Davis' Discussions: Marcus Tracy

The American player has seen his performances in Denmark garner national team attention.
By Noah Davis

Marcus 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.

After all, the emerging star hasn't participated before. 

"I 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."

Tracy, 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. 

The 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."

It 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 Tracy.

Understanding he had the confidence of his boss was invaluable to the young striker.

"How 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."

Despite 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 effectiveness.

He wouldn't score another goal.

The 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.

This 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.

While 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.

"It 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."

And 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 fine. 

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.

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