By Noah Davis
Tracy isn't sure what to expect when he reports to the Home Depot
Center for his first Men's National Team Camp on January 4.
all, the emerging star hasn't participated before.
was never on any of the youth national teams," Aalborg's 23-year-old
striker told Goal.com over the phone from his Connecticut home where
he's spending part of the Danish Superliga's three-month winter break.
"I have no idea how it works."
a two-sport athlete throughout high school who only began to focus
exclusively on soccer when he matriculated at Wake Forest, never
figured in the Olympic Development Program or on any of the age group
squads. It's a choice he sounds content with, especially after finding
success at the collegiate level and beyond.
lightning-quick attacker helped the Demon Deacons to three College Cup
finals and won the 2008 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy as the
nation's best player, which led many to expect great things from him.
The decision to spurn Major League Soccer's SuperDraft, where Tracy
would likely have been the No. 1 pick, and sign with Aalborg (AaB to the
locals) in January, 2009 only raised those beliefs. As
many Americans find, breaking into a European Starting XI was difficult
for the college star.
Unlike some soccer players who move abroad,
however, Tracy was prepared to handle an adjustment period and little
playing time. "[The
club] didn't have a lot of pressure on me to be playing right away and
I didn't put that pressure on myself," he said. "I went in there and
just tried to adjust."
helped that when AaB's new manager, Magnus Pehrsson, coached at GAIS, he
coveted the American.
One of Pehrsson's first moves upon joining the Scandinavian club, which
won the Superliga during the 2007-08 campaign, but slipped to seventh place
in 08-09, was to extend a contract offer to
Understanding he had the confidence of his boss was invaluable
to the young striker.
much better can it get than that, knowing that the coach is the one
that wants you to be over there?" he said. "I don't know how many
players go into that situation, but for me and my agents, knowing that
this guy had seen me play in the U.S. and he was the one recommending
me to the club, that's about the most positive situation you can get
yourself going into."
Pehrsson's faith, it took the six-foot, two-inch striker more than two
months to make his first appearance.
Tracy came on in the 77th minute of
a UEFA Cup Round of 16 match against Manchester City and helped AaB
storm back and score two goals to tie the series on aggregate before
losing 4-3 in penalty kicks.
Four days later, the striker topped his
debut performance, netting the game-winning goal against FC
Midtjylland. Success, however, was short-lived.
While Tracy would
figure in six more matches during the season, he picked up a hamstring
injury that troubled him and limited his playing time and
He wouldn't score another goal.
2009-10 campaign began with the American coming on as a second-half
substitute in AaB's first match, but he didn't see the pitch again
until September 19.
Then it was another month before he truly broke
through. Two consecutive appearances as a late-game addition led to a
start on November 8 and Tracy's second game-winning goal.
performance seemingly cemented the striker's place in Pehrsson's mind,
as he found his name in the Starting XI for the squad's three games
before the break.
a run of good form across the pond led to talk of a call-up among U.S.
pundits and supporters, Tracy claims he tries to avoid reading what
anyone writes about his play.
As a result, he didn't anticipate the
invitation to the 20-day training camp that focuses on developing
players and culminates with a friendly against Honduras on January 23.
was a pretty big surprise for me because from my perspective, I went
through a whole half-season hardly playing," he said. "Then, I started
the last four games. To be honest, I wasn't expecting it at all."
so, roughly a year after crossing an ocean to play football, Tracy
finds himself only needing to cross the country to join his first
National Team camp. He doesn't know what to expect, but he'll be just
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.
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