Midfielder Charles Renken is back in a U.S. national team camp. The technical midfielder seems like he has been around awhile - he was in Residency in 2008 - but he's still only 17 and figures to be a part of Tab Ramos' player pool during the U-20 cycle. After coming back from injuries, Renken is making inroads at Hoffenheim, where he's currently playing with the U-19 team. When he got the call to join the U.S. team in camp, Renken happily accepted the offer and made the short trip over to Duisburg. This week has seen him reunite with old friends from Residency, work on his German with some of the new players and set him up for what he hopes is a successful rode to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2013. ussoccer.com caught up with Renken for a short Q & A:
ussoccer.com: How's the camp been going for you so far?
Charles Renken: So far the camp for me has been going great. I'm doing well and working hard. At the same time, I'm enjoying being with the guys, and some of them I haven't seen for awhile. For me I'm just enjoying the moment and trying to make the team.
You were in residency with lots of these players, but you haven't seen them in awhile. What's it like to be back in a U.S. Youth National Team camp with these players who you go back a long time with?
CR: I just can't describe it. I grew up with so many of them. I moved to residency when I was young, and some of them are like my older brothers. Gale [Agbossoumonde] and [Greg] Garza helped me a lot with homework [during residency in Florida]. Whenever I needed something I would go to them. Now to see them again and play with them again, for me, is such a pleasure.
ussoccer.com: You play with Hoffenheim here in Germany. In addition to those players who you know from back in America, how has it been getting to know some of the new players who also play in this country?
CR: The language makes it easier because when they're speaking German, I can understand it. If I don't know anything in German then I ask them, and that makes it a bit easier for them, because they don't know too many Americans or they're new. I speak German so it's a bit easier for us to talk.
ussoccer.com: So you're learning German then. How's that coming along, and how is life in Europe?
CR: I'm half there; half fluent. I can understand it well, and I know enough to be able to get by. Life here is good. It's not too much different from the U.S. except the langugae. The food is good, and I'm already used to that. The training is also good. It's really tough, and you have to be very disciplined. Overall I think I've done a great job adjusting.
ussoccer.com: How has the level of training been at Hoffenheim? Has it required an adjustment period for you?
CR: Yeah. Joe [Gyau, also part of this U-23 Men's National Team Camp and a teammate at Hoffenheim] told me the training would be tough, and he showed me some things you have to get used to so you don't struggle. So far I've learned the ins and outs of how to survive here.
ussoccer.com: The camp is almost over. It's been a hard week of training, and now there are scrimages tomorrow to wrap everything up. How has the experience been?
CR: Overall the camp is great, and I'm having a great time here. Hopefully I can keep doing what I'm doing. In the next cycle, step by step, I want to keep improving.