For the U.S. Men’s National Team, another camp in the books meant another 10 days for a group of players to come together and go to work in both training, and against opponents like Denmark and Switzerland.
Alejandro Bedoya, a veteran of these camps, knows how important they are.
“The last 10 days have been what I think we set out for them to be, which is, we tried to come in and get better and at the same time involve these younger guys and get them more experience and understanding of what it takes to play for the National Team on the international scene,” said Bedoya. “We were able to work on different formations with players in different positions, and that can only be better for our game and continued development.”
The camp allowed some of the veterans, like Bedoya, to gain experience with the newer faces. Two of those were goalkeeper William Yarbrough and center back Ventura Alvarado, who both earned their first cap with the U.S. MNT during this camp.
“I feel like the National Team, at the moment, is a lot younger than it maybe was before,” said Bedoya.
“I think being together for 10 days here in Europe; it allowed us to integrate ourselves more with each other not only on the field, but off the field as well. That translates to our performances. We were able to have different options, different formations, different looks and play alongside different players. For the new guys coming up and getting chances, this is going to give them experience and give them more confidence and motivation moving forward.”
Despite the tough 2-3 loss to Denmark on March 25, holding off No. 12-ranked Switzerland to a 1-1 draw while playing with 10 men in the last 22 minutes on March 31, was a valuable opportunity that gave players the chance for performances they can build on.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating to lose like we did against Denmark where we had the lead twice, but there are many positives to take from that game as we continue to work on our high pressure and different elements. With the result against Switzerland, which is a really good side, I think we put in a great effort all around. I think we outplayed them in the first half, and then in the second half, with the circumstances and playing a man down, it made it a lot tougher, but I think the effort was there and there were definitely some bright spots that we can take forward.”
Ultimately, the time spent on the training pitch and playing two games against quality European teams on the road over the past 10 days will only help the team as it continues preparation for the 2015 Gold Cup.
“[The Gold Cup] is the ultimate goal, and these friendlies allow us to tinker around and play with different things, whether it’s players taking different responsibilities or trying out different formations, to seeing who steps up, and what works and what doesn’t,” said Bedoya. “That what these friendlies are for, and that’s more important than results. The results are going to matter when the Gold Cup comes around, and hopefully all these games that we’ve played, we’ll serve us as the right preparation for the summer.”
The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team ended its weeklong camp in England on Monday, March 30, as players returned to their clubs in nine different countries. For U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos, the first training camp since qualifying for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in January had a number of benefits.
"I think it was a very positive camp for us," Ramos said. "We had an opportunity to train at great facilities at Tottenham, and for me, it was an opportunity to see some new players that I hadn't seen before. I thought what I saw was very positive."
The group trained at Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur’s renowned facility for five days before playing England's U-21 MNT on March 29 in Plymouth.
Among the 20 players that made up the training camp, 10 were part of the group that participated in January's 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, while four others were part of their first camp with a U.S. team, including Desevio Payne, Maki Tall, Ethan Solis and Thomas Olsen. Payne and Tall started in the 2-1 loss to England, while Sonis entered in the second half.
"I think it's very important to always to bring in new players in the national team environment,” Ramos said. “Not only for those players but also for the players who are already on the team because they realize how competitive it is. Now going into the World Cup, it's a brand new stage and a team that everybody has to fight for."
Payne, who was born in Greenwood, South Carolina, but was raised in Amsterdam, started at center back alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers.
"It was unbelievable to stand there wearing a USA shirt," Payne said of his debut. " When I put it on, I thought about my career and why I came here. It's an honor to play in this shirt so I'm very happy."
Maki Tall had a similar experience. Tall was born in Washington D.C. but moved with his family to Senegal when he was seven years old, and then to his parents’ native Ivory Coast when he was 11. He went on to play in France, signed professionally, and even made nine appearances with France’s U-18 and U-19 teams combined.
"Hearing the (USA) national anthem, I don't even know how to say it,” Tall said. “It was unbelievable. I've watched (MNT) games before on TV, so to hear it for the first time, it was crazy.”
For Carter-Vickers, another dual-citizen, the match against England was the first time he lined up against the country where he was born and raised. Carter-Vickers’ father, Howard Carter, is American and still lives in Louisiana.
"A little bit when you hear the national anthem, a little bit,” Carter-Vickers admitted to the odd notion of going up against England. “But it's also just another game, and you just have to get on with it. You stay professional and play."
The loss to England was the lone negative from the trip.
"In general, I thought the first half was very disappointing for us in terms of our effort and what we brought to the game,” Ramos said. “I thought it took us a good 20-25 minutes to get into the game and definitely in international games you can't afford to do that.”
Forward Lynden Gooch shared similar thoughts.
"It was a tough game,” said the Sunderland forward. “We're all trying to get familiar still; there are new players, and we have to make sure we're right for the World Cup. Aside from that, everything else from the week was 100 percent."
