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US U-23 coach Porter: It's my job to qualify US for Olympics

The Twittersphere is still debating Caleb Porter’s hiring on Thursday as the head coach of the US Under-23 men’s national team, but the man himself isn’t bothered. He’s diving right in.

The University of Akron coach, whose Zips won the NCAA Championship last year, has just four months to prepare for CONCACAF’s Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament, scheduled for next March. And he spent most of Thursday on the phone with US manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna discussing the U-20/23 camp scheduled for November in Germany.

“We went through every position, went through the players in each position from MLS, players overseas that we weren’t necessarily aware of,” Porter told reporters in a conference call on Friday. “Everybody was giving their opinion. I expect to have many more of those same conversations. At the same time, it’s going to be my job to select the group. It’s my job to get this group prepared, to pick the players, and to prepare them for qualify for the Olympics.”

In building the US Olympic team, Porter, 36, also indicated that while Klinsmann and the others will be heavily involved, Porter hopes to construct a team playing an attractive, attacking style, similar to the one he employs at Akron.

“In my conversations with Jurgen, we are in line philosophically in the way that we want to do things,” he said. “And the nice thing, too, is we’re not naïve. We don’t think we’re going to throw out the ball tomorrow and play like Spain.

“But we do want to play a proactive approach, we want to — if we can — possess the ball, and I think there has to be an emphasis on the attack.”

Over the next few months, Porter will continue guiding Akron through the college soccer season. The Zips are currently 10-2-2 on the season, and ranked No. 4 in MLSsoccer.com’s latest Top 20 rankings. (See full rankings.)

At the same time, Porter will prepare for the upcoming national team camp in November. However, he will not actually be in Germany. His current coaching duties will keep him in the States, and the camp will be run on the ground by Ramos and Reyna.

“I’m going to be talking to them regularly over there, getting tapes of the games and be discussing things afterwards,” Porter said. “Right now, we’re focused on the November camp and seeing as many guys as possible. We’ll take if from there.”

Once the college season wraps up, Porter will hold camps in January and February in order to continue to identify possible Olympic-caliber players for the March qualification tournament, with the goal of simply qualifying for the 2012 Olympics the first target in his sights.

“Right now we have four-and-a-half months to get the group ready to qualify for the Olympics,” he said. “We understand we’re a bit under the gun here – I’ve dove right into this process.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.