THE FUTURE: U.S. U20 Goalkeeper Brian Perk

Brian Perk is the goalkeeper for the USA U20 team.'s Adam Hastings profiles the young starlet.
Name: Brian Perk
Height: 5’11
Weight: 175 lbs
Birthdate: July 21, 1989
Hometown: Santa Margarita, CA
Position: Goalkeeper - U.S. U20 National Team
College: UCLA

The United States has produced a long line of quality keepers over the past decade, leaving some to wonder when it will end. The good news is for fans is the answer: at least not for a few decades.

Brian Perk has the look of a laid-back Southern California kid, but after speaking with him you realize he’s confident beyond his years. Perk is the current goalkeeper for the U.S. U20 national team, but it wasn’t easy getting there. Five years ago, Perk was cut at ODP U15 regional camp. Most 14 year-olds would have run into that kind of adversity and said, “I’m not good enough, forget it.” Luckily for U.S. U20 coach Thomas Rongen, his starting goalkeeper kept working and eventually found his way onto the U15 national team and has made every age group since then.

Perk is now set to lead the team into Egypt for the U20 World Cup starting Sept. 24. Listening to him talk, you can tell that he’s a fan of the game as well as a player. The 19-year-old has posted five shutouts for the U20’s this year, but when asked if he keeps track of that stuff, he laughs it off. “No, it’s always good because if you get a shutout then you can’t lose.”

He already has experience in a U20 World Cup, taking part in Canada two years ago. Perk played against Uruguay in the Round of 16, making seven saves and helping the U.S. to a 2-1 victory after extra time.

Perk now trains with the Los Angeles Galaxy. caught up with him after a training session.

What are your plans for UCLA this season?

We start August 13. Me and (U.S. U20 midfielder) Mikey (Stephens) are ready to go back and hopefully win the national championship.  

With so much going on with the national team and UCLA, how often are you training with the Galaxy?

I train basically every time they train, everyday, other than when I’m at a national camp. I was here last summer. Kenny Arena, Bruce’s son, is our assistant coach so we have a good link. I’ve been a few other places, but I like here the best.

You guys recently went to Egypt to play a pair of friendlies against their U20 team in preparation for the upcoming U20 World Cup. How did it go?

It went pretty well, the game I played we won and we played in front of 20,000. That’s the environment that’ll be at the World Cup, so it was a good prelude and it was good to play Egypt because they were actually pretty strong. Playing the host country in their country, it’s a little different. They came out with a little more energy, but we held it and we won the first one and tied the second. That’s four points in two games. That’ll get you through in a World Cup, so we’ll take that if we can get that.

How does playing in the U20 World Cup in 2007 change your perspective for Egypt?

Playing behind [Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Chris] Seitz, there’s nobody better to sit behind because the way he approaches the game is at such a high level. I actually got in a game (against Uruguay) in the round of 16. The person I was then: I was a little bit nervy, you know, a little bit jittery. Now I’ve been in that situation and I’m completely capable to play there.

When will you guys start scouting for the Cup?

The coaching staff does a great job scouting. Rongen is very particular on details and we’ll have it all scouted out, set pieces and everything. So we’ll be ready. We’ll start talking about that, we have a camp in Argentina. [In Argentina] we’re playing Argentina, Uruguay, and either Brazil or Australia. We leave the 21st and we’ll probably start talking about [scouting] there and gearing towards [the World Cup opener versus] Germany and just getting ready.

Did you guys watch the Confederations Cup while you were in Egypt?

Of course, of course, that was awesome. It’s cool when we get to watch it as a team. We’re playing Brazil, we score the first two goals, and everyone’s kind of in shock almost. Although, you got a sense that they were going to pull at least one back. It was just fun watching it as a team, seeing the highs and the lows.

How do you watch a game like that, as opposed to how a regular fan watches the game?

I always watch Tim Howard, basically the way he approaches the game. Not necessarily the saves he makes because you can always look at that. Usually, as a goalkeeper, you watch how he reacts to certain stuff. When he makes a big time save, does he scream at his defense or does he say "Hey, I got you"? When I’m watching the game, I watch the field players, maybe the most skillful, but mainly I’m watching the goalkeepers and how they approach the game. Julio Cesar is also an awesome goalkeeper, so he’s fun to watch too.

What’s your favorite league to follow? What league do you think suits your play the best?

Bayern [Munich]’s probably is my favorite team, but I like La Liga. I just like the way they play. Since I’m a little shorter, it would be La Liga. That’s probably why I think it’s also the best league. They’re more technical and [there is] less emphasis on crossing balls. More kind of ‘toca’, ‘toca’, pass it, and then they’re in on goal. Every team tries to play, even the lesser teams, as opposed to in the EPL where they’re all physical, big, and they try to knock it into the box and head it in. If you look at teams like Mallorca, they actually try to play good soccer.

Have you talked to Landon Donovan about his time at Bayern?

No, I haven’t, I walked in with him the other day, but the more I talk to him, the more I’ll talk about specific stuff.

What are your thoughts on Oguchi Onyewu going to AC Milan?

That’s HUGE news! Any American . . . you got to have a smile on your face. Gooch, he’s certainly got the size, and hopefully he takes it and works hard, because if he wants it, I feel like he can be very successful over there.

Adam Hastings is a contributor

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