BADR EMERGING AT PORTO
One of the nine European based players named by US Under-20 coach Thomas Rongen for this month's Cor Groenewegen tournament is Holland is goalkeeper Samir Badr who is on the rise with FC Porto.
The Fairfax, Virginia native, who just recently turned 18, is just completing his first European season with the Portuguese giants.
He went on trial last spring with Porto only to join the club on a full-time basis this coming August.
"I was in residency with the U17 National Team competing at a very high level and getting valuable training and coaching under Wilmer Cabrera and Tim Mulqueen," Badr said of the process of joining Porto. "I was contacted by one of my agents at the same time I was considering going professional, and within a few weeks, clubs from Spain, Portugal and Germany were interested in having me come and train with their clubs. After speaking with my agents and family, I decided to explore options in Portugal.
"When my agents contacted FC Porto, their scouts knew of me from playing with the U17 National Team in France and they welcomed me on trial," he continued. "I performed well in my week there, and they wanted to discuss ways for me to play there permanently. I enjoyed my time on trial, and the trainings and players were at a very high level."
Since arriving at Porto, Badr has tried to establish himself at the youth level within the club. Now with his first session nearly finished, Badr feels as if he has progressed well with the club and has received good feedback from the coaches.
"From the feedback I have received up to this point, I have a great chance of making the first team if I continue to work at the same level," Badr assessed. "Hopefully, I can build on this year and work at an even higher level.
"It is certainly my goal after the next season is to be in the running for the second or third string goalkeeper with the first team. Porto would not have signed me if they didn't think I had the ability to be a part of the first team. I have already featured in first team intrasquad exhibitions, so they have given me confidence."
While Badr has first team ambitions looking towards next season, this past season the club have groomed him by having him become a regular with the club's youth team and also have him regularly participate in training sessions with the first team.
"I play with the Porto B team which is similar to a club's reserve team," Badr discussed. "It consists of different U-19 age players but also consists of first team players coming off injury or who are not in the starting 11 for the first team, and players who did not feature in a recent match when playing in the Intercalar matches.
"I have played this past season in the club's Intercalar matches These games were great experiences for me because it was my first time featuring with the first team with the inclusion of a few of the top reserve players."
When Badr first arrived in Porto in August it was initially very difficult for him to get integrated into the Portuguese culture and the way of life that comes with playing within one of the biggest clubs in Europe. For Badr, adjusting to his new environment took time.
"It is very different than the United States with the culture and the ways things get done are much different," Badr described. "The language barrier was difficult at first as one would expect, but I have been taking Portuguese classes and just being immersed in the culture has made it easier to interact with my teammates and the people around the city."
One of the key benefits for a young player on playing for a club with the pedigree of the 2004 Champions League winners is the top quality of coaching. Badr has found the coaching at Porto has met his high expectations.
"I like the coaching a lot," Badr said of Porto's coaching. "Patrick Greveraars is the head coach for the Porto B team. I like the opportunity he gives each player and how he focuses on each player individually. I think it really brings out the best in each player. It helps each player offer the most they possibly can for the team.
"I also spend a lot of time with Wil Coort who is the goalkeeping coach for the entire club and also the first team coach Jesualdo Ferreira," Badr continued. "They have really challenged me every training session to perform well and to raise my level when playing with the first team."
Badr has also appreciated how the entire coaching staff was willing to give him a high level of responsibility and opportunities to impress very soon after joining the club.
"[Coort] and I will have individual sessions," Badr recalled. "And he invited me to train with the first team for the first time only three weeks into the season. It was a little intimidating at first as a 17 year-old taking shots from Hulk, Radamel Falcao, and Bruno Alves but now I expect to be there and it is my goal to train with them regularly and to begin featuring in first team games."
In a little under two weeks, Badr will leave the club and travel north to join the US U20 national team in Holland as they prepare for the Cor Groenewegen tournament. It will be his first time playing under Rongen with the U20s and he is anxious for the opportunity to impress.
"I was excited and really humbled to be invited to play with the U20 National Team," Badr said proudly. "It is a great honor to represent my country. I feel as though I have a lot to offer and happy to be able to rejoin the national team program. My goal is to become a key member of the U-20 national team and ultimately help our country win U-20 World Cup in Columbia. The 2012 Olympics are also coming up and that too is a goal of mine."
Badr will enter into his first U20 national team camp being unfamiliar with most of his teammates. He recalled how he watched Rongen's 2007 U20 team play attractive soccer with the likes of Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley leading the way.
Badr feels optimistic that that Rongen can produce similar results with this current group of players; many of whom are playing professionally in Europe.
For now, however, Badr is happy to once again be part of the US program and donning the US jersey is something that he takes great pride in doing.
"I think it is very important to me," Badr concluded. "Playing for the national team has always been a big part of my life and it really was what got my career started and helped me get to the level where I am today. I have always wanted to go back to that and represent my country on the world stage. It is always a great feeling to put on the crest. While playing abroad, you see lots of players who play for their country so you want to also be doing the same team for your own country. "