BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, November 16, 2011
As the first US U-20 and U-23 camps come to a close in Duisburg, central defender John Anthony Brooks is excited to be with the US teams moving forward.
Brooks, 18, is widely considered one of the top American youth prospects but he has only infrequently played for US youth national teams in the past.
In fact, this most recent camp was only his third time representing the US after playing for the US U20 team in August 2010 and May 2011.
As a youth player, Brooks developed at Hertha Berlin and at the conclusion of last season in May he signed a four year professional contract to remain at the club after turning down an offer from Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
Brooks is expected to be an important part of the US U-20 team in the new cycle moving towards the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey. He also is considered to be a contender to be on the 2012 US Olympic team despite also being age-eligible for the 2016 Olympic team as well.
With the camp in Duisburg now behind him, Brooks is happy with both the U-20 and U-23 teams moving forward.
"I think we have a good team here [in Duisburg] - both U-20's and U-23's," Brooks told YA from Duisburg. "Just like the coach said, it is one of the strongest squads that we've ever had. We have to prove ourselves every day at practice. And the coach is also very good, no complaints there. My biggest goal [for the USA] is of course to be there and to play, and to contribute as much as I can. I will give 110% to reach that goal and practice hard. "
As the son of a American-serviceman stationed in Berlin, Brooks was born and raised in Germany where he developed under the German system. Over the past year, the United States teams have taken a more German approach with the hiring Jurgen Klinsmann to coach the senior national team and Bundesliga veteran Claudio Renya serve as youth technical director.
Brooks has noticed the increased German approach in the US system this past camp and he thinks it will help the American program in the future.
"Yeah, you definitely notice," Brooks pointed out. "The overall style of play now is completely different. The game is faster, more one touch, the system is a lot more developed."
Despite the German approach in the US system, Brooks also realizes that there are some sharp differences between the approaches at Hertha and the US youth national teams.
"Everything in Berlin is a lot more intuitive," Brooks said in comparison. "I practice with them five or six times a week and with the same partner in defense. I know where everyone should be and the tendencies of my teammates there as opposed to here."
"As far as tactics are concerned, there is more of an emphasis at the club level since it's difficult here to really develop anything as we only meet up for a few days and it's really too short to work on anything specific."
The US teams played a series of friendlies in Duisburg. The U-23 team defeated Bochum's reserves 3-1 and drew Bayer Leverkusen reserves 1-1. A mostly U-20 team however drew Azerbaijan's U-21 team 0-0 and fell to Bayer Leverkusen 3-0.
For Brooks, a large part of the U-20 team's struggles were due to the lack of familiarity among the players - particularly among the defenders.
"But then you could see that we do not know each other that well," Brooks discussed. "You could see that we didn't know exactly what the others were going to do, and the communication that takes place on the field was also lacking a bit. And you could see that the on-field chemistry is not yet there."
In the 0-0 draw against Azerbaijan, Brooks was partnered in central defense with Birmingham City's Will Packwood in the first half and then with DC United's Perry Kitchen in the second half.
There is a good chance that for the U-20 team, Brooks will regularly be paired with Packwood while with the Olympic team he could frequently play with Kitchen. Brooks enjoys playing with each player but notices that they are very different in their styles.
"They are completely different types of players," Brooks stated frankly. "Will [Packwood] is the quiet type. He does his job without saying much, and Perry [Kitchen] is more of a pit-bull. He talks more, and looks for tackles. But I had no problems with either of them."
With the US camp now over, Brooks will return to Hertha where he is playing regularly with the club's U-23 team. After signing the professional contract, Brooks suffered an Achilles injury in the preseason and missed several weeks of action.
Brooks has yet to make a Bundesliga appearance but he practices with Hertha's first team on a regular basis. The newly promoted club is currently in 10th place in the Bundesliga but the standings remain tight in the 18 team league.
Brooks doesn't know when his Bundesliga debut will come but he is hopeful for this season.
"I mostly practice with the senior team in Berlin since I am a licensed professional player," Brooks explained. "Actually I am a part of the first team, even though I don't play for them yet. I play in friendlies with the first team, but it's hard to break through."
"This season we were promoted from the second division to the first," he added. "And the main objective this year is to stay up, and therefore there is not that much experimentation."
Brooks is a smooth left-footed central defender who built his game around strong tackling and accurate passing out of the backline. It is one of his top goals to rise up through the US system and represent the team at the World Cup.
Between the rosters for the US youth camp in Duisburg and the US senior national team for the November international window, eleven players were either born or raised in Germany.
Brooks is a key figure in the increased German presence and he admits it is convenient to have teammates with similar backgrounds but it is not overly important to him either.
"You feel a bit more at ease and you can speak the language with them," Brooks concluded. "But it wouldn't bother me either if there weren't any players from Germany here. It's nice, but if the opposite were true, it wouldn't be a problem."