BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, December 8, 2010
As the US U-20 team heads to Florida next week to begin their final camp of 2010, one of the players who will be making his debut is Derby County forward Conor Doyle.
Doyle, 19, signed with the English Championship club after impressing during a trial over the summer. Previously he planned on attending Creighton University but instead opted to turn professional.
Doyle has already earned occasional playing time at Derby so far in his first season and he is now excited to be playing international soccer.
"Obviously it's a very, very special moment for me," Doyle told YA on Wednesday about his callup. "It's just hard to explain really the feeling you get when you are called up to represent your country. It's something that I've wanted to do but six or seven months ago I was not expecting to be involved like this. It's great."
While Doyle will be suiting up for the US for the first time next week, he has been on US U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen's radar for most of this season. Since joining Derby, Rongen has tried to call Doyle to the team but he was denied a release by the East Midlands club.
Doyle has found it tough to not get involved until this point but was happy that both his club and country felt that he was needed.
"It's been tough a little bit," Doyle described. "It was cool to hear [Coach Rongen] was interested earlier on in the season but the club couldn't let me go because we needed numbers. It worked both ways. It was good to know that the club needed me at that point in time and US Soccer respected that which was nice of them."
Doyle is well aware that he is entering into a team that is currently very deep at the forward position. Juan Agudelo, Adrian Ruelas, Bobby Wood, Tristan Bowen, Jack McInerney and Omar Salgado have all made strong impressions on Rongen.
Doyle knows that making the team will be a challenge but he is also confident and feels that the number of quality players will only make the team better.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge," Doyle said of the competition at forward on the US team. "It'll be nice to compete for a spot. That adds to the quality of training and in games because you know that if you don't play well you know that there is someone else there that can do your job just as well or if not, better. From what I've read, [the team] has been looking alright. Hopefully I can just add to that."
Since Doyle's career has taken off in England his national team affiliation has also come into question. Doyle also holds an Irish passport through his father and there have been numerous reports that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has also stepped up their scouting of Irish-Americans to represent Ireland's national team.
Doyle acknowledges that he has received some interested from Ireland and he is honored by that. While he will be playing next week for the US, he still admits that his decision on his international future is not final.
"The fact that they are interested is a huge honor and another unexplainable feeling," Doyle said of the FAI interest. "I still feel that options are still open, to be honest. No decisions have been completely made just yet. There is no focus on one or the other at the moment. They have showed some interest, for sure."
As for now, Doyle is still focused on continuing to develop as a player and to helping Derby County wherever he can. He adds that he is a far different player than he was just a few months ago and attributes this to the quality coaching and superior facilities that are in England.
"It's been very quick to come in and be on the bench every game so far," Doyle assessed of his season. "To say that I've already got two starts to my name and a handful of appearances off the bench is pretty special as well. Also playing every game for the reserves is a lot more than I ever thought I'd be doing."
"On a personal level, I am very happy with where I am at right now and how I've progressed as a player in the last six or seven months," he continued. "I am a different player now. I've learned a lot more and the coaching has definitely helped. I think the main difference is the facilities. The US is catching up but it is definitely not like it is over here."
Doyle is very excited about both his potential to develop as a top player and also for the potential of Derby to make a run for a promotion to the Premier League in the second half of the season with many top players at the club returning from injury.
Contributing to a team with eyes on playing in one of the world's best leagues is a top priority for Doyle and the opportunity to learn from the experience will only make him a stronger player.
"Me, personally, I just want to keep learning and maybe get a few more appearances and keep playing in the reserves," Doyle concluded. "It's more of a learning experience. It's pretty special being with these guys day in and day out. I really honestly feel we have a good shot at finishing in the top six and hopefully going into the playoffs and we could possibly go up."
This Saturday Derby County travel to take on Bristol City. Doyle will then depart for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to play with the US U-20 national team from the 12th through the 19th.