room for improvement' - Dave Sarachan

CHESTER, Pa. -- United States caretaker manager Dave Sarachan pronounced himself pleased at the 3-0 victory over Bolivia that his young squad delivered on Monday, but he also cautioned that there is still room for improvement "for each and every player."

Three different U.S. players scored their first international goals. Walker Zimmerman opened the scoring with a 37th minute header from a corner. Josh Sargent nabbed an opportunistic tally in the 52nd minute, picking up an errant pass from Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe and firing home. Tim Weah closed the scoring seven minutes later with well-taken goal, finishing off Antonee Robinson's cross with a first-time strike.

"I thought for good segments of the game, the soccer was pretty good," said Sarachan. "I thought in the first half we had a number of opportunities to bury some chances.

"But we looked young. We looked young in terms of patience and quality, but that's what these games are all about."

Sargent (18 years, 102 days) became the second-youngest U.S. player in the modern era to score in his international debut. He sits behind only Juan Agudelo who was 17 years, 359 days when he tallied in the USA's 1-0 win at South Africa on Nov. 17, 2010. Weah's 59th minute goal made him the fourth youngest U.S. goal-scorer of all-time. Christian Pulisic (17 years, 253 days; May 28, 2016 vs. Bolivia) remains the U.S. team's youngest ever scorer.

Defensively, the U.S. was rarely troubled on the night, with goalkeeper Alex Bono not required to make a save.

"I thought defensively [we were] solid, didn't get tested a whole lot, but maybe that's a credit a little bit to the group in terms of stepping up pressure," said Sarachan.

"I thought there weren't any performances where I come away scratching my head, but there's a lot of room for improvement, no question about it."

Weah endured some ups and downs on the night. Some good interchanges with Sargent got him in good positions, only for his final pass to go awry. He also had a 10th minute strike well saved by Bolivia starting keeper Guillermo Vizcarra. At one point a knee injury looked set to force Weah out of the match, but he carried on.

"He was all over the shop," said Sarachan about Weah. "He looked like a kid who has never played at a higher level to a guy that was looking to come out of a game where he wasn't even sure if he was hurt, to flying and beating guys. He was the prototypical young, nervous guy.

"Everyone assumes because [Weah is] on the books at a place like PSG that he's going to be at such a certain level. I think he's going to get there, but he's not there. So I think what you saw tonight was a nervous kid and yet the goal he scores is a great goal.

"He's going to be a good player, but he's got some growing to do, some maturing to do, as a player. So what you saw is where he's at I think."

The match witnessed Pulisic operating a level far from his best, though he did threaten on occasion. It was perhaps expected given the heavy minutes Pulisic has logged this season for club side Borussia Dortmund.

"Christian looked like he's ready to take a break," said Sarachan.

All the more reason for the U.S. manager to be pleased at how the rest of the team picked up the attacking slack.

"That's the whole point of trying to bring some young forwards into the mix because scoring goals is so difficult," said Sarachan. "Just relying on Christian to be your sole guy, it's too much for him and it's not fair. We want to share the wealth and I thought the guys did that tonight."

The challenge now for Sarachan is keeping the heads of his young charges on straight, especially with matches against Ireland and France looming.

"I think it's my responsibility, our staff, and our program to make sure that they understand that there are still steps," he said. "If you want to get to 'A', you still start at 'D' and 'C' then to 'B'. [As a country] we're very quick to jump them into the 'A' category.

"I think that's a process that we have to manage with a lot of expectations, with a lot of noise on the outside. They're going to feel good about tonight.

"But when I go through the tape and have meetings with guys, and we talk, there's a lot of room to get better. So it's just that constant communication that has to take place so they don't put themselves ahead of things, but it's not easy to close out a lot of noise for these young kids that's for sure."