U.S. U-18 Men's National Team head coach Javier Perez has called in 36 domestic-based players for training camp at U.S. Soccer's National Training Center in Carson, California. Perez sat down with ussoccer.com to outline his goals for the camp.
Can you talk about the roster in general, and also the differences from the last camp?
Javier Perez: “This is a new age group. We completed the cycle for the ’95 age group and we started the new cycle mainly with players born in ’97. What happened in the previous cycle, we’re very happy with the way we developed the U-18 National Team, which the main objective is to provide players the experience to be able to compete in the U-20 National Team, and for coach Tab Ramos. In the previous cycle, we’ve seen 62 players, and 50 of them had international experience, which is very good for us. It helps the players get ready for the jump into the U-20 National Team. What happens now in the new cycle, we want to replicate what we did in the first camp of the last cycle, which is to have 36 players – we selected three or four players per position – and we have a mix of ’96-born players and ’97-born players. We have 10 players born in ’96 and 26 born in ’97. We do that because we know that having ’96-born players, it helps the younger players to get ready for the U-18 National Team because this is their first camp. On the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to provide some information to coach Tab Ramos on which ’96s are ready to be part of the U-20 National Team.”
What’s the purpose of this camp specifically for the players and the coaches?
JP: “This camp has three purposes: one is to identify which players are at the level we require for the U-18 National Team. We’re going to select a core group of players to work with for the next cycle for the next year. Some of the players like we did in the last cycle, some of the ’96 players, will take part of the U-18 National Team in the first year, so we will have a mixed group of ’96 and ’97. Then in the second year it will only be ’97s. That’s true of the objectives. And the third one is to select players for this camp. As you mentioned, it’s for the tournament for France, so we know already some of the ’96 players that took part already in two of the previous camps with the U-18 National Team, so we are not calling these players. We are not calling players from Europe either; I had an opportunity to visit some of them. We are calling players only in the U.S. and hopefully we find a little talent to call for our next camp for France for the international tournament. Third, we’re looking to focus on possession, speed of play, quick transition and creating scoring opportunities, and develop those aspects during camp”
Why is it important to have a domestic training camp with this group before you play international games?
JP: “It is an opportunity on one hand to see more players. I had the opportunity to see some of these players at the Showcase in Dallas, at the Finals in Houston, as well as with the U-17 National Team working with coach Richie Williams. Some of them took part at the Nike Training Center, a group of 60 players, ’97s. It allowed us to narrow the talent, but at the same time we don’t have to commit with a group of 18-20 players. We can invite 36 players and see which players can adapt to the National Team level.”
What are you hoping to see from the players themselves and what are you hoping they walk away with from this camp?
JP: “I think we have a profile of players we are looking for. We give that information to the players, so we can see if they can adjust to that type of profile based on technical, tactical, physical and psycho-social characteristics. We expect the players to have some international experience to see how they can adjust to a higher level. Some of the players do very well at Academy level, but when they go out at the next level, it’s more difficult for them to play faster, to adjust to demands of the game. This is a good opportunity before going to an international camp to see which players can adapt to that kind of soccer.”