KITCHEN PRIMED FOR U-23 DEBUT
With the US U-23 team's first camp underway in the build-up for Olympic qualifying next March, DC United's Perry Kitchen is expected to play a big part of the team moving forward
For Kitchen, 19, the Olympic team will serve as a reunion with his former college coach Caleb Porter at Akron University.
Less than 12 months ago, Perry Kitchen was an important part of Porter's Akron team that won the 2010 National Championship. Last week when Kitchen heard that Porter was named by US Soccer to coach the U-23 team, he felt it was a solid choice.
"I was definitely pretty excited," Kitchen told YA. "I think he is one of the best guys for the job. I think he's got a great soccer brain and I think he will potentially do well with [the Olympic team] but only time will tell. But it is a great move."
Kitchen enjoyed playing under Porter because of his offensive and aggressive style. Similar to US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Porter wants to attack but also stresses with great importance that every player must not lose focus of his defensive responsibilities.
"It is most definitely attack minded," Kitchen said of Porter's style. "But also didn't let that cause an imbalance with the team and let us get countered or have a weak defense. We're good at defending one through eleven. But he loves us being on the ball and controlling games."
Kitchen played at Akron for just one year and after the National Championship, he signed with MLS where he was selected by DC United with third overall pick in the draft.
During his rookie year with DC, Kitchen ended up playing a significant amount of time at right back which that was out of position for him. Growing up as a youth player, he was naturally a defensive midfielder but also an experienced central defender as well. Despite the positional switch, he was happy to be a regular starter for the club.
"I think it went pretty well," Kitchen discussed of his season. "It definitely didn't go the way I planned in terms of positioning but I said at the beginning of the year that any position would be fine with me. I played a little bit of right back with the U-17s but it had been awhile. But as a defender, it wasn't anything new. I think I did a pretty good job but I still have a long ways to go in terms of getting better and getting smarter. But I'm pretty pleased."
DC United improved from their 2010 season but still did not make the playoffs after a pair of difficult results late in the season. DC United was a young team this year with players like Kitchen, Ethan White, Bill Hamid, and Andy Najar being asked to contribute heavily.
Kitchen is still disappointed about not being able to play in the playoffs but he is confident that next year the team can contend for the title as the young players will have more experience after learning the difficult lessons in the final games of this past season.
"We have all the right tools," Kitchen optimistically stated. "It was an improvement but we still didn't reach our goals of making the playoffs and making a run at the title. It kind of haunted us in how we finished out games and details like that. If we're more focused for 90 minutes, I think we're a team that can make a run next year."
When Kitchen made the difficult decision to leave Akron, he had multiple professional opportunities including trials with teams in Europe. In hindsight, Kitchen is happy with the path he has chosen because he feels MLS is a good place for a young player to develop.
In the years ahead, however, Kitchen does want to make the jump overseas to play the game at the highest level.
"If you look at our full national team there have been a lot of guys that have started here in MLS. Our captain Carlos Bocanegra and a lot of other guys too. It's a great place to start and we're still young too. Moving over to Europe can be a big transition for some. I aspire to play in Europe one day but I want to go at the right time."
For now, Kitchen‘s focus in the next few months will be with the US Olympic team where he is likely to be a key player. As a long time veteran of US youth soccer, the Indianapolis native is familiar with a majority of the team's player pool and he is optimistic for next year.
Kitchen's last appearance with the US team was unsuccessful as he was on the 2011 US U20 team that did not qualify for the World Cup after going undefeated in group play but losing the quarterfinal game to Guatemala in Guatemala City.
Kitchen admits that the difficult U20 experience earlier this year will be on his mind and will serve as motivation for him in trying to lead the team through qualification.
"It was a big blow," Kitchen recalled of the U20 experience this year. "All of us were gutted. It was tough but sometimes that's how the game goes. You don't always meet your goals and do what you want to do. I think we've moved on from it but if I get to represent my country in the Olympics it will be kind of a payback or revenge. I'm looking forward that if I get the chance."
Kitchen and the US U23 team will open their first camp next week in Duisburg, Germany.