By Paul Kennedy from Soccer America
The U.S. under-18 men’s national team recently completed a successful training camp in the Netherlands, where it beat the Dutch under-18 national team, featuring seven starters from its 2012 UEFA U-17 championship team, and youth teams from Borussia Dortmund and Feyenoord before losing its last game to Belgium's Club Brugge.
Perez said it was a very good camp for two reasons.
"One, we had for the first time only ‘95s in this group," he told ussoccer.com. "Most of the players have already been with us, but we had other players that came for the first time. They were very well integrated into the team and the dynamic of the group and the system of play. That was very good news that we have a solid group. The other reason is that we wanted to offer the opportunity for the team to be in a very competitive environment and compete with different types of play with teams from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It was accomplished and the good thing was the team received good results."
The big win came against the Netherlands, which won its second straight UEFA U-17 in May.
“It was outstanding," said Perez. "It was a very consistent game and very difficult. The players are not used to that level of game. When we have the opportunity to play against such a big nation in the soccer world, we have to embrace it. I think the players did. At the beginning, the Netherlands was very aggressive with the ball and they were moving the ball well. We came down and were concentrated and well organized and little-by-little we started to take control of the game. We have to give credit to our players. We have talent in the team and being focused in the game and being mentally strong - the mental strength was probably the most important thing in that game. They are quality players. We scored four goals against one of the strongest soccer nations in the world and all four goals came from four different players. They completed a remarkable game and outstanding performance.”
The group Perez is working with is preparing for the 2015 Under-20 World Cup.
“I think now they understand that they are part of something special," he said. "We are building something special. This trip reflects a lot of that. Being able to go to the Netherlands and play against some of the best teams in Europe is very remarkable. They feel good and part of the team. From my part, what I want is to provide them with as best an experience as possible."