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Bowen Set to Return to U.S. U-20 MNT

Tristan Bowen is a 19-year-old forward for the Los Angeles Galaxy and the first ever player signed as an MLS Homegrown Player after coming out of the Galaxy’s Academy in 2008. caught up with Bowen before he travels to Kennesaw, Ga., to play with the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team in the Torneo de las Americas Nov. 21-29 at the Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium. You’ll be making your first trip back to a U.S. camp in nearly a year. Are you looking forward to meeting up with the team?
Tristan Bowen: “I’m definitely excited. This is my first camp since late December when we were in Chula Vista, Calif. I saw some of the guys periodically throughout the year when we faced them but I’m definitely excited to get in with the guys. It looks like we have a good group of players this year so I’m excited to see what progress the team made and how I fit in and how I can possibly help the team moving forward.” What do you think your role on the team is going to be coming into this camp?
TB: “I’m not too sure. I know we have a lot of MLS based guys and professional players this cycle. I think maybe I bring just a little bit of experience. This group is a lot more experienced than our previous group as far as playing in the MLS or professional soccer as a whole. I’m just looking to go in and whatever coach [Thomas] Rongen needs, hopefully, I’ll be able to provide it.” At this point in the cycle, how important are these upcoming games?
TB: “They’re really important. Anytime you put on a jersey, the U.S. jersey, you’re representing your country. It’s a special thing. No matter what competition we’re in, all the guys are competitive and we expect to win every game. Not a lot of kids or athletes get to represent their country so we’re definitely going to look at these next few games as maybe a tune up for the future. Qualifying is coming up soon, and I think every match that we play between now and then will be a good experience for the group. We’re excited to play and hopefully get a result.” This U-20 roster is mostly professional players, what do you think that says about the team and how it’s growing?
TB: “You’ve got to give credit to MLS and the players, because if you look a few years in the past, we had most of our players coming out of college. It seems as if the younger players are taking the leap and going professionally straight from high school now. It’s a lot of credit to the players for making that decision and also for the coaches that have been developing them. It’s definitely going to help when you come up against other players from countries where they have that similar set up, where most kids are playing professional at the age of 16 or 17. Moving forward, I think it’s definitely a positive, not only for this group, but for the future groups that are coming up because I think U.S. Soccer can only get better from here on.” How was your transition from the MLS youth program to the L.A. Galaxy’s first team?
TB: “Luckily enough, the coach, Trevor James, was our youth coach at the time and he was also the assistant coach for the first team. Trevor did a good job letting all the players know what was expected at the next level. I think by him actually treating us as professional players it definitely helped the transition because once you got up to the first team the only difference was that there was a new group of guys that you’d never seen before. As far as the game went, it wasn’t a major leap. All I really had to get used to was just the new guys. It was definitely a lot easier than I think most kids would have to go through, and I’m very grateful for that.” How important is it for up and coming youth players to get into professional environments?
TB: “It’s very important. Especially if you look around at other countries, most kids are in that environment. Taking that jump and getting involved with a professional organization does wonders for a kid in their development. I know there are a lot more opportunities as far as travelling, playing different teams from different countries. The training is a little bit better, more intense. The coaching is a little bit better. I think the more kids that can go into a professional organization early on, the better the players are going to become. In return, U.S. Soccer is just going to get better from here.”

Part of being professional is just the mentality off the field. When you’re part of an organization there’s a sense of pride that comes with that. You carry yourself a little bit differently and you learn how to grow up a lot faster. I think as long as a kid is in that type of environment the transition will definitely be a lot easier. You get a talking to before you go out on the trips and they remind you that you’re wearing the clubs logo and you need to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Although its small talk and it’s not much, it says a lot and the kids understand that.” You’re only 19 and playing every day with huge names in the sport like Landon Donovan and David Beckham—how has that shaped your growth as a player?
TB: “The most important thing I think I learned from them is how to be a professional. When you look at the big players, you’d think they’ve already made it and they can chill out and breeze through practice. That’s definitely not the case with guys like Landon, Edson [Buddle] and David. Those guys work hard every day, they’re great professionals. They take care of themselves on and off of the field and they carry themselves in a manner that anyone would be proud of. Just to be around that every day, it rubbed off on me.

I’m learning to be more consistent in practice. I’m learning how to carry myself off the field when we’re on trips, just everyday life. That’s just off the field. On the field, every time there’s a mistake made, they pull you aside and they try to give you pointers about how to correct it, what to do in that situation and other times. Those guys definitely helped my improvement. But I think the most important thing was just seeing their everyday habits, which was the most surprising to me. It just shows you that no matter how far you make it, there’s always work to be done. There’s always a lesson to be learned. It just changed my mentality as far as going into practice and seeing games in a different manner.” What surprised you the most about those guys, who are obviously World Cup veterans?
TB: “Their professionalism, their work rate is unbelievable. Usually Mondays are regeneration for the guys that didn’t play. At times we catch those guys out on the field doing drills with the rest of the guys that didn’t play. It just shows you to be at the top, it takes a different mentality. It takes a different type of human being. It just shows you that through hard work, anything is possible. It’s definitely a plus that I was put in a situation where I was able to play with some of the great players of our time in Landon Donovan and David Beckham. It’s definitely an honor and I look to hopefully one day emulate the work they’ve put in and maybe hopefully, if I’m lucky, be as good as they are.” You’ve seen a lot more first team action than any other player on the U-20 roster—filling in for Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle when they were out for the World Cup. How was that experience?
TB: “It was something I wasn’t used to. This was my second year and this is actually the first year I’ve played a lot of minutes. When Landon and Edson stepped away, Bruce Arena came to me and told me I’ll play a factor in these next coming games and just to go out there be relaxed and contribute to the team any way that I could, to play with confidence. Luckily, I had a good group of guys around me that were constantly feeding me information and I think the few games that I did play, they were stepping stones moving forward. I had a few good games and I had a few bad games, but they were all learning experiences. When Landon and Edson came back I was able to keep my starting spot for maybe one or two games but after a while it kind of fizzled out. It was definitely a learning experience to say the least.”