DUISBURG, Germany — It may not be the first name United States fans think of when pondering next summer's squad for next summer's Olympic Games in London, but Tony Taylor just happens to have a few aces up his sleeve for making it.
The 22-year-old forward is currently enjoying the initial Under-23 camp in Germany's Ruhr Vally. The group, which offically begins the drive for Olympic gold, is filled with a wealth of exciting young attackers.
With new U-23 boss Caleb Porter currently busy with his University of Akron job, all these talents are soaking up knowledge on the mandated 4-3-3 system from coaches Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos.
Taylor’s first ace in the hole? He already knows this formation.
"I played it with the U-20's and my club, Atlético, plays it, so I have some experience with it," Taylor told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday.
Taylor worked all three games of the failed US effort at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup, scoring the winner against Cameroon in the group stage.
He was a center forward then, but he’s come to know and enjoy all three of the attack line positions — his second ace.
"I like all of them," said Taylor. "I'm an attack player, so where ever they see me [playing] is fine."
He generally works from right wing for Atlético CP, who lead the Portuguese second division by five points. Taylor has scored once in seven outings, six of them starts.
Listening to Taylor talk about Atlético life makes him almost seem an obvious fit for the Olympic team. The club was not expected to set the Liga de Honra early pace. In fact, everyone but the guys in the clubhouse are waiting for them to slip. And that level of international pressure might just be the third trick up Taylor’s sleeve, and one not a ton of other players can boast.
"We're real tight as a unit, and once we win the ball we try to attack fast — it's effective," Taylor said. "I'm doing a lot of defending myself. We go back defending as a team and we go forward as a team."
This week, though, he's doing all that in Red, White & Blue and enjoying it. And of course, he's begun vying for the Olympic medal nearly every American kid growing up for the last several decades backyard-fantasized about winning.
"Things are going really well," said Taylor. "Trainings are very competitive. Everyone wants to show what they can do. Everybody's pushing each other. It would be a dream come true to make the final squad. I'm just going to keep working hard and having fun at it."