OROZCO MAKING PRESENCE FELT
While a lot of attention has been paid to this US U20 national team because of the presence of highly touted prospects, one player that has quietly emerged into a impact player is Moises Orozco of Tigres.
Orozco, 18, first joined the US U20 team at the Dallas Cup when he was with Tigres on an amateur agreement. Since then he has signed with the Mexican club and has steadily improved over this year and progressed through the organization.
"Being in an environment like the one I am at with Tigres is something that is obviously helpful," Orozco told YA from Atlanta. "As a player at this age, you need to be at a place where you can develop. It's either you go to college or you decide to go practice with the professionals in that environment - which is where I am at now with Tigres. I think it's been helping me a lot."
Orozco signed with Tigres formally in July and was placed at the club's Segunda team, which is two levels below the senior team. After succeeding there, he was promoted to the U20 team, one level below the senior team, where he is now a key player despite being one of the youngest players on the squad.
"When I first got there in July we went to a tournament in Holland and Germany did really well there," Orozco said of his progression this year. "We came back to Mexico and we were in season. My team was in the Segunda and I was playing well. After a few more games the U20s needed one more striker and I got called up to play with the U20s for one game. I went in as a sub and I did okay.
"Little by little I started earning more time," he added. "Then one of the strikers on the U20s got hurt and they started using me more and more. So then I kind of earned my spot. I became a starter."
Orozco's steady progression at Tigres has been matched with his growing importance with the US U-20 national team. Since the Dallas Cup, Orozco has also been part of the US team for tournaments in Holland in May, Peru in September, and now for this week's tournament in Atlanta.
Orozco's roles with Tigres and the US U-20s are significantly different but his overall versatility as a player allows him to make the adjustment.
"Here with the US U-20 national team, I like playing more as an attacking mid," Orozco described. "I like getting the ball a little bit more just because of the way we play here. I like creating more and being more creative. But with Tigres, I like playing more up top because we have really good attacking midfielders and our whole teams is good at knocking the ball around and I feel more comfortable as a nine [forward] at Tigres."
As to whether or not it's difficult to play different positions for club and international play, Orozco admitted that the defensive nature of the game is the biggest difference.
"I wouldn't say it's tough but it's just different roles," the Oxnard, California native said. "You have to be able to understand both roles. You have to be able to defend in both but in one role you have to defend a little bit more than the other."
For Orozco, the main reason why things are so different between Tigres and the US U-20 team is that there is a difference in coaching philosophy in that US coach Thomas Rongen demands more of Orozco on both sides of the ball.
"Every coach has a little different style and formations," Orozco pointed out. "I actually like [Coach Rongen's] formations and everything. We all have our defensive responsibilities, which is good. Sometimes in Mexico, we worry too much about attacking and there are a couple players that don't like defending. But you get here and you have to make sure you cover your defensive responsibilities."
While Rongen is demanding of his players, Orozco is also noticing the internal competition on this US team to earn roster spots or a place in the starting lineup. The current US U-20 team is considered one of the deepest in recent years and Orozco feels strongly the competition between the players is a very good thing.
"I think right now it's a very good team," Orozco said frankly. "I think anybody could start. It's just who really wants it. The competition is just great."
Now in Atlanta with the U-20 national team for the Torneo de las Americas, Orozco will have the chance to take on several familiar faces when they square off against Mexico on Sunday in the team's second game.
Despite the heated nature of the rivalry between the US and Mexico on the soccer field, Orozco feels that he has been treated the same by his teammates at Tigres despite the fact he plays for the US instead of Mexico, where his parents were born.
"I feel like my teammates look at me the same," Orozco said of the situation. "I don't think they judge me or talk about me because I am an American. There have been jokes here and there but it's nothing big."
Orozco is looking forward, however, to Sunday's game. In his first ever international match at any level back in March, Orozco and the US U-20s lost to Mexico 1-0 in the opening game of the Dallas Cup. Orozco now wants to even the score before he returns to Mexico.
"It'll be a rematch for me," Orozco said with a smile. "I want to get some bragging rights."
While he hopes to end the successful year he's had in 2010 with an international victory against his Mexican colleagues, he is hoping for an even more prosperous 2011.
Obviously, the U-20 World Cup is a priority for him, but Orozco is confident his dream of making the first team at Tigres is possible in the upcoming year despite only being 18.
"I think it is achievable," Orozco concluded. "I really do believe in the ADIDAS saying that impossible is nothing but it also depends on how the first team is doing. I would also love to win a championship with the team that I came out of."
Orozco and the US U-20 team take on Colombia on Friday in their opening game of the Torneo de las Americas followed by the game against Mexico on Sunday.