Familiar and Fresh Faces Gather in Bosnia for U-18 MNT Camp

The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team is currently in Bosnia for its first training camp of 2015. Head coach Javier Perez and his 20-player roster already squared off with Bosnian premier league club Siroki Brijeg in a scrimmage on April 25, where they won with a convincing 6-0 final score line. Next, the team is poised for a pair of friendly matches with Bosnia’s U-19 National Team on April 28, followed by a second on April 30.

“This is a really important trip for us because it’s the before-last camp and we are doing it in a foreign camp,” Perez said. “We are going to play against Bosnia’s U-19 team which is one year older than us and for them, it’s a really important moment because they are close to the UEFA European U-19 Championship, so we expect very tough competition.”

Earlier this year, the U-18’s competed in the 2015 Copa Chivas Tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico, where they played against Monarcas Morelia, Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, Club Tijuana and Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica. Ten players who competed at Copa Chivas are back for this camp in Bosnia, with a few fresh faces joining them this time around.

“We have a good combination of players with a lot of experience with the National Team and we have some new players doing very well with club teams like with the case of Marcello Borges with New York Red Bulls. It’s his first time with any National Team. Mason Stajduhar, he’s with Orlando City SC - it’s his first international trip with us. Also, Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana Fire) is in his first cycle with the international team.

“Then on the other side we have players like Mukwelle Akale (Villarreal CF) or Ben Swanson (Columbus Crew SC) or Cameron Lindley (Chicago Fire) or Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC) who have been around the team for a long time and they are core-group players.”

For Marcello Borges this call to camp has been nearly 18 years in the making. He said that now that he is here he is going to give it everything he has.

“I’ve been wanting to get a call since I was a young boy so getting a call for the first time, I was very excited to prove what I had and to show that I deserve to be here,” Borges said. “It’s going well. The players here are all top quality too. It moves quicker than back at home, but I’ll adjust to it and I’ll play well. You always have to play to their level and try to improve. Every day playing against the best players, you improve yourself, so I’m just trying to do my best.”

Borges said that he hopes to learn as much as he can at this camp both on and off the field, taking advice from guys that have been around the system for a while and hoping to use what he learns when he’s back home. Players like Akale are helping lead the way for newer players like Borges.

“I think in Villareal we’re always going 100 percent all the time and that’s the goal for us here. If we bring that here we’ll be a lot better,” Akale said. “I hope to show that here and be a leader.”

As the team continues to progress, it will also be put to the test when it takes on a Bosnian team that Perez expects to be very physical. Nonetheless, it is a challenge that the team is eager to take on.

“I’m looking forward to playing a physical side,” Akale said. “[It will be] a physical and tough match and set pieces are going to be important for us.”

Perez says the match will be a good opportunity for the players to work on their feet and to operate technically to move the ball around quickly, thus creating another occasion and possible moment of experience for the young team that is always looking to improve.