MEGHAN BRENNAN - Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Norwegian-American Erik Benjaminsen says he is thrilled to have been called to the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team for the Cor Gronewegen Tournament in Holland starting on May 22nd.
It was head of Stabaek player development Pal Berg who received the formal request for Benjaminsen to join the squad in Holland.
Berg relayed the message to the ecstatic 17 year old who had previously stated that if the call from US officials ever came, that he would take it in a heartbeat.
"I'm very excited about getting the call, but also a little nervous," Benjaminsen told YA on Tuesday. "I feel that this is a huge opportunity for me, so it is important to be both mentally and physically prepared to do the best I can."
While nerves are expected, they are likely to fade once the Bay Area-born midfielder steps foot onto the field. At age 14, Benjaminsen became the youngest member of Stabaek's U-19 team and learned to call the field home.
As a part of Stabaek's B team, in the Norwegian 2. Division, Benjaminsen was afforded the opportunity to train with the Eliteserien squad during preseason camp in La Manga, Spain. It was an experience he believes has prepared him for success in a US jersey.
"Players in the Eliteserien for the most part are much stronger players and definitely more mature in their game [compared to 2. Division]," he explained.
In addition to training in La Manga, Benjaminsen spent ample time in the gym and working on his right foot, work he hopes won't go unnoticed by Rongen.
"I kept my focus during my preseason training and feel that it really has paid off," Benjaminsen noted. "I want to make sure I can show coach Rongen my skills no matter how much playing time I get on the field."
Benjaminsen equally looks forward to playing with his American counterparts come May.
"The thing I admire most about American athletes is that they play to win. I can bet that these players [U-20 teammates] all have the same competitive drive and will do their absolute best."
But before he can join the U-20 team and Coach Rongen, Benjaminsen has commitments he must fulfill in Norway. He expects them to serve as further preparation for Holland.
"I have a couple of junior games and a couple of games for Stabaek's second team before the middle of May," he concluded. "I want to make sure to use all of my playing time to be at my best with my mental and physical game."
The US U-20 starts play May 22nd in Holland where they will face Heerenveen, Atletico Mineiro, FC Utrecht, the Egyptian Youth National Team and the Japanese Youth National Team in Pool B.