Conference Call with U.S. U-23 MNT Head Coach Caleb Porter
U.S. Soccer CEO / Secretary General DAN FLYNN
“We are excited with the announcement of Caleb as our new Under 23 men's coach and Tab as our men's Under 20 coach. We are very pleased with the process and the quality of the candidates that were involved in the process.”
On the process of appointing the U.S. Under-23 and U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coaches:
“The process involved Jürgen, Claudio, Sunil and myself in terms of the four folks that were going to do the interview process. It was very collaborative. Candidates included domestic and international candidates. And then in terms of the candidates, it was a mix of some contacting us, and some candidates we actually had on our radar screen; so Caleb being one, a good example, where obviously been involved for 2 1/2 years with the Under 18s. We obviously know his style of play, his proven track record of developing players in the college game. So that all became a factor.
“What we tried to do was gather candidates and talk about this age range, if you will, the 20s and 23s, and once we went through the process in a collaborative fashion, we came to the decision where we are today, that we thought Tab at the 20 and Caleb at the 23 was the best fit for where we were at with the whole feeder system, with Jürgen's vision with the 23s and the 20s all, if you will, in sync. That was our process.”
On the timing of the head coach appointment for the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team head coach so close to the qualifying tournament:
“I don't think we necessarily think it's late. We started the process quite frankly a while ago, and obviously with the change in the men's national team, that probably allowed us just forced us to slow the process down a little bit, make sure that we wanted to start from the top down and have our Under 20s and Under 23s and men's national team connected.
“While it may seem a short window, we are pretty comfortable that Caleb understands his pool of players. I know he follows the league quite heavily, and the former Under 20 coach, Thomas Rongen did a lot of identifying players around Europe. So it isn't like we weren't building for this. I think a lot of work has been done that allows us to go very quickly, and I think as Caleb described, with both feet, jump in.
“So we are comfortable where we are, and now the focus is on the stretch run really between now and qualifying, and then hopefully we qualify, and the next stretch is between qualifying and the Olympics.
On other candidates for the two head coaching positions:
“Caleb is our guy, that's our focus, and we are just not going to really discuss or mention the other candidates.
On the cooperation between U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer as far as having players available for selection:
“As a general statement, we have a fantastic working relationship with Major League Soccer. I can assure everyone on the call that Don Garber and his entire staff and all throughout the teams and their coaching staffs are very committed to us to build our Olympic team and our national teams.
“So we look forward to that continued cooperation, and Caleb should expect and already knows that we'll have full cooperation from Major League Soccer.”
U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team head coach CALEB PORTER
“Thanks, I'd like to start by thanking Sunil Gulati, Dan Flynn, Jürgen Klinsmann and Claudio Reyna for giving me this incredible opportunity. I'm extremely honored and it's a privilege to lead the United States under 23s and I'm anxious to dive right into the process of Olympic qualifying in March.”
On the metrics and goals for this Olympic cycle and for the Olympic team for qualifying and getting to the Olympics:
“I think the No. 1 priority is to qualify. And right now, we have four and a half months, which is not a long time but we have four and a half months to get the group ready qualify for the Olympics.
“We understand that we are a little bit against the gun there, but I dove right into this process. We had conversations yesterday on player selection for this next camp in November. I feel like I know the group already very well, but we also have a lot of players that we need to track and we need to see, and so that's probably the No. 1 priority is to focus on the November camp, take a look at as many players as we can, and again, start this process of preparing the group to qualify for the Olympics, and I think that's the No. 1 priority at this point.”
On the roadmap for the next couple months:
“Well, obviously I'm right now leading the University of Akron and we are in the midst of our season. Like I mentioned, I've already begun this process. We are preparing for the camp in November. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the camp in November because of my responsibility with the University of Akron falls right during the NCAA Tournament. But Claudio and Tab will be a part of that camp and I'm very confident in their ability to evaluate the talent.
“And you know, as far as following the season, I will be 100 percent invested in this job. And, again, preparing for March qualification; to have a number of camps, in January, February, leading up to qualifying.
“But I have already wrapped my head around this job. I’m very excited to get to work. Even though I'll be at Akron preparing, hopefully, our team to prepare another national championship, I'll also be doing dual duty starting now.”
