Caleb Porter Putting His Mark on U.S. U-23 MNT Program
The U-23s start their third training camp under Caleb Porter on Jan. 8 in Carson, Calif. The following two and a half weeks include two matches against the U.S. MNT, followed by two scrimmages in Costa Rica. This session retains 18 players from the December session in Florida as Porter and Co. focus on the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March.
It was less than three months ago when Caleb Porter was named the U.S. Under-23 Menâ€™s National Team head coach. As the U-23s enter just their third training session under Porter (Jan. 8-25 in Carson, Calif., and San Jose, Costa Rica), he already has been impressed with the groupâ€™s progress during his early tenure.
â€œWhen I got the job, I was anticipating this moment coming in with the guys,â€ Porter said. â€œYou have your ideas of what itâ€™s going to be like, but you never fully know until you get in.
â€œIâ€™ve really enjoyed getting to know the guys, being out there on the field with them. Even though these guys are pros and theyâ€™ve played at a high level, they still are very eager to learn and grow, and I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that they were so coachable, so bought in.â€
Porterâ€™s January camp includes 18 out of the 22 players who participated in the Dec. 15-23 training session in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. As the team has its eyes on the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament (March 22-26, LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.; tickets on sale at ussoccer.com), Porter has started to narrow down the best corps moving forward.
The biggest talking point that Porter wants to see on the pitch for the U-23s is heightened possession play, whether that is maintaining control on offense or aggressively winning the ball back on defense to sustain a high level of attack.
â€œWeâ€™re not going to be a team that sits back and counters,â€ Porter said. â€œWe want to have the ball. We want to control the game and be the proactive team. We want to be the aggressor in the game.â€
The groupâ€™s first two camps focused heavily on imprinting the style and system of play, Porter said. Now Porter will have a chance to see how the U-23s fare on the pitch against the U.S. Menâ€™s National Team (Jan. 13 and 17 scrimmages in Carson, Calif.), and against Saprissa Reserves (Jan. 21) and Alajuela (Jan. 24) in San Jose, Costa Rica.
â€œAs can be expected, when you introduce new activities it takes a little bit of time for them to initially figure it out and get comfortable,â€ Porter said. â€œI think moving forward to the next camp, those things will be more comfortable. But we felt like we made great progress [in Florida]. The guys seemed to enjoy the activities we used, and they seemed to really buy into the way that we want to play and the philosophy we have.â€
Porter wants his roster to dictate the flow of matches, and he is hammering home the message of winning the possession battle and sustaining that control.
â€œThatâ€™s something that we stress on a daily basis â€“ control the ball, spacing, movement, combination play, rhythm, speed of play,â€ Porter said. â€œAll those little details and angles of movement and support, we stress those every single day.â€
The London 2012 Olympic Games take center stage this summer, so Porterâ€™s roster naturally has amped up its drive for the possibility of participating in the worldwide picture.
â€œThis is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,â€ Porter said. â€œIn training and activities, theyâ€™re competing. These guys want to win. Theyâ€™re pros. They hate losing, and I love that. I think these guys have some of the prototypical U.S. character traits, and I think thatâ€™s a good thing.â€