BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, August 19, 2011
As the list of promising young American players in Germany continues to grow, one player who is hoping to rise through the ranks is Freiburg U19 midfielder Caleb Stanko.
Stanko, 18, joined Freiburg last February and is now back with the team for his first full season in Germany.
"Everything at Freiburg is going well," Stanko told YA from Germany. "I arrived in Freiburg last March. We just started the season on August 13th with our first game against FC Kaiserslautern. We won 2-0."
Like many top young American players, Stanko had the ability to play in college. For the Michigan native, the decision was difficult but he wanted to play professional soccer and he felt making the move to Europe as soon as possible was best for him and his career.
"I decided to go to Freiburg because my dream is to become a professional soccer player and playing at Freiburg will better prepare me for that," Stanko said of the decision to go to to Germany. "Also, I can always go back to a university where as in professional sports that's not the case. Yes it was a tough choice, but with a lot of prayer and going over the pros and cons several times, my choice became clear that it was the right one."
Sixth months into his European career, Stanko is happy with the move and is especially pleased with the coaching in Germany. It is a far different environment than in the United States but for Stanko, the intensity cannot be matched.
"I can only speak from my experience with Frieburg, but yes the coaches here [...] have a great knowledge of the game," Stanko discussed. "Another reason their development is superior is simply the amount of times per week they train. We train six times a week plus a game on the weekend and the trainings are very intense."
This season Stanko has two clear goals for himself that he is confident he can achieve. The first is to claim the starting position for the U-19 team early in the season and then the second is two regularly train with the U-23 team.
The tasks are difficult and Stanko has to fight for his spot every training session but he is optimistic.
"So the first goal would to be a full time starter for the U-19s," Stanko explained. "It is not as simple as if you are playing better than the other player in your spot [and then] you get to play. You have to gain the respect and trust of the coaches and the players. In the eyes of the coach, I am inexperienced because I am not accustomed to the style of play."
"Another goal would to be training regularly with the second team halfway through the season," he added. "I went to the training camp with the second team and played very well so this is a definite goal for me."
An advantage that Stanko has within Freiburg's system is that he's very versatile. Since he's arrived, the coaches have been able to play him all throughout the midfield depending on the opposition.
When he's with the U-23 team, Stanko plays more on the outsides of the midfield and has even played right back on occasion.
"I would consider myself an aggressive player," Stanko described. "I am naturally a more defensive player but I have a creative side. It all depends on which position I am playing in and what the opposition is doing. With the U-19s I have played both holding and attacking center mid. When I play with the second team, I usually play right back or outside mid."
Stanko grew up playing his youth club soccer at Vardar in Michigan. Earlier in the year, the team entered into an affiliation agreement with Freiburg that will allow some Vardar players to train at the German club.
Stanko is an early success story in the partnership as he is the first player that Freiburg has brought into their organization and while this partnership is still new, Stanko is optimistic for its future.
"I had a great time at Vardar and had some great coaches who taught me a lot," Stanko said. "They definitely helped me to get where I am now. I think that the affiliation will give many young players opportunities to play in Europe. This will help the club as a whole because when the players at Vardar see how the trainings are here it will improve their trainings."
Should Stanko succeed in Freiburg, it could see him get a call for the US U-20 national team who will likely be hiring a coach in the near future to begin the 2013 U-20 World Cup cycle.
Stanko would be honored to represent his country but he insists the U-20's are not on his mind at the moment.
"Of course it would be nice to play with U20s but it is definitely not a priority to me," Stanko concluded. "I am mostly concerned with my development and progression within Freiburg."