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Q&A: Javier Perez Recaps U-18 MNT Bosnia Camp

The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team wrapped up its camp in Bosnia with a win 1-0 win against the Bosnia and Herzegovina U-19 National team. With just one more camp in this cycle, head coach Javier Perez talked with ussoccer.com about the most recent trip and the team’s continued progress.

ussoccer.com: What the overall objective of the camp and what are your thoughts on the team’s performance?

Javier Perez: “We actually entered this camp with two objectives. One was to provide the opportunity to some of the new players to join the core group and increase the player pool. Part of that was the five new players that made their international debuts for the first time ever with any national team, which is great. The second objective was to really test the teams and see how far they can go. We played the Bosnia and Herzegovina U-19s and that one year difference is a big challenge at this age group. Bosnia and Herzegovina were preparing for the European qualifiers which they start on May 14. They have some of the players in Europe. The captain for instance plays for AC Milan. We thought it was a great opportunity. Those were the two objectives for us. We also had the chance to have a preparation game against the reserves of the best club team right now in Bosnia, club Siroki Brijeg.  again it was an older age group that was physical and competitive, because at the end of the day we are more on the technical side and we’re more of a technical team, but we want our players to be able to find alternatives when we are playing a big strong and physical team, which probably is the most challenging competition for us.”

ussoccer.com: What does that fact that five new players made their international debuts in this camp say about the ever-growing U.S. soccer talent pool?

JP: “The objective and one of the conversations of the scouting team and Tony Lepore and U-20 head coach Tab Ramos was about how we can increase the player pool and how we can reach out to more players and develop players through our youth national team system. We  have one camp remaining for this ‘97 cycle and we have reached 85 different players. So 85 players have had the opportunity to come in at some point with the national teams to participate, and that gives a good start to Tab Ramos in the next cycle for the U-20s. It gives him a good base of players that can be a part of that next U-20 National Team.”

ussoccer.com: Speaking of Tab Ramos, you will be joining him and his team when they head to New Zealand for the U-20 World Cup. As the last team before the U-20s, what are some of the central messages that you share with your players and how are they aligned with those of Tab Ramos?

JP: “This is a bridge team in terms of preparation for the U-20 National Team. What we want to do is reach out to as many players as possible and let them know that it’s an ongoing process, that it’s not static and that we are not building the team just based on 20 or 30 players but that at any given moment, any player has a chance to break in to the player pool. That can happen even if that player has never been with the national team. Everything depends on the form that that player has at that particular moment and that’s something that we see now with coach Tab Ramos consistently. When he calls players for qualifiers or when he calls players for the World Cup, the players on the list are always those that are sharper and fitter at that particular time.”

ussoccer.com: How are these European camps helpful to the development of these young players? 

JP: “There are two places in particular in the world where soccer is played at an especially high level. It’s no secret, one is Europe, and the other is South America. Europe is a great place for us to travel because it is very organized and because there are a number of teams that you can face and get a competitive match. For instance, last week we had the opportunity to play three good competitive games in a short period of time.”

ussoccer.com: Going into the last camp of the cycle, how do you rate the overall performance of the team this year?

JP: “I think it has been very successful. Obviously we don’t have the pressure of the U-17s or the U-20s because they go to the World Cup, but I think we have been successful in many ways. One place we’ve found success is in building a great player pool with 85 players that came during this cycle to the camps. In terms of the results, I think they have been fantastic since the team won the Vaclav Jezek Tournament in the Czech Republic last summer, which was really great for the players. Then beating teams like Germany in December in Spain. We had a chance to play against Germany and we beat them there in our first game. There are many positives that have been accomplished during this cycle. Our goal by the end of this cycle was push the teams to the limit. We entered into the tournament that we were in in January in Mexico where we knew we were competing against teams that were one year older than us.”

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.

U-18 MNT Headed to Mexico for 2015 Copa Chivas Internacional

CHICAGO (Jan. 27, 2015) – U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team head coach Javier Perez has named a 20-player roster for the 2015 Copa Chivas Tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico. This is the U-18 MNT’s first competition of the new year and first competition since the two-game international set against Germany in mid-December in Marbella, Spain.

The USA opens its Group A stage of Copa Chivas against Monarcas Morelia on Friday, Jan. 30 (1 p.m. ET). The U-18 MNT then faces Cruzeiro Esporte Clube on Jan. 31 (10 a.m.), Club Tijuana on Feb. 2 (10 a.m.) and Club Deportivo Universidad Católica on Feb. 3 (10 a.m.).

The top eight seeds advance to the tournament’s quarterfinal stage, which begins Feb. 5. That is followed by the semifinals on Feb. 6 and the title game on Feb. 7.

This is the 19th edition of Copa Chivas Internacional. The tournament features three groups of five teams. Group B includes Mexico’s U-17 national team, Boca Juniors, Monterrey, River Plate and Tigres. Group C features FC Dallas, Atlas, Atlético Paranaense, Chivas Guadalajara and Urawa Red Diamonds.

The U.S. roster features 14 players who took part in the two matches against Germany to wrap up the 2014 campaign, including goal scorers Mauricio Pineda (2), Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Elney. The USA split its two-game set, defeating Germany 2-1 on Dec. 17 and falling 3-2 in the rematch two days later. (Perez Impressed with U-18 MNT Performance )

Eighteen of the players are with current Development Academy clubs and 19 of the 20 have Academy ties.

After Copa Chivas, the U-18s will compete in the 2015 Slovakia Cup in late April.

