On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer released a 31-player roster for the U-23 national team training camp set to begin Nov. 7 in Duisburg, Germany. The list was dominated by players based in Europe, especially Germany, as the federation gets its first look at candidates for Olympic qualifying which begins in April.
Newly anointed head coach Caleb Porter will not be in attendance for the 10-day camp due to his duties as head coach of the University of Akron, but did speak about the camp late last month in his introductory press conference.
“November, even though I am not going to be there, is really about getting a look at some of these international guys,” Porter said. “[Players] that we’ve heard about, we’ve seen on tape that we think could help us so we know where we are at going into the January and February camps.”
The new U-23 coach will stay stateside and continue to coach the Akron Zips, as they look to defend their national title. In his place, Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna will lead the camp with the help of recently hired U-18 coach Richie Williams.
Porter had plenty of say in the roster, but he will ultimately rely on Reyna and Williams with player evaluations especially for new faces like German-born Andrew Wooten and Tyrone McCargo who are getting their first introduction to the U.S. Soccer Federation with this camp.
“Caleb [Porter] understands this pool of players. I know he looks at a lot of tape and follows the league quite heavily,” U.S. Soccer Federation CEO Dan Flynn said during the press conference when asked about scouting the player pool. “Former U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen did a lot of identifying of players around Europe.”
This Euro-heavy camp is the first of the process for Porter and his staff as they evaluate personnel to find the right pieces to the puzzle.
“A lot of this process is going to be finding the right players, it is going to be personnel selection,” Porter added. “These guys on this list are pros and playing at a very high level. They know the game, they know how to play, it is a matter of to be picking the right mix of players.”
Along with the rookies from Germany, U.S.-born players based in Europe are also getting a chance to impress the new regime including Caleb Stanko who joined SC Freiburg in June and started the last six games with the club’s U-19 team. This is the Michigan native’s first call up to the national team.
Two other Michiganders join Stanko on the roster in Sean Cunningham and Josh Gatt, both from Norwegian league champion Molde FK. Gatt factors to be a limited participant at the camp as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury, but was a key contributor to Molde’s championship run and should be one of the cogs of the U-23 team. Club teammate Cunningham is a natural left back and also eligible for the next U-20 cycle.
Joining Stanko, Wooten, and the other new names to the program is Mexican-American Joe Corona who has also appeared with the Mexico U-22 team in recent months. The winger from Club Tijuana grew up in San Diego and spent his youth with storied La Jolla club Nomads SC. The former San Diego State standout is keeping options open for an international future, but faces a crowded position for this age group with Gatt, Joe Gyau, and others competing for spots.
The roster also includes some players from the last U-20 CONCACAF Championship team, which failed to qualify for the 2011 U-20 World Cup, including Zarek Valentin and Perry Kitchen. Both are former Akron players and have enjoyed successful rookie campaigns in MLS.
Don’t expect to see any current Akron players making the squad though, as Porter has made it clear this team should be made up of professionals.
“With the U-23s, we should be compromised of all professionals,” he said last month. “There may be a couple college guys we look at, but we are at the point in this country where the U-20s and U-23s should be primarily professional players.”
Following the November camp, Porter and his staff will turn their attention to whittling down the pool to make effective use of the two camps to start the new year, which figure to be stateside and led by the new leading man.
“From there, it is about honing in on the group and now the building starts,” Porter added. “Getting them used to the style and how we are going to play and the chemistry together.”
The coach said the style would be similar to how his teams play at Akron with a possession dominant approach, but it would all fall into accord with how U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann wanted the teams to play.
Porter is confident with this group and anticipates a positive showing in qualifying.
“Looking at the initial pool we’ve got an extensive list of players playing in MLS and overseas,” the coach said. “And with that group we should have an extremely good chance to achieve successful results.”
Full roster -
Goalkeepers: David Bingham, Cody Cropper, Sean Johnson, Jon Kempin
Defenders: Gale Agbossoumonde, Anthony Brooks, Sean Cunningham, Royal-Dominique Fennell, Perry Kitchen, Zarek Valentin, Ethan White
Midfielders: Joe Corona, Mixx Diskerud, Dilly Duka, Greg Garza, Jared Jeffrey, Sebastian Lletget, Tyrone McCargo, Will Packwood, Charles Renken, Caleb Stanko, Jose Villarreal
Forwards: Terrance Boyd, Conor Doyle, Josh Gatt, Joe Gyau, Jerome Kiesewetter, Omar Salgado, Tony Taylor, Bobby Wood, Andrew Wooten
Follow J.R. ESKILSON on