Thursday, October 1, 2009
At this time last year, United States U-20 midfielder Dillon Powers probably would have laughed off the notion that he would be playing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.
But that is exactly what has happened to the Plano, Texas native whose meteroric rise to head coach Thomas Rongen's squad has factored into the US' prospects of advancing to the knockout round of the tournament.
The learning curve has been steep for the Notre Dame freshman who did not even get called to play for Rongen in a friendly until this past June. Inexperience at the international level aside, Powers remains confident that his work ethic will help the team achieve new heights.
"There is definitely a huge jump", Powers told YA in Egypt. "That's the hardest part of the transition. It can be overwhelming at first but through training you can get accustomed to the environment. You have to hold yourself to the highest standard. I got on really late in the cycle and I just try to do what I can here to contribute to the team. It's been kind of an overwhleming jump but I am really excited."
Powers is one of several players on the team who elected to play college soccer rather than seek playing opportunities with a professional club.
Often the question has been raised as to whether or not college soccer stumps the growth of players due to the limited schedule which consists of just four months out of the year.
The biggest challenge, noted by the Fighting Irish man, is the lack of playing after the season is over which can pose a threat to players wishing to maintain a playing level that meets the standards of international tournaments.
"In the offseason, I would say that is when it really shows. You have to do your own stuff and be proactive or else you may lose a step."
Powers' situation of playing college soccer while also being ready to play competitively at an international level is something that the US Soccer Federation continues to wrestle with with in its youth ranks.
When pressed as to what a player like himself would offer as a solution to further develop high-caliber collegiate players, the Lone Star Resident prefers to look at the youth development system as a whole and readily lauds the work done by the USSF to prepare its future stars.
"I don't know the solution but as a country, we are getting better every day. I can see it in our youth programs. I look at the real young kids and say, ‘I don't know if I could have done that when I was that age.' So those are the kinds of things I see. I really have a lot of faith in the US program going forward," he concluded.
Powers and the rest of his U-20 teammates return to action on Friday when they square off against South Korea at Mubarak Stadium in Suez.