On April 1, the 18 players that were a part of the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team March camp in Europe headed home after a week of intense training and friendlies with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Denmark. For head coach Andi Herzog and assistant coach Matthias Hamann that camp may have been over, but the process of continuing preparation for the Olympic qualifications with the U-23 squad, and the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup with the U.S. MNT, was just beginning. The ensuing scouting phase would see them travel more than 7,000 miles in the course of the three weeks that followed.
In addition to being coaches for the U-23s, Herzog and Hamann are also the European-based eyes of the senior National Team, constantly tracking players and evaluating talent for MNT head coach and U.S. Soccer Technical Director Jurgen Klinsmann. However, the pair crossed the pond for this round of scouting, traveling across North America to see games and players in the United States and Mexico.
“We came straight to Texas on April 10 from our March camp in Europe to watch FC Dallas play Colorado Rapids and to see our players,” Herzog said. “Dillon Serna came in 15 minutes from the end and scored a great goal. The next day we went to see the Houston Dynamo against the Montreal Impact. Then after that we came back to Dallas and drove our cars from Dallas to Houston and then from Houston to San Antonio to join the Senior Team for the match against Mexico.”
And that wasn’t all. Next the duo flew to Los Angeles and drove 150 miles to the border before parking and walking through the world’s busiest border crossing. “We went to Los Angeles and then from LA to Tijuana to watch the U-20’s from Club Tijuana, and Greg Garza and Joe Corona for their first team. We also saw a few of the Mexican players that we will face in the Gold Cup or in World Cup qualifications, so it was an interesting game,” Herzog said.
From Tijuana it was back to Los Angeles to view the LA Galaxy and U.S. MNT players Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes, as well as U-23 MNT members Jose Villareal and Oscar Sorto.
And that wasn’t all.
“It was nice. It was a lot of games, and in the meantime because of the time difference we were watching the European games on TV,” Herzog said.
U-23 MNT members Dillon Serna (No. 21), Shane O'Neill (No. 16) and Luis Gil (No. 14) have all spent time with the spent time with the Senior MNT as well.
Herzog and Matthias take in game after game from Europe to the U.S. to Mexico. Really anywhere there is a game going on that has ties to U.S. Soccer – be that U.S. players or players that the USA will face down the line – there’s a good chance Herzog or Hamann are watching.
“Most of the time because we live in Europe we are scouting all the European-based players for the U.S. MNT and the youth teams, and for our Olympic team as well.” Herzog said. “It’s also critical that we see as many of the players based here as possible. When there’s a game in the U.S., we always try to come a little bit early to watch as many games as we can.”
That is precisely what they did again this time around, going from city-to-city and match-to-match. Seeing the games up close lets the coaches keep tabs on current players, while at the same time giving them the opportunity to scout for new talent.
“The most important thing is to scout our players,” Herzog said. “Even when the U-23 guys aren’t playing, because of my job as an assistant coach for Jurgen Klinsmann, I have to look at all of the players. It’s always good to get a lot of new impressions. You may have already had an opinion and you think, okay this guy is good, and then you get to confirm the level of play.”
It’s safe to say that when this camp is over Herzog and Hamann will be back on the grind.
“It’s always fun to watch. It’s our profession and our passion. We’re both crazy and every weekend we’re in a different soccer stadium.”