On whether or not the team will train in Akron during the winter:
“Well, we'll do some domestic camps. Obviously November is an international camp in Germany. No, there won't be an Akron we'll do our camps I'm assuming at the training center in L.A., Home Depot Center, but we have not mapped that out completely. We have mapped out kind of a tentative schedule, January, February, leading up to qualifying. But in terms of the logistics of those training camps, you know, we have not made those decisions at this point.”
On how much of the Olympic calendar overlaps with the NCAA calendar in terms of perhaps coaching at Akron and preparing for the Olympics:
“Well, the great thing about this is that there's very little conflict. You know, when the season is done, I'm all in with this job, the U 23s. It falls in that time of the year where we are not doing a lot in Akron; it's our off season. When I'm not in camp with the U 23s, I'll certainly be at Akron and I'll be with my team and I'll be doing what I always do: Preparing them to be ready for next fall.
“But you know, my No. 1 priority in that time of the year, especially January, February, March, will be to get this group qualified for the Olympics, and really that's the only thing on my mind. But that's the only thing that will be on my mind when the season is done.”
On how the U.S. U-23 MNT will work with the full Men’s National Team and whether the team will follow Klinsmann’s and Reyna’s idea of having all the National Teams playing a similar style:
“No question. You know, I think that's Jurgen's vision, Claudio's vision, Sunil and Dan's vision for the entire U.S. Soccer struck, infrastructure.
“Certainly we'll all be responsible for our teams. Jurgen with his team and myself with the 23s and Tab with the 20s and so on and so forth. But we will be a team. And I think there will be a lot of communication, and you know, I will be an extension of Jürgen in a lot of ways.
“Philosophically, we are all on the same page. That's one of the great things. I've had several conversations already with Jürgen in person, on the phone, through e mail. You know, he's a guy that's going to be open to communicating with all of the national teams. He wants his vision to trickle down, and I think that's very important to have it that way.
“And you know, again, my goal, my priority is to win. You have to win. I want this group to qualify and then I want to have a good performance in the Olympics.
“But at the same time, even though results are important, it's also equally as important that we move U.S. Soccer forward by developing players and coming up with a uniform philosophy of the organization.”
On the philosophy expressed by Klinsmann and what that means in terms of his coaching style:
“Well, there's a lot of nuts and bolts that goes into that. Certainly that's Jurgen's vision, but in my conversations with your Jurgen, we are in line philosophically and in the way that we want to do things.
“You know, and the nice thing, too, we are not naïve. We don't feel like we are just going to throw the ball out tomorrow and play like Spain. But, we do want to play a proactive approach. We want to, if we can, possess the ball. And I think there has to be an emphasis on the attack.
“But we also don't want to lose the things that make the U.S. special; our fight and spirit and defending and all of the things that have been a trademark in this country.
“So in terms of the nuances, those things are hard to discuss on a conference call, and those are things that Jürgen should probably speak on. But generally those are a lot of the things that philosophically that we are all in line with.”
On the differences between coaching a National Team and coaching at Akron:
“In the difference in terms of being a college coach and international coach, there certainly are differences.
“I've had the opportunity, as Dan said, to be involved as assistant coach with the Under 18 national team for about 2 1/2 years, and I've been a part of domestic camp. So I've been a part of preparing groups in a short amount of time, seven to ten day camps, leading international tournaments. I've been overseas, Argentina, Chile, Portugal several times. I was with the U 18 team at the Milk Cup this summer.
“So I have experience outside of college, going through this unique process in preparing a team, selecting players, putting a group together, the pieces together, quickly, implementing a style of play and a structure in terms of system, and then game planning in order to get results in an international tournament. And so I think that experience over the last two and a half years has been critical.
“At the same time, in terms of soccer wise, I've been coaching my Akron team not like a college team, but like a pro team, in our style of play and the way that we approach teams, from all of the things that go into, really, I think preparing a team to play a certain way and to still win games. I've been doing that with my team in Akron.
“The difference is internationally, again, you have a short of amount of time to do it. But I have experience doing, that being a part of the U 18 team and the national team, and I've been a part that have and experienced that firsthand.”
On the difficulty of bringing his coaching style to the team with such limited time before Olympic qualifying:
“Well, again, I have my philosophy on the game, how I would like my team to defend, how I would like my team to pack. Jürgen does, as well. But I understand that you can't just throw a style out there and immediately expect it to take shape, you know, and so it will be a process. I do see it being a challenge. But I think it can happen. At the same time, I'm not, again, naïve to think we will be able to just throw a ball out and play, again, like Spain.
