U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team midfielder Rubio Rubin has scored eight goals since June 25, recently lighting up the scoreboard in four straight matches before seeing the streak end in a 2-2 draw against Paraguay on Oct. 27. Leaving his hometown of Beaverton, Ore., behind to be a part of the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program since the 2011 Fall Semester, Rubin (pronounced “ru-BEAN”) has steadily worked on his game while hoping to reach the game’s highest levels. Recently, Rubin spoke with ussoccer.com about the team’s recent trip to Argentina as well as his own development as a player.
ussoccer.com: What was your impression of the team’s performance against some good competition in Argentina?
Rubio Rubin: “I thought we did pretty well especially, playing against four top teams in South America in Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay. We felt good after the last tournament in Spain, so we were going into this tournament feeling like we could be a top team in the world. Coach [Richie Williams] is always telling us that we can be a top team if we just play quick and trust each other with the ball. We were excited and thought we could win. I thought we did pretty well, except for the last game [against Paraguay], we struggled in the first half. Overall, I thought we did well given the circumstances of being in a foreign country and playing at different stadiums where the fields weren’t always the best. We tried to manage what we could and tried not to worry about the fields or the weather, stuff that we couldn’t control.”
ussoccer.com: You mentioned some challenges that were out of your control, what were some of the other challenges that the team faced in South America?
RR: “Against Argentina, we were going against the fans, too. You were going against 20,000 people watching us, all cheering for Argentina and throwing stuff at us. Right when I walked out from the tunnel, I looked up and one whole side of stadium was filled with people cheering for Argentina. The stadium wasn’t even full, imagine what it would be like if the stadium was full. One of the hardest parts was actually communicating during the game. We could barely hear each other. The team tried not to worry about that too much and we just played our game. Unfortunately, we lost that game.”
ussoccer.com: Getting away from the negatives, what were some of the positives displayed by the team during the trip?
RR: “I thought we did well with our finishing. In Spain, we struggled with our finishing, but this trip we did better finishing our chances and getting into the box and scoring the opportunities that we got. Our strikers and our center backs and defensive line did really well. They kept us together and kept us in form as a team. They played the offsides trap very well. I think we’re improving as a team and our defense did really well in Argentina.”
ussoccer.com: Looking ahead, how will this experience help prepare the team for the 2012 Nike International Friendlies at the end of November?
RR: “We played four top teams and going into the Friendlies, it’s going to be even harder because you’ve got Portugal, Brazil, and Turkey who are all top teams. We know what the competition is like around the world now and we’re going to have to find ways for our team to play well consistently and manage the games. We realize what it takes to be a top team and dominate and the trip to Argentina really helped us collectively and individually to deal with pressure situations.”
ussoccer.com: Individually, have you been happy with your form this year on the field?
RR: “I think this year has been going very well overall. The last two trips [to Spain and Argentina], I thought they went well, but there are always things that I need to work on. I need to work on a little bit of quickness and a little more with playing in pressure situations and not to let it get to my head. I need to work on my touch. I’m always looking to get better and to keep working hard. I don’t settle for success – that’s what my father always told me. I was very pleased in Spain and Argentina and I want to keep it going and keep myself away from injuries. I’m happy that I’ve done well, but I’m always going to keep working hard and getting better.”
ussoccer.com: Are there certain professional players that you try to emulate on the field?
RR: “On the U.S. National Team, I look at what Clint Dempsey does and also Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez at Manchester United. Even though with Hernandez, they don’t give him that much time [on the field] because there are two world-class forwards ahead of him – whenever he comes off the bench he usually does something to help the team. Watching that helps motivate me because he doesn’t worry about the things he can’t control and just worries about himself playing well. I look up to those two because they’ve always had to prove so much during their whole career. They’re good players and they do the right things.”
ussoccer.com: You’re a long way from home in Oregon being across the country in Florida at the Under-17 Residency Program. Do you ever get homesick?
RR: “I actually don’t. I feel like it’s part of life and you’ve got to make some sacrifices sometimes. I love soccer so much that this is what is best for me and my future. The decision to come here has made me a better player and developed me so much more than if I had stayed at home because I’m playing with the top-32 players in the country. I’m so blessed to be here right now and I’m thankful and cherishing this opportunity because there are thousands of kids that would want to be in this position. I know that my mom, dad, sister and brother are always going to be there supporting me. I do miss some friends and going to school with them, but eventually we were going to have to move away if you decide to go to college or go a different route. I’m not really that homesick and I’m just happy to be here. You’ve got to do what you got to do with things you love. This is such a great opportunity.”
ussoccer.com: How has the Residency Program helped you develop as a player?
RR: “It has developed me so much. There is competitiveness in every tackle and every inch and that makes a difference. You’re going against top players every single day and you can’t take a rest. If I had a bad week in the Academy, it wouldn’t be that bad. If I have a bad week here, there are people that are going to catch you. The games are intense and are always close. We’re playing at a high level. The competition with everything and our fitness work and technical work is making me better. The coaches do a good job of pushing me to get better every day.”