Caleb Porter Pursues Continuity Within U.S. U-23 MNT Field
The U.S. Under-23 Menâ€™s National Teamâ€™s 18-day January camp without question is the most vital stretch for head coach Caleb Porter. Thankfully for Porter and his staff, this group has an array of opportunities between training and four games to solidify what will turn into the teamâ€™s final roster heading into the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March.
â€œWe donâ€™t have much time, and yet we feel very pleased with the progress,â€ Porter said. â€œWe feel like weâ€™re in a good spot and on track to be where we want to be going into qualifying. The reality is we only have this camp, a camp in February and then a short camp right before qualifying. So this is an important camp.â€
As the qualifiers draw closer (March 22-26, LP Field, Nashville, Tenn., tickets on sale through ussoccer.com), the teamâ€™s continuity will be a significant topic. That already is evident heading into the January camp, with 18 players returning from the December session at Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
â€œI want to have some continuity from camp to camp so that we can really build the team,â€ Porter said. â€œWith the way that we want to play, you have to have a lot of the same guys in so you can grow this concept within them.â€
Porter, like U.S. Menâ€™s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, has emphasized a desire to play possessive and attack-driven soccer as all of U.S. Soccer is incorporating continuity within its style and player development. The U-23s have been training with a 4-3-3 formation during the camp.
â€œObviously weâ€™re starting to ingrain the system in them and looking at guys in different roles,â€ Porter said. â€œAnd when theyâ€™re in those roles, weâ€™re giving them whatâ€™s expected within the 4-3-3. We started off the week with 20 players, so for the first time we were able to work in 10-vs.-10. At the last camp, we had so many numbers that it was difficult to do that.
â€œWe took the opportunity to get in a 4-3-3 and do a lot of functional work: ball circulation, working a lot on our spacing, our connection in the attack, combination play and the pressure when we lose the ball,â€ Porter said.
Porter has a chance in this camp to see how everyone performs in game settings. The U-23s have an itinerary that includes two scrimmages against the U.S. Menâ€™s National Team. Then the team travels to Costa Rica for matches against Saprissa Reserves on Jan. 21 and Alajuela on Jan. 24.
â€œWeâ€™re going to get four games, which is another crucial part of this process as we need to see guys in real games,â€ Porter said before Fridayâ€™s first scrimmage against the U.S. first team. â€œInner-squads are fine, but you need to play someone else, and you need to go against an opponent thatâ€™s going to be similar to the opponents weâ€™re going to see in qualifying. Thatâ€™s why we set up this trip to Costa Rica.
â€œI think we can make the most progress as a group collectively in this camp, and certainly weâ€™re going to see a lot individually in the games that weâ€™re playing,â€ Porter said.