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The Road to Residency: U-17 MNT Defender John Nelson On playing in the Continental Cup, an international youth tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, that helped launch his rise to the U.S. U-17 MNT.
John Nelson
: It allowed me to go to Italy to train in the AC Milan camp. That was a good experience that then allowed me to go to South Africa with a team from Miami called Miami Elite. This was in 2010, and I got to go to Argentina to play teams down there.” On being recruited by different elite teams to travel for international competitions.
: “It just felt great! And, I know that if I keep working at it, that will lead me to my goals and one day become a professional soccer player. All [the competition] gets me a step closer and gives me a visual to see what it is to play around the world.”
: On the training he took part in while with AC Milan.
: “It was about two weeks; it was different than here in the U.S. but really cool. I was with my family there; they always came to watch me play. The kids there were great because they were kids from all around the world that came in for that camp. The players were more advanced than what I had played against here and the coaching was really good too.”
: On what he took away from the experience of training in Italy.
: “I saw how good those kids were, so I knew how good I needed to be. What I took away was that I need to train more. Train more every day and train harder.”
: On his time with U.S. Soccer Development Academy club Internationals.
: “I think my time with Internationals was really good; we won a lot of tournaments. It allowed me to play in the Academy system, which played against other great players. I played against some of my teammates from [the U-17 National Team] I’d known from previous national camps in California. It also allowed me to play two years up, so that definitely helped me.”
: On his time in the U.S. Soccer Residency Program.
: “I’ve enjoyed playing soccer every day with this team. It’s definitely helped me get better going to school down here. It’s helped me become a better player because you work out Monday, Wednesday, Friday and train every morning. Back at home in the Academy, you’re training three or four days, but here, you’re training every day with a game on Saturdays. You’re playing down here with the best players in the country, so it really pushes you.” On playing against talented attacking teammates such as Haji Wright and Christian Pulisic.
JN: “It’s hard, tiring, and it gets competitive, but I know it makes me a better player. Defending them all the time makes me a better player because they are great players.”
: On the team’s upcoming trip to play Academy teams from Seattle and Portland.
: “They’re good academy teams, I know that. We get to travel across the country, which is cool. I haven’t been to that part of the west side, only to California. I actually like watching the Portland Timbers with Darlington Nagbe because he used to play for Internationals. I like watching him a lot, but it’d be a rough game to play against him.”
: On any extra work the players do when watching professional matches.
: “The coaches don’t give us homework, but we definitely talk about it after we watch the games. We talk about all the tactical stuff and the player movement.”
: On the education component of the Residency Program.
: “I like it. It covers the main classes and courses. It’s not as long as school back home, but I still think the academics are good preparation for college.”