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Analysis: A Closer Look into U-23 Squad Ahead of Olympic Qualifying

Preparations for the US U-23 Men's National Team are reaching the final stages before Olympic qualifying matches. The US was drawn into Group A of the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament and will begin the competition against Cuba on March 22nd. US U-23 Men's National Team head coach Caleb Porter has had two camps already with this group and is looking to further establish the squad moving into January.

In an interview with a reporter from on December 12th, Porter commented on his immediate plans for the build up to the qualifying rounds. Porter spoke about the schedule for the next three months.

"We've got this camp Dec. 15-23. We want to do a camp in January, and the plan is to do another 10-day camp domestically. Piggybacking on the tail end of that, we want to travel somewhere in Central America, and we want to play two games," said U-23 head coach Caleb Porter.

Rumors have risen about games against top Costa Rican clubs, namely Saprissa and Alajuelense with a third game to be scheduled. No official report has been released, but it is certain that Porter will hold a January camp in Los Angeles.

Caleb Porter has been working very closely with Klinsmann to make sure his preparations are in sync with Klinsmann's new national team standards. The idea being, that if any of these young guys get a first team call up, their environment wouldn't change, in terms of preparation. This is one of the many new changes JK has instituted in the US National Team structure. 

One other major change to the National Team is the style of play, and Klinsmann has stated from the beginning that the same system will be instituted from the senior team all the way down to the U-17s.

Porter has had tremendous success at the college ranks with the University of Akron, highlighted by his national title victory in 2010. Player development at Akron did not go unnoticed. Mainly due to the fact that Porter was responsible for launching the careers of Steve Zakuani and Teal Bunbury, not to mention setting an MLS record with five Akron alums selected out of the first eight picks in the 2011 SuperDraft.

More importantly, the main reason for Porters selection was Akron's style of play. A free flowing, possession oriented, offensive minded style; this is a similar structure to the one being introduced by Jurgen Klinsmann with the senior team. It's no secret that Porter has been working very closely with JK on this "style", which has been evident on the training grounds. Just hearing Porter talk about instituting subtle changes to training methods makes one understand how you begin teaching the philosophy of possession. 

One of the methods for instituting this "style" included a small sided game where the emphasis is to score a goal either by traditional means or by completing seven passes. Sounds simple right? Really the drill is to emphasize the pathos of possession oriented football without taking away the traditional understanding of the game, to score goals. Thus, the players begin to learn on a rudimentary level that passing is just as important as scoring goals. Of course, it's all much more advanced than that but you get the general idea.

This may not seem like a huge overhaul and certainly one drill doesn't define a legacy. However, if you look at the current selection of players invited into the camps thus far, you can get a certain feel that something is changing, in terms of player selection to fit the new method. Not a huge change, but it is certainly saying something when you include a player like Freddy Adu, still only 22, who's style of play will facilitate the creativity so badly needed at all levels of US Soccer. Adu along with some other talented players like Bryan Arguez and Joe Corona could lead the US to a promising Olympic run this summer. 

Still, it's very interesting, and I believe foreboding, that most of these players are playing somewhere in the world with a contract as a professional footballer. Only two college players were invited to the first camp, Sebastian Ibeagha and Andrew Wenger. Kelyn Rowe, from UCLA, was added during the last camp in December, to make up a small college player contingency on the current U-23 squad. 

What does this say for the college game?  Do you think Porter has had enough time to institute his changes and make the squad competitive? Let us know what you think and leave a comment below.

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