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Philly's Vartughian making most of US U-23 coaching role

For Rob Vartughian, the only thing better than joining the US U-23 coaching staff for their recent camp in Germany was getting the opportunity to do so with three Philadelphia Union players.

Vartughian, an assistant coach with the Union, made the trip with midfielder Amobi Okugo, forward Jack McInerney and defender Sheanon Williams for what was the team’s first training session in preparation for the 2012 Olympics.

“Any time you get to be a part of a national team and be in those kind of settings, it’s an honor,” Vartughian told MLSsoccer.com. “Those trips are a lot of fun. It was a good group, and obviously the familiarity with our guys going was great.”

This is not Vartughian’s first time in the national team circuit. Leading up to the 2008 Olympics, he tutored goalkeepers on Peter Nowak’s U-23 squad but didn’t make the trip to Beijing for the Summer Games.

Vartughian isn’t sure if he’ll be asked to coach in the 2012 Olympics on Caleb Porter’s staff. Like anyone, though, he said he would love to have that opportunity if it arises.

Either way, he thinks Porter, the highly successful University of Akron coach, is the right man to guide the U-23 team.

“I think he’s great,” Vartughian said. “You look at some of the things he’s done, you look at how his teams play and all the guys he’s recently put into MLS – obviously he’s doing very well and I think he’s a good choice to lead this group.”

While the Olympics are still a ways off, Vartughian will remain busy in the MLS offseason preparing for the SuperDraft. A former University of Maryland assistant coach, Vartughian knows the college scene well and, along with fellow Union coach John Hackworth, has been scouting NCAA games for much of the year.

The Union are coming off an excellent draft, where they selected their goalie of the future in Zac MacMath with the fifth overall pick before swiping Rookie of the Year finalist Michael Farfan in the second round.

Their task at hand will be a little more difficult with the 13th pick in January’s draft, but Vartughian is eager for the challenge.

“I think in the past we’ve benefited from having a really good handle on the pool of players based on the places we’ve been,” the Union coach said. “We’ll be drafting farther down than we’ve had in the past but we still feel like there will be good players around the time we select. We’ll have a pretty good feel of the landscape going into that week.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com