With two defeats on Thursday, the U.S. U15 Boys National Team camp, the first for the 1998 age group, ended with a thud.
The results were not the main concern for any party involved though, as the overall performance from the collective group left a bitter taste from an otherwise positive camp.
“In terms of evaluation and learning about the group, it has been a really meaningful week,” U15 BNT head coach Tony Lepore told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We felt like we really got to know the group.”
The 36-player camp started last Saturday and concluded with exit interviews with the players on Friday. The weeklong event included scrimmages against Los Angeles Galaxy and Strikers FC on Tuesday*, and then more games against Chivas USA and San Diego Surf on Thursday.*
While wins and losses are hardly meaningful at this stage of the development, the fact that the youth national team only captured one win from the fixtures was a change from previous camps were four wins was the norm.
The comments from Lepore suggested that the discussion about player evaluation and identification would take a priority during these upcoming months before the next camp, which is in January.
Between now and then, Lepore plans to attend a number of events including the USSF’s Development Academy showcase in December and a U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program event in search of adding new players to this group.
“I was sharing with the players earlier in the camp that we average about 70 players during these camps,” Lepore added. “That is a really important part of this age group especially an even year group, which is the team for the U17 World Cup.”
This camp did offer the chance for a few players (outside the core group) to make an impression and one individual definitely seized the occasion.
Lonestar SC (Austin, Texas) forward Orrin Gaines II finished the camp with two goals. The 14-year-old started with the ‘A Team’ in Thursday’s scrimmages and was the only player from the youth national team to score in both games.
Gaines appeared in one of the early camps with this age cycle, but has not been called in recently. The attacker featured as a winger last week where he showed a good change of pace and solid ability to finish with either foot.
Juan Ramirez (Bethesda Lions) also showed well in limited minutes with the ‘A team.’ The center midfielder had some decisive passes in the game against Strikers FC on Tuesday, but struggled against the more physical Chivas USA midfield later in the week.
There were other players who left a mark from the week, but, like with Ramirez, the consistency between the two games showed flaws in a number of players. The work ahead for Lepore and his staff will be finding the players that can fill the voids exposed over this week.