ussoccer.com: You’ve had an exciting, whirlwind nine months. Tell us about your journey to the U-20 World Cup team.
DP: “In December I was invited to the Development Academy megacamp that was run by Coach (Mike) Matkovich, and there were 72 players at that camp. That was the first time I’d really been with a national team since I was U-15, so it was pretty exciting for me. I must have done pretty well there because I ended up being invited to Australia in January. I stayed with the U-18s when we went to The Home Depot Center and then to Portugal in May. In June, I got a call for the Under-20 trip to Egypt. I was so excited. I didn’t know if I would have a chance on this cycle so I was just trying to do my best and see where I am. I knew it would be ambitious for me to make the squad as a ’91.”
ussoccer.com: So, how did you wind up on this final squad?
DP: “When I got to Egypt I just did what I could, kept it simple and then next thing I knew I was invited to the next camp in Argentina. Thomas (Rongen) then told me I would have a chance to make the squad if I continued to do well, and then I got the call to come here.”
ussoccer.com: Being named the U-17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year is obviously a pretty big deal, but there is more to the program than that. How has the new system benefited you as a player?
DP: “I’ve been with Andromeda my whole career, but last year was our first in the Development Academy. The pressure of training in the pro environment was good for me, because it makes you think differently and train differently. It really makes you want to work toward being a professional. Plus, it was helpful to be seen at the Showcases because the national team coaches are so aware of everyone in the program.”
ussoccer.com: What was the college recruiting process like for you?
DP: “I signed on national signing day in the spring, but I had orally committed to them during spring of my junior year. The recruiting process was stressful, there were a lot of coaches coming from different directions, but I committed pretty early so that took a lot of the stress out of it.”
ussoccer.com: So how did you decide on Notre Dame?
DP: “I really liked the appeal of Notre Dame’s academic program as well as their athletic program. The coaches to me seemed really great. I love it there so far, I love the team and school is pretty challenging but it’s all going well.”
ussoccer.com: How difficult is it to now be missing several weeks during your first semester?
DP: “It was pretty hard to get the professors to grasp the concept of missing school so much for soccer, but I think I’ll be able to handle it. I just have to handle it one day at a time. And I have a very supportive coach, which helps of course. It definitely helps having Aaron (Maund) around as well. Even my academic advisor told me that if I needed any help with the situation to talk to Aaron. He’s obviously been through it before, especially in the spring he was gone a lot with qualifying and camps. It’s nice having someone, especially someone I know pretty well now, to talk to and work with.”
ussoccer.com: With five classes this semester, do you have any down time? Or is it mostly spent doing work?
DP: “Right now it’s just doing school work. I like to watch soccer too. I am a soccer junkie I’d say.”
ussoccer.com: A soccer junkie? Who’s your team?
DP: “Liverpool is my team and Steven Gerrard is my favorite player. Some people say I play like him, and I guess my strength as a player is getting on both sides of the ball. I don’t try to model my game after anyone though.”
ussoccer.com: As one of the youngest guys on this team, and one of the newest, how have you fit in with the other guys?
DP: “Off the field I just make sure to understand my job on this team, and I try to carry gear and kind of do all the things that are necessary when you’re the youngest one. I tried to ease my way into the setting and just trying to fit in. It was pretty easy after a couple camps I feel like I know most of the guys pretty well.”
ussoccer.com: Are you anxious to get playing?
DP: “This is definitely the biggest event I’ve ever been a part of. I was so excited when I found out I’d made the roster and to have the opportunity to play in a youth World Cup is just awesome. I’m excited to be here and getting tuned up and I can’t wait to get started against Germany. I can’t wait to see where it takes us. The fact that it’s on ESPN networks is very cool because it means my family and friends can watch. It’s all just really exciting.”