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Claudio Reyna Discusses his Experience as U-23 MNT Head Coach at Germany Training Camp

U.S. Youth Soccer Technical Director Claudio Reyna stepped in to run the U-23 Men's National Team's first training camp while head coach Caleb Porter was at the University of Akron. Along with U-20 Men's National Team head coach Tab Ramos, Reyna took 36 players to Duisburg, Germany, ahead of 2012 Olympic Qualifying. Following the camp, which was held at a sporting complex from Nov. 7-16, asked Reyna about his time with the U-23s in Germany. How was the training camp?
Claudio Reyna: “There are a lot of encouraging signs so far in terms of some of the talent, some of the players, that have a big opportunity to come into the senior team, and some of them might be sooner than later. Some of them might be six months to a year down the road. But really giving them a belief in how quickly things happen in soccer, especially at the age they’re at. This is the important year for these guys: 19, 20, 21 years old where they’re really going from boys to men, they’re learning about soccer as a profession and the importance of training every day, and everything that it takes to be a top player. That’s what they need to develop now. These are very important years. And just because some of them may not be playing at their clubs or in the reserves, they still have to stick through it and realize, once they come through this phase, they’re really going to become much better players for making sure they handle this part of their career in a very positive way.” What did you want the players to get from their first time in a camp like this?
CR: “Clearly how they play, how they perform, and how they train is the easy thing to look at and monitor over seven to eight days that we have them. But you get to know them a little bit more off the field and how they handle situations that aren’t so easy, how they work with teammates, and their attitudes. If they do make the jump to the National Team with Jurgen [Klinsmann], they can adjust smoothly, and they won’t be shocked by their situation. Those are the things that myself and the staff talk about, and we talk about all the players individually and obviously the team. Let’s not forget it’s just as important that they understand that London 2012 is a big part of their focus and their goal is to make that team. It’s less than a year away. It’s an exciting time for these guys between the opportunity to jump to the National Team and impress us, to give good feedback to Jurgen, as well as having the opportunity to play in qualifying and then go on to London. It’s a great time for these guys, and that’s what we let them know. It’s a great time in their career with some wonderful opportunities ahead.” How did the structure of this camp mirror that of the senior team?
CR: “The idea of setting up this camp was to mirror the senior team in terms of when they arrived in camp, the days that they played the games—we played on the same days as the senior team. It gives them an opportunity to really understand that: ‘I play at my club team, and then I come into a national team, and this is what it’s like.’ That’s what we’ve talked about, that is this is mirroring them in every way. They went through testing like the senior team does at the beginning of the week. The idea was to set up the games like the senior team because it allows them, and it allows us, to see how they play a game and how they recover and how they’re able to switch on again and play a game in the same gap of days that our senior team will have when they’re together for qualifiers or friendlies.” How has Caleb Porter been involved in this camp while in Akron?
CR: “Caleb is involved very much in this process, from selecting the players, first of all, to being part of the organizing of the camp and understanding what we’re doing. It’s for him, more than anything. We talked outside of this camp before about how we want to play, how he wants to play. The good thing is that we’re right on with the same goals and objectives, so it makes it really easy. Caleb knows this age group very, very well, since most of these players have come through, and he’s seen them before. At the same time, I have to give him some feedback on some of the newer players that we’ve discovered and how they could fit into it and how they’re doing. With my role and his role, we have to speak quite a bit. I think on one side of it, I know he wishes he was here, but obviously his job at Akron doesn’t allow him to be. But we work together closely and we’ll continue to through qualifying and beyond that to the Olympics.” What have the players and coaches gained from this camp?
CR: “Our main objective was to get the group together and start the process for London 2012. And just having them together now in November for the first time was great. They got to know each other a little bit more, we got to know them individually as well as collectively. We got to see some new players that haven’t been involved in U.S. Soccer before. We got to train them at a pretty high intensity throughout the week and get them two really good games. I think when you get the opportunity to come to Europe and play in a country like Germany, you’re going to get some good experiences playing against seasoned pros or experienced young players as we did. And lastly, you get to know the players personally. For me, that was a treat to work with them, to see where they are in their club situations as well, and really build from here. We’ve got a short three to four months ahead where we need to make some decisions. I think they’re going to be some difficult decisions because it’s a good pool of players. But more than anything, it was our first big step toward qualifying in March.”