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Rudderless U.S. still searching for an identity

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Rudderless U.S. still searching for an identity

Rudderless U.S. still searching for an identity
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By Simon Evans

LONDON (Reuters) - It has been over a year since Bruce Arena resigned as head coach of the United States and a 3-0 defeat to England on Thursday showed they remain rudderless in the absence of a permanent replacement.

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A shambolic failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup 13 months ago led to the departure of Arena, who himself was an ill-fated, stop-gap appointment after Juergen Klinsmann was fired in November 2016.

Without a permanent head coach in the dugout, a young American side lost comfortably to England in a one-sided game at Wembley, where the lack of direction from the bench was all too evident.

Despite having spent the bulk of his career as a number two, Arena's former assistant, the 64-year-old Dave Sarachan, has been in charge of the team for the past year, although a new appointment is expected to be made in January.

It is an extraordinarily long time for a team to be left without direction and the players are among those looking for a new man to take charge.

"Dave is doing what he can and obviously he wants to win these games too, just like we do," U.S.'s top player, Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic, said.

"It is going to help a lot once we get a permanent head coach, moving forward with a guy who has a real plan and a style we want to play."

Certainly there was nothing on show at Wembley to suggest that a plan or style has been established by Sarachan. The U.S. gave England plenty of space as the home side took a 2-0 lead midway through the first half.

FIGHTING SPIRIT

Four years ago in Brazil, the United States reached the last 16 of the World Cup with a team that impressed many neutrals with their fighting spirit and aggression.

Those were the team's traditional qualities that were also evident in Bob Bradley's side at the 2010 World Cup and in the team which reached the quarter-finals in 2002 during Arena's first spell in charge.

Going back to 1994, when the U.S first truly emerged on the international stage and hosted the World Cup, American soccer's main strengths have been resilience and work-rate.

There is a feeling among fans and pundits, however, that such qualities are no longer enough on their own in the modern game and the new man will have to forge a different identity and a style of play that can cope with the likes of England and Tuesday's friendly opponents Italy.

U.S. Soccer's General Manager, Earnie Stewart, has been in charge of the search for a new coach.

While numerous foreign bosses have been linked with the position, former U.S. international Gregg Berhalter has been tipped for the job.

Berhalter, whose brother Jay is the federation's chief commercial and strategy officer, is head coach of Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer.

In his five years in charge of the team, he has a mediocre 38.34 win percentage and has yet to win a trophy, although they were MLS Cup runners-up in 2015. He previously had a spell in Sweden with Hammarby.

Whether the job is given to Berhalter or a surprise alternative, Pulisic is impatient for change.

"You are never happy to lose 3-0. It is a tough result. We need to get a lot better as a team," he said.

"We can talk about continuing to gain experience. That is not why we are here. We want to win now. We need to win these games. I’m a competitive guy and I know everyone else is in the locker room."

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)

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