“So certainly the way we approach each game might be different. Obviously get in the Olympics hopefully, playing higher level teams, you have to look at your team and you have to look at the best approach to that game.
“But I think it must be a vision of how U.S. Soccer must be played. There will be a vision of how the U 23 team will play. Now, within that style of play and philosophy, there will be adjustments depending on the game, depending on the opponent. At the end of the day, there will be a clear identity, but also there will be a plan that will help us win each game.”
On how he will balance his philosophy and knowledge of the collegiate player pool with calling in professional players for the Under-23 team:
“The U 23s, we should be comprised of professionals in my opinion. There may be a couple college guys that we'll look at, but we are at the point in this country where the U 20s and U 23s should be primarily professional players. U 20s, certainly, again, there will be a few more college guys.
“But looking at the initial pool, we have got an extensive list of players playing in MLS, playing overseas and with that group, we should have an extremely good chance to achieve successful results with looking at the pool here.
“And for me, you know, just kind of piggybacking with what Dan said, a lot of this process is going to be finding the right players. It's going to be personnel selection. These guys on this list are pros, and they are playing at a very high level. So they know the game. They know how to play. And it's a matter of picking the right mix of players, the best players in each pool, the best players to fit the system that we want to play, play the style that we want to play and win games.
“November, even though I'm not going to be there, it's really about getting a look at some of these, especially international, guys that we have heard about, that we have seen on tape, that we think could help us; get a look at these guys so that we know where we are at going into the January and February camps.
“And then from there, it's continuing to hone in on the group. And now the building starts of really getting them used to the style and the way that we are going to do things and the way that we are going to play, and getting used to the chemistry together.”
On whether or not he is considering players with full Men’s National Team experience:
“Well, again, it's going to be Jürgen's choice on that, and I know that he will want some of those guys to be involved with me. And you know, again, we have already established, started establishing a great relationship. He is very supportive of me and the job I need to do. He wants to help me.
“And you know, I don't expect guys that are with him, like Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea and some of these other guys that are performing well with him, I don't expect to get them at every camp, and probably won't get until December. But that will be his decision.
“I just know that I need to prepare, you know, the rest of the pool in case I don't get some of those guys, in case some of those players are not available. And so my task right now is to look at the guys that I don't know about, first and foremost, to get a look at some new guys and to see what they can do with the group, and to see if their guys can help us moving forward.”
On what the Olympics means to him:
“Well, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I certainly don't look at it as a stepchild job. I know that U.S. Soccer doesn't; Dan doesn't; Sunil doesn't.
“Any time a player has an opportunity to wear the badge and represent his country, it should mean a great deal. I know that the players that will wear the badge for the U 23s in qualifying, and hopefully the Olympics, they will represent their country very well and it will mean a great deal to them.
“So I'm taking this job, you know, with the utmost respect, certainly it's an honor. I'm privileged, and I'm going to do everything in my power to achieve successful results for the U.S. Soccer and for our country.”
On how closely he will work with Klinsmann and the rest of the technical staff in terms of selecting players for Olympic qualifying and potentially for the Olympics:
“I'll be working very closely with them. Again, yesterday we had a couple hour conference call to talk about the players going to select going into this November camp, and we went through every position. We went through the players in each position, from players overseas we need to be aware of. Jürgen was on the call; Tab was on the call; Claudio was on the call; Jim Moorhouse, all of us were there together discussing these players, and everyone was giving their opinion.
“I expect to have many more of those same conversations. And at the same time, it's going to be my job to select the group. It's going to be my job to get this group prepared to pick the players and to prepare to qualify for the Olympics.
“But I'll certainly be communicating with Jürgen. I'll be using Tab and Claudio, their minds, picking their brains. They have seen some of these players and I have not. I have seen some of the players and they have not. So it's going to be I'm going to use everybody's opinion in making decisions, and be obviously the November camp, Tab and Claudio are going to be with the ones running it.
“Going into that camp we are going to have a lot of discussions on where things are at with the group. I'm going to be talking with them regularly over there about getting tapes of the game and certainly we are going to be discussing things afterward.
“In terms of naming a roster, right now, again, we are focusing on the November camp and seeing as many guys as possible. So you know, we'll take it from there.”