Anthony Hudson has hit the ground running as head coach of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team. Upon his hiring in January, he headed straight to training camp with the squad in Bradenton, Florida for two friendlies against Mexico.
While the sports world remains shut down, the grind hasn’t stopped for Hudson since January. The U-20 MNT boss continues to construct his team as he gets to know the 50-plus players that make up his player pool, while also contributing to the senior MNT technical staff.
“We’re there to support the players,” Hudson said. “We’re making calls to the players every week – seeing how they're doing, letting them know we're thinking of them, jumping on video calls and going over footage – anything we can do to help. We've started building a WhatsApp group with the players and there's lots of exciting things going on there. I've been blown away with how involved the players have been. We’re working to keep developing things, building relationships and building our culture remotely.”
Hudson had sought to bring in a number of new faces to the U-20 MNT’s planned March training camp in Portugal. Now, he’s meeting many of those players for the first time virtually.
“We want the players to know we care about them,” Hudson said. “Even though this has been a horrendous time with what's going on, I think that the staff have adapted and we've just tried to make the most of this period. These are young kids, some of them are in different parts of the world, they don't have their families with them and they've been quarantined. As much as we can, we've just been trying to be there as someone who checks in and sees how they're doing.”
The team WhatsApp group has served as a central venue for virtual team-building as home to a number of challenges for the players. This past week, Hudson tasked his squad with a skills competition, broken up into teams. The group of Leon Flach, Bryang Kayo, Blake Malone, Marcelo Palomino, Kurowskybob Pierre, Andre Reynolds II, Matteo Ritaccio and Joe Scally emerged victorious.
“The previous videos that the players made were so good and the skills were so great, we thought that people would love to see this,” Hudson said. “We’ve done other fun, competitive things, making videos and really starting to get to know each other. It’s nice light-hearted stuff, but the players have taken to it really well.”
In January, the U-20 MNT had the opportunity to train side-by-side with and scrimmage against the senior MNT. That alignment has continued into quarantine, as Hudson and other YNT coaches have joined MNT head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff for technical analysis and discussions.
“I've been fortunate that Gregg welcomed us into the first team,” Hudson said. “Being involved in conversations about how they're developing the team and their processes for helping their players, those kinds of meetings have given me the opportunity to bring some of those ideas down into the 20s.”
At the end of the day, Hudson’s ultimate goal is to bring players into the first team seamlessly. During quarantine, he works to continue to build a culture that will help facilitate that transition.
“I think the biggest compliment that we can get as a staff is if the players are going up into the first team and they are working, they are acting, they are performing in the way that Gregg wants them to and expects them to, and there's no adjustment period for them,” Hudson said. “That's how I see my role here, it's really to completely embrace the direction of U.S. Soccer philosophically and culturally.”