GOAL - Ryan Tolmich
U.S. men's national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen says that the program is suffering from a lack of identity as the team is still feeling the impacts of missing the 2018 World Cup.
After falling to Trinidad & Tobago to miss out on a trip to Russia, head coach Bruce Arena stepped down and was replaced by Dave Sarachan on an interim basis.
Sarachan served as the USMNT's manager for over a year before Gregg Berhalter was appointed as permanent manager as the U.S. played a series of friendlies throughout 2018 while trying to integrate new players under an interim boss.
In 2019, the U.S. experienced some growing pains in the team's first year under Berhalter, falling in the Gold Cup final to Mexico while also losing to Canada in the Nations League.
The USMNT did end the year on a high, though, beating Canada in a rematch to seal a spot in the Nations League semifinals.
However, Steffen says that, because of that transition, "three quarters" of the team is new and still trying to come together as a team.
“We don’t have an identity right now,” the goalkeeper told ESPN. “We’re very young and inexperienced and immature in the international soccer world right now. We’re trying to find our feet, we’re trying to find leadership, we’re trying to find our playing style.”
He added: “I wasn’t happy with how we just pushed off the head coach [hiring] and all that stuff. I know it’s not easy, but 13 months? That’s way too long. It just makes no sense why to have that interim.
"For us players, we didn’t like it because we’d just go out there and have fun, work hard, compete. We didn’t really have a system. We didn’t have very many details or directions.”
In Berhalter, though, Steffen does find some familiarity, having played under the coach during his time with the Columbus Crew.
The goalkeeper's stint with the Crew and growth under Berhalter led to a move to Manchester City, with Steffen currently playing at Fortuna Dusseldorf on loan.
And he says that the atmosphere shifted the moment Berhalter stepped in, even if the U.S. is still a growing team.
“That felt like the national team and then we went to the national team and that felt like a club team where we were way more laid back," he said.
“It was more fun than business and serious like it is now.”