This week, the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team and the Under-14 Boys' National Team are both training at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California. Having camps just one field apart gave the squads an opportunity to gather together after training and meet for a group lunch. For the U-14's, it was an opportunity to see where continued hard work might lead. For the U-23's, it was a reminder of how far they have come, and an opportunity to share with the youngsters what they have learned along the way.
“Getting together is really important,” U-14 BNT head coach Brian Johnson said. “I think it’s important for both age groups actually. For the U-14's, it’s an opportunity to see older players, who have come through, as most of [the U-23's] have come through the system. It’s important for them to be able to talk to the [U-23’s] and eat lunch with them and ask questions and just engage in community.”
With the U-14's being the youngest of U.S. Soccer’s Youth National Teams and the U-23's being the last stop before the Senior National Team, the boys were able to tap into the older players' full range of U.S. Soccer experiences.
U-23 MNT midfielder Luis Gil laughs with members of the U-14 Boys' National Team. Players from both teams shared lunch while simultaneously training at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California.
“It feels very good and I feel very blessed that I got chosen to be with this talented group of players,” U-14 forward Jose Rivas said. “I asked how it feels to score in an international game. I asked where they played as youngsters and where they grew up and where they plan to play in the next few years.”
The U-14's and the U-23's were spread out amongst the tables and had the chance to sit with players that play the same positions. Rivas had the opportunity to sit down with a fellow forward.
“I talked to Jordan Morris, the man who scored against Mexico,” Rivas said grinning. “So happy. He said he doesn’t really know how it felt, it was a blur for him.”
In the coming years, Rivas hopes to have an experience like that of his own, but in the meantime, he will continue to work towards that goal. This week he gets to watch from only steps away, an experience he said is very special.
“It’s important that the U-14's see that connection and that they have these guys to look up to.” Johnson said. “They kind of find out some of the things that they’ve done well, and also maybe some of the things that have been tough for them and the different obstacles to overcome.
“When you play for the National Team it gets harder and harder as you get older, so it’s important for them to know, even specifically with their own positions, some of the stuff they do well, and maybe some of the things that they work on their own outside of training, so that they can do better and ultimately help the team.”