SCOTT PETERSON - Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Having been away from US youth teams since 2009, Mainz midfielder Jared Jeffrey recently took part in the first camp for the US U-23 team as it prepares for Olympic qualifying in March.
The past four years have been eventful for Jeffrey to say the least. He captained the US U-17 team at the Fifa World Cup in 2007, which led him to being named National Soccer Player of the Year by Parade magazine, and, more importantly, earned him a contract with perennial Belgian powerhouse Club Brugge.
As is often the case in international soccer, players are given a quick look, and subsequently either rushed into the first team or out the door.
Jeffrey experienced the latter and opted to sign for German outfit Mainz 05, where he not only has been afforded the time and coaching to develop as a player, but has also been able to practice with the first team while simultaneously gaining valuable game experience with the reserves, where he has seen action in 14 games, starting 11 and scoring once.
The diminutive Texan has impressed his club coaches with his technical prowess, and even though he has yet to crack the first team for any meaningful games, he has noticed considerable progress to his overall game, and the necessity of becoming an all-around player to become a first team player abroad.
"We switched up in Mainz," Jeffrey told YA. "I play a lot of different positions there. Mainz plays a diamond in midfield and a 4-2-3-1.When we play in a diamond, I am usually out wide on one of the sides, and sometimes as a holding midfielder. In Germany, if you want to play in the middle, you have to be able to do everything, defend and attack."
From the 7th through the 17th of November, the US U-21 and U-23 teams held camp in Duisburg, Germany in preparation for Olympic qualifying. Jeffrey was one of slew of German-based players taking part in a series of training sessions under coaches, and US National Team icons, Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna, including friendlies against 2 division team VfL Bochum and the reserves of Bundesliga outfit Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Jeffrey was a second half sub against Bochum, whom the US defeated 3-1, before starting and going the distance in a 1-1 tie against Leverkusen; Jeffrey grabbed an assist with a nifty aerial-backheel to Terrence Boyd in the 72nd minute.
US camps in Germany would seem to be something that all US soccer fans will be seeing a lot more of, given the current influx of German-based or German-born players with US passports. One need not look further than the US rosters against France and Slovenia for proof, where no less than 6 players on Bundesliga saw playing time.
Jeffrey sees an influx of ‘German' talent positively.
"It is different to see all these guys coming from Germany and they speak German and grew up in Germany, but I think on the field it's good because they are all good players," Jeffrey discussed. "That's the most important thing, since as a player here we just want to be with the best guys. And if the guys are here, then they are good enough to help us or the national team."
As one of the Americans who has gone to Germany of their own volition, Jeffrey can only recommend others to follow suit to better themselves as players.
"For the guys who grew up in America it's a great experience for them to come over here and get that experience since the Bundesliga is one of the [top] leagues in the world," Jeffrey said. "And if you look at the German national team and the players that are coming through their ranks, it is a real hotspot to try and develop and grow as a player."
As camp has now come to a close, Jeffrey is looking forward to the months ahead, for both the senior and U-23 teams as there has been a palpable air of excitement throughout the ranks of the US Soccer program since the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann. Not just because of the amount of energy the German bossman brings with him, but because of the change of philosophy reaching through to all levels of US Soccer that parallels the system in place in Germany that has been cranking out blue-chip talent in the past few years, with Borussia Dortmund's Mario Götze and Real Madrid's Mesut Özil two shining examples.
"In Germany they put a huge emphasis on the youth national teams," Jeffrey pointed out. "Any time there is an international break, all the youth German players always meet up and go to camps. And because they play so much together it's easier for them to play together, because they know what they are doing."
"Everyone wants to make the jump from the U-20s to the U-23s or from the U-23s to the [senior] team," he concluded. "And I only think that making each team, each level similar to the next one up can only help familiarize us with the system, and with what we are trying to accomplish and what we are trying to do. So, it's really exciting right now, the next Olympics and the next WC are really exciting teams for US soccer."