For Ramos, the camp was the first of two this year before he decides on the 21-man roster that will represent the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand this summer. The team will return to Europe from April 18-26 for its second training camp in Austria, with matches scheduled against Qatar and Croatia.
"Between this camp and the camp that we have in Austria, I think it's the last opportunity for us to make final conclusions on players," Ramos said. "I'm trying to see them in different positions and see how certain players may be able to help us. And then after that, we'll focus on trying to get the best group together. We don't have a lot of time for the World Cup but that's normally how this works."
Tall understands the process, and knows that despite scoring the USA’s lone goal against England, he needs to keep his form up.
"You always have to prove yourself,” Tall said. “Moving forward, we all want to play in a World Cup and we're all fighting for positions, like coach said. Everybody needs to impress him and work hard every day. If you're not doing well, you still need to work hard, and that's what's important on the team."
The message is also clear to Payne.
"Of course I'm happy and I'm thinking about the World Cup,” Payne added. “So it would be nice if I get the call to go, but I just need to do my best at my club and then we'll see."
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (March 31, 2015) – The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team fell to Denmark's U-21 side 1-0 on Tuesday night at Lingby Stadion in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Andreas Cornelius gave the home side the lead in the 52nd minute after entering the pitch as a second-half substitute. Despite a strong final 40 minutes from the U.S., the team was unable to find the equalizer.
Denmark was the most dangerous side early on, but USA goalkeeper Charlie Horton and left back Juan Pablo Ocegueda were up to the task and kept the Danish at bay.
The USA's best chance came in the 51st minute when Luis Gil, wearing the captain's armband for the second straight match, displayed some nice moves to get past two defenders in the box before lifting a cross to the back post. Will Packwood jumped high and headed the ball down but Denmark’s goalkeeper, Frederik Ronnow, reacted quickly and was able to stop the shot right at the line.
On the next possession, Denmark’s Yussuf Yurary Poulsen made a nice pass from the right to just inside the top of the box, where Cornelius trapped it with his back to the goal, turned left, and shot past a diving Tyler Miller, who replaced Horton in the second half.
Miller, making his USA debut, came up with numerous saves to keep the USA within reach. In the 54th minute he stretched out fully to his right to bat a shot out of bounds. Later, he was able to stay on a free kick that changed direction after hitting the wall to make another save.
The U.S. began threatening with Zach Pfeffer, who twice combined with Khiry Shelton for good opportunities, but Denmark’s goalkeeper did his job; first with a fantastic diving save on a shot from 16 yards out, and then with a header from 12 yards out that went just wide.
A final chance to equalize came late in the game but Pfeffer’s attempt inside the six was cleared, and a rebound shot taken by Ariel Lassiter was saved by the goalkeeper.
-U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team Match Report-
Match: U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team vs. Denmark U-21 Men’s National Team
Date: March 31, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Lyngby Stadion, Copenhagen, Denmark
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (7 p.m. Local)
Weather: 38 degrees, rain
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
DEN 0 1 1
DEN – Andreas Cornelius (Yussuf Yurary Poulsen) 52nd minute
USA: 12-Charlie Horton (22-Tyler Miller, 46), 2- Juan Pablo Ocegueda (6-Christian Dean, 59), 4-Shane O’Neill, 5- William Packwood, 8-Benji Joya (16-Daniel Metzger, 74), 14-Fatai Alashe, 13-Khiry Shelton, 17-Jerome Kiesewetter (7-Ariel Lassiter, 74), 10-Luis Gil, 11-Alonso Hernandez (21-Zach Pfeffer, 59)
Substitutions Not Used: 15-Alfred Koroma Shams
Head coach: Andreas Herzog
DEN: 16-David Jenson (1-Frederik Ronnow, 46), 2-Alexander Scholz (13-Ryan Laursen, 66), 3-Frederik Sorensen (12-Patrick Banggaard, 46), 4-Jannik Vestergaard, 5-Patrick Da Silva, 6-Christian Norgaard (19-Jens Jonsson, 46), 7-Yussuf Yurary Poulsen, 8-Nicolaj Thomsen, 10-Rasmus Falk (15-Nicolai Poulsen, 79), 14-Lucas Andersen (18-Emil Berggren, 70), 20-Nicolai Brock-Madsen (9-Andreas Cornelius, 46)
Head coach: Jess Thorup
Stats Summary: USA / DEN
Shots: 8 / 12
Shots on Goal: 4 / 7
Saves: 6 / 4
Corner Kicks: 10 / 11
Fouls: 7 / 10
Offside: 0 / 0
USA – Alonso Hernandez (caution) 38th minute
DEN –Nicolai Brock-Madsen (caution) 43
DEN – Andreas Cornelius (caution) 52
USA – Oscar Sorto (caution) 88
USA – Luis Gil (caution) 90+3
Referee: Petur Reinert (FRO)
Assistant Referee 1: Regin Egholm (FRO)
Assistant Referee 2: Jan a Lioarenda (FRO)
Fourth Official: Kjaersgaard-Andersen (DEN)