BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, July 8, 2010
With the US U20 national team winding down camp in San Jose, one of the players who has most helped his cause moving forward in the current cycle is forward Omar Salgado.
Salgado's path to the joining the US U20 team is one that has required great sacrifice. Salgado has been playing within the Chivas de Guadalajara system in Mexico, which is well regarded for its policy of only employing players eligible for the Mexican national team.
When he was invited by US U20 head coach Thomas Rongen to take part in a camp for the US, it would put him directly at odds with the policy of his club. Being unable to play for both the US and for Chivas, Salgado accepted the call from the US and has permanently left Chivas. He now wants to return to the US to play.
"There was a conflict with [Chivas]," Salgado told YA. "Unfortunately we had to discuss that and I am now looking to come back to the US in MLS. I am looking for the move right now for this coming season."
With his recent departure from Chivas, Salgado has yet to talk to any US teams but his father has been helping him in this matter.
"Right now I haven't been in talks with any team personally," he said of his club status. "But my father has been in touch with some of them. He's trying to work it out."
For Salgado, his choice to represent the United States marks a change in international plans. He had been taking part in Mexican U20 camps but he insists the US has always been in top choice with Chivas previously acting as a barrier to US participation.
"I wanted to come to the US but because of Chivas, I wasn't able to," Salgado discussed. "I decided I was going to tell them anyway that I was going to come over here."
Having now taken part in national team camps at the U20 level for both Mexico and the United States, the 16 year old is in a good position to compare the two teams at this level. Despite only having been with the US for one camp, he prefers the situation with the Stars and Stripes compared to that of El Tri.
"It's different because the players here are stronger and faster," Salgado assessed. "They are much bigger so it's a different rhythm of game and of play. The coaches treat you better over here. They talk to you more but the training is practically the same. We do almost the same exact thing."
A native of El Paso, Texas, Salgado is one of many Mexican-Americans involved with this US camp. Having played in Mexico, he is familiar with many of the players and it has made things easier for him to get adjusted to the US environment.
"It makes it a lot easier since I already know most of them," he said of his Mexican-American teammates. "It's the same culture and you get along with them really well. It's easy."
The hopeful Nat has certainly appeared to be comfortable in his debut US camp, as Rongen has singled him out as one of the most impressive players in this group and wants to use him moving forward in the cycle. The young attacker agrees with his coach that things have gone well so far.
"It's been really, really, good," Saldgado admitted. "We've had really tough games against San Jose Earthquakes. The first game we didn't do really well. In the second one, we got together and we got the result."
Salgado is also optimistic of bringing his game to the US on a full time basis. With the sport of soccer growing significantly in stature in the US, he feels that good things are in store for MLS as the nation's top domestic league which will, in time, help the national team.
"I think that the league is going to get way better," he predicted. "They are going to get paid way better. They are going to start growing and maybe getting to the quarterfinals and semifinals of the World Cup."
Salgado is also excited to be part of a US program that appears likely to be heavily influenced from a growing number of players with Central and South American backgrounds. He feels that this influence will help the US team over the long run.
"I think [the USSF] will start looking more over here because there is a lot of opportunity," Salgado concluded. "They will change the style of play because it's very different and they are going to combine with the US players and make a team."