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U.S. U23 hopefuls await their fate

Published: March 6, 2012

The U.S. U23 men’s national team wrapped up its latest camp a week ago, and as qualifying looms, players wait to learn if they’ve made the qualifying roster. 

The camp wrapped up with a 2-0 win over Mexico’s U23s, a successful result no matter the friendly nature of the match. And as March 22 – the opening date of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament – draws closer, head coach Caleb Porter has some tough decisions to make. A U.S. Soccer spokesman says the roster is likely to be announced early next week.

But despite the stakes of the last camp, players thoroughly enjoyed the experience in Frisco, Texas.

“It’s been great,” Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury said. “Getting a lot of the guys together, building chemistry on and off the field, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Bunbury is a well-known commodity to coach Porter, having played for him at Akron. The fast forward appeared in most of the previous U23 camps over the past few months, but the late February camp featured new call ups as well, like Hertha Berlin’s defender/midfielder Alfredo Morales and San Jose Earthquakes center back Ike Opara.

u23 mens soccer head coach caleb porterCaleb Porter
The hulking defender was a member of the U20 World Cup squad, and quickly felt at home within the group.

“I think it went really well,” he said. “It’s been a breath of fresh air, being in preseason with San Jose and coming to this camp, I’m trying to do well.”

With the qualifying tournament so close, this particular camp took on a unique nature. As hinted at by Porter earlier in the year, many of the players called in are on the cusp of making the roster, allowing for the team to start building chemistry.



However, with only 18 players selected on the roster, there was still the need to impress the coaching staff, which kept training sessions very intense.

“You only get a short amount of time, it’s not like a club team where you have a nine month season or anything like that, so coming into these camps there’s a lot of competition and I feel like it brings out the best of everybody,” Bunbury said.

In the camp finale against Mexico, the players appeared to have fully embraced and understood Porter’s desired style of play. Utilizing an attack-minded 4-3-3, the U.S. outplayed and out-possessed Mexico for long stretches of the game, and could have scored more than just the two goals.

From all indications, the players are adapting extremely well, and Opara reflected as such.

“It’s a very good system to play, it’s very enjoyable,” he said. “I think all the guys and the coaches have made it easy because there’s been a lot of continuity with the guys being in camp and they’ve made it easier for new guys like myself.”

And for Bunbury, the U23 experience was particularly enjoyable, giving him a chance to work closely with his college coach once again.

“It’s been great to work with him again,” Bunbury said. “He’s carrying a lot of his philosophies from Akron over to this team, so a lot of these things I know well, but he’s bringing some new things as well, it’s good to just have that open communication and be working with him again.”

 
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