CARSON, California (Reuters) – Failing to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals had been buried and the focus had now shifted to getting back to the global stage in Qatar in 2022, players from the United States’ men’s soccer team said on Thursday.
“The whole focus is on the future,” forward Jordan Morris told Reuters at the end of a sun-drenched first day of the team’s training camp in Carson, California.
“We can’t change the past, we can only move forward.”
The U.S. surprisingly failed to qualify for the finals in Russia when they were beaten 2-1 by Trinidad and Tobago last October.
It was the first time since 1986 they had failed to qualify for the finals, which cost coach Bruce Arena his job and created calls for a complete overhaul of the team.
Interim coach Dave Sarachan selected 29 players, many of whom have not played for the national side, for the training camp where he could conduct fitness tests and training drills and get a look at the next generation.
The team, however, were keen to move on from what happened last year and midfielder Gyasi Zardes, who at 26, is one of the older players at the training camp, also deflected questions about the World Cup qualifying campaign.
“I‘m always a positive person,” Zardes said. “We’re moving forward, which is what we’re doing in this camp.”
Sarachan, however, told reporters that he may never fully get past the disappointment of failing to qualify.
”When you go through something like that, you don’t ever quite get over it,“ Sarachan said. ”I get reminded about it all the time, whether it is in the media or when I see teams getting ready for the World Cup.
”So it’s never going to leave my mind, but it’s not going to distract me from what the focus is.
“As professionals, we have to move on.”
Sarachan compared the experience to when he was part of the coaching set up at the 2002 World Cup when the U.S. made the quarter-finals.
While delighted at that team’s performances in Japan and South Korea, that was also something he left in the past.
“It’s not like I dwell on that experience either,” he said. “But that’s an experience I’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget this one either.”
Defender Walker Zimmerman also added there was no need to completely overhaul the national team and its systems, as some fans have suggested as they build towards Qatar.
“I don’t think we’re blowing anything up,” he said.
”There’s a lot of motivation to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
“We can become a team that sticks together and we approach 2022 from this day right here.”
(The story was refiled to correct place in the second paragraph)
Editing by Greg Stutchbury