Roster by Position: Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (Strikers FC; Newport Beach, Calif.), Justin Vom Steeg (Real So Cal; Santa Barbara, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): David Burns (San Juan SC; El Dorado Hills, Calif.), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; Brooklyn, N.Y.), Malcolm Jones (LA Galaxy; Chino Hills, Calif.), DJ Mason (Capital Area RailHawks Academy – CASL; Morrisville, N.C.); Pablo Pelaez (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Boakye (Oakwood SC; Glastonbury, Conn.), James Murphy (Players Development Academy; Scotch Plains, N.J.), Amirgy Pineda (Fullerton SC; Santa Ana, Calif.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Chicago Magic PSG; Libertyville, Ill.), Evan Waldrep (Creighton; Peoria, Ariz.), Eryk Williamson (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), Sean Wilson (Philadelphia Union; West Chester, Pa.), Jackson Yueill (Minnesota Thunder; Bloomington, Minn.)
FORWARDS (4): Sebastian Elney (Philadelphia Union; Boca Raton, Fla.), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake AZ; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Victor Mansaray (Seattle Sounders FC; Des Moines, Wash.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Casa Grande, Ariz.)

Perez Impressed with U-18 MNT Performance against Germany

The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team capped off the 2014 campaign with a two-game split and an even aggregate score against a strong Germany side in Marbella, Spain. Head coach Javier Perez thought the players’ performance was a fitting end to the year, showing that many of them are ready for the next level in the Youth National Team system and beyond.

The U-18s program has brought in 83 players during this cycle, so Perez and the YNT coaches have had an opportunity to survey an extensive talent pool.

“This camp was great to see new players respond against a big nation like Germany,” Perez said. “Five players were with us for the first time in this cycle, including two with their first national team ever. We had about nine players out with commitments who were a big part of the team this year, and the new players were ready for the challenge.”

The USA opened with a 2-1 victory on Dec. 17 and dropped a 3-2 decision in the rematch against Germany on Dec. 19. Though the U-18s fell in the second game, the USA fought back from a 2-0 first-half deficit and had multiple moments in the second half to cash in with a late equalizer.

“The second half, we were focused mentally, and scoring in the first two minutes of the second half really pushed us,” Perez said. “Germany was asking for the final whistle at the end, and we created some chances. Overall, it was positive because it’s always difficult competing against big nations. They were not fazed and showed they can compete at any level. It was a good benchmark for us and a good reference point.”

Perez was impressed with the performances of wide array of players among this particular trip, from the back with the likes of goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann to the front line and Brooks Lennon, who scored the winning goal in the opener against Germany.

“Jonathan Klinsmann was really strong in goal in the first game and made a couple key saves in the first half. He has a good frame and is very talented,” Perez said. “Our outside backs did very well. Pablo Pelaez was consistent, and Kyle Duncan made his international debut and his second camp and we’re intrigued with how he will do. It’s also important to highlight Brooks Lennon because he has matured so much as a player. He had not been with the national team for a while, but he came back and showed the type of player we need up front.”

The Younger Yanks Are Coming

ussoccer.com: Having reviewed the win against the Czech Republic, what are your lasting impressions of the performance?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “There are a lot of positives we can take out of this game. We asked this younger generation - the group that here and there was not a big part of the World Cup in Brazil - to step it up and make statements. I think that young group made a very, very strong statement. We asked players such as Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona, Jozy Altidore and others to take the responsibilities into their hands and guide that young team in Prague, and that’s what they did. Winning in Prague against a Czech team that barely missed out on qualifying for the World Cup is a strong statement. So overall, it was a very positive trip. We learned a lot, and this group deserves to come along.”

ussoccer.com: There seemed to be an increased aggressiveness in the midfield. What were your instructions to those guys?
JK: “With every young group that comes through the system, you want them to step it up physically year by year. You want them to take over responsibilities, you want them to grow, to be louder on the field, but also to send out signals physically. It’s a physical sport, and in many cases it’s about one-on-one battles on the field and winning those battles. That’s what Mix, Michael Orozco, Joe Corona, John Brooks, Jozy Altidore, Ale Bedoya did. They stepped up and showed they can compete physically. That’s what we wanted to see, so for that reason they deserve a compliment.”

ussoccer.com: The team also seemed to show a commitment to playing out of the bac, particularly with the distribution by Brad Guzan. Did you ask them to stick with that plan and not be afraid to take risks? Is that something you plan to preach moving forward?
JK: “It’s definitely a huge step for us to play out of the back, to find defenders and open up the game right away and not to play long balls all the time. Pretty much every long ball is a turn over. In the first half with Brad Guzan delivering those balls into Diskerud, into the fullbacks, into the centerbacks, that looked really nice. Obviously for Nick Rimando, he’s used to doing that. He’s almost like a field player and he’s very comfortable playing out of the back. We told them not to worry about making mistakes. Here and there it might happen, but we want this game to be developed from the back into the midfield and then into the forwards and not to be forced always to play long balls. This is something we are going to encourage more and more going forward. We want to keep the ball. We want to build out of the back. We want them to have the confidence to do that and not worry about mistakes. I think it was a big step forward, and we will emphasize that going into the October games as well.”

ussoccer.com: While Jozy didn’t have many scoring chances, he seemed to show improved hold up play. What were your impressions?
JK: “It was huge for us to have Jozy Altidore back in our lineup. This was the biggest bummer for us in the World Cup, to lose Jozy in the first game. I think we could have made a huge step in the World Cup, especially facing a team like Belgium in the Round of 16, if Jozy had been on the field.  I asked him to guide this young group. He’s still a young guy himself - he’s 24 years old but he already has 70 caps. We made him the captain and told him to guide these guys and he enjoyed that. He battled the whole game. He won most of his one-on-one battles, he provided great assists. He connected with Joe Gyau to the right and Julian green to the left, and connected to the midfield. It was a very strong performance by Jozy, even if he didn’t score. This is what we want to see from him. Sooner or later, I told him you are going to score your goals in the Premier League and continue to score goals for the National Team.”

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