CHICAGO (Jan. 22, 2009) – The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team that recently claimed the Australian Youth Olympic Festival championship featured 13 players that are current or former players in Development Academy clubs.
Before traveling to Australia, the U-18s held a 72-player mega camp at The Home Depot Center under Mike Matkovich, who was appointed head coach of the team just days before camp opened. From that camp, 18 players were selected for the Australia tournament.
Four of the players Matkovich selected had never been a part of the Youth National Team program before. Three of those players – Will Bates (Richmond Strikers),Miles Byass (Arsenal SC) and Scott Prozeller (FC Greater Boston) – started all three games for the U.S. down under.
“I think that’s a tribute to the mega camp and to the whole process U.S. Soccer went through before I even came on board,” said Matkovich. “I have to give credit there to Tony Lepore, John Hackworth and the whole scouting network. They hired me as the head coach but the network did all the scouting and essentially ‘gave me’ great players.”
Three players included in the roster were named to the inaugural Development Academy Starting XI squad as Gale Agbossoumonde (IMG Academy soccer program), Jossimar Sanchez (PDA) and Zarek Valentin (IMG Academy soccer program/PA Classics) earned the honor during the 2007-08 season. As a credit to those who nominated them for that honor, Matkovich chose the trio based on their performance at the mega camp.
“The philosophy I instilled in the Mega Camp from day one was that everything was based on their performance that week,” he said. “Nothing in the past mattered and previous accomplishments didn't matter to me.”
Valentin, a defender who is also part of Thomas Rongen’s Under-20 pool, went on to be one of only three players to play all 270 minutes over the course of three games in Sydney.
“Obviously once we got to Australia, players earned their place on the field based on how they were performing,” Matkovich said. “I think it’s a neat thing to see that the system is working in this way and whoever the coach is can find great players quickly."
Now that he has more time to settle into his new position, Matkovich will be scouting more and becoming more involved with the Academy process. With upcoming domestic and foreign training camps ahead in 2009, he hopes to build on the success of his first international trip.
“I’ll be out watching Academy games and seeing a lot of players,” he said. “We had a great trip to Sydney, but there is certainly a lot of work ahead.”