Even with the holiday season right around the corner, the hard work continued this week for Caleb Porter and the prospective US U-23 player pool.
A week-long training camp wraps up on Dec. 23 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., with 30 players seeking to impress Porter and the rest of his coaching staff ahead of the March CONCACAF qualifying tournament. And so far, Porter is pleased with what he’s seen.
“I think we’ve made good progress,” he told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “We definitely have a better understanding of where we’re at and I think the guys have a better understanding of how we’re going to do things moving forward.”
The camp was also the first time Porter ran things on the ground after working from a distance during the previous U-23 training camp held in Germany last month.
“You feel like there’s now a connection,” he said. “Before, I was working from afar, but it feels good to be in with the guys, get to know them, get on the training pitch with them, start to develop a relationship and be in the trenches with them. That’s the best part.”
During the camp, Porter’s focus has been on identifying players who can fit into his preferred 4-3-3 system, bringing in a mixture of domestic-based players and those from abroad. This includes MLS talent like Teal Bunbury, Will Bruin, Danny Cruz, and those overseas, such as Mix Diskerud, Joe Gyau and Terrance Boyd.
While time isn’t on their side, Porter said he’s explained the next steps to the group and is planning on holding a few more camps prior to the March qualification tournament.
“The next camp, we’ll start to hone in on a little bit more on the pool, but it doesn’t mean if we don’t invite a guy to the next camp that he’s out of the mix,” Porter said. “That’s certainly one of the things we’ll tell the guys. Everybody needs to be ready, everybody needs to continue to work hard, we’re going to continue to watch and monitor all the players with their clubs.”
That next camp is tentatively scheduled to start the second week of January in Los Angeles and will last 10 days. At the end of that stretch, a trip to Central America is in the works to play a pair of friendlies as the preparations for March continue.
“The thought is we need to get games that are similar to the level we’re going to see in CONCACAF,” Porter said. “We can evaluate things all day long in training, but you need to see guys in games and we need to figure some things out in a real match or as close to a real match as possible.”