CARSON, California - U.S. Soccer coaches had an early look at the next generation of players this week at the StubHub Center in Southern California. The U.S. U14 Girls National Team was in camp for the first time. This age group consists of players born in 2004 and 2005.
As U.S. Soccer coach April Kater pointed out after an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday, this is the youngest group that U.S. Soccer has assembled for a Youth National Team camp. There were some 11-year-olds on the field on Wednesday.
The purpose of these events is to get the elite player in the U.S. Soccer system used to the style and standards the National Team coaches have for the best of the best in these age groups.
If Wednesday’s practice was any indication of things to come, there is a reason to be very optimistic about this group. The sophistication of the play during a 60-minute game was impressive for a young collection of players. There were moments of individual brilliance, which is to be expected in a scenario that is roughly on level with an all-star game, but there was also spells of possession that were unexpected for a group who had only practiced a few times together.
“I thought both teams had good possession sequences,” Kater told TopDrawerSoccer after the game. “Hopefully, the fans saw that we value players who are technical, players who are comfortable on the ball, and players who are dynamic and can create.”
Kater and her coaching staff still have a few more days with this group and she is planning to make the most of her time with the players.
“We want to keep stressing technique, and valuing possession of the ball,” Kater said about her plans for the rest of camp. “I think we are going to get after it a little bit more with grit and competition. We are going to keep scores so we are elevating the effort. A lot of these players are the best players on their club teams, the best players in their regions so they are on the ball a lot, but their work rate and decision-making off the ball is not as dynamic or as intense as it needs to be so that is something we need to address. Even though defending is not a topic in this camp, that transition, fight, and grit, which is such a part of this American culture, is something we want to see more from this group.”
Kater’s emphasis on transition and fight came on the heels of an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday afternoon, which had every player get some playing time in front of the coaches. TopDrawerSoccer was on hand for the game, and highlights some of the best players from the day below.