Monday, May 26, 2008

Brunner's First Camp

Eric Brunner came into his first-ever National Team camp in Toulon, and ended up starting two international games and scoring a goal. For a different perspective on what a National Team training camp is like, we turned to Eric, who had no idea what he was getting into before he got into it.

I really had no expectations coming into camp. I knew it would be tough competition and that it was going to test my abilities to play with some of the best players in the country, that play both overseas and in MLS. I was looking forward to it, and once I found out I was invited it, I was just anxious to get there.

When we first arrived in France after a long trip, the first two team meals were very quiet – we didn’t really know each other for the most part, and no one had much to say or talk about. We didn’t know what our new teammates interests were. There was a huge difference between our chemistry on day one and on our last day.

I think team meals are understated – they’re really key in helping everyone to get to know each other off the field. That makes playing games on the field easier, when you know each other on a more personal level. I tried to take advantage of the opportunity to meet different players, especially when it’s people I’ve played against growing up or in college, but never knew on a personal level.

I was definitely nervous heading into the first training session. It was my first-ever training with a National Team, and I didn’t know what to expect. But those nerves went away pretty quickly after the first training session, and we all started to gain confidence together.

My first start was against Turkey. I expected Turkey to be very good, and I knew they would challenge our team. Unfortunately, we hadn’t played together very long to sort all the kinks out, but it was a good test of the player pool we had there. We stepped it up in the second half and showed that we could play.

It was a pretty cool feeling to be standing out there and representing my country. It’s something I’d dreamed of doing since I was playing in the Olympic Development Programs when I was…. I don’t know, 15? It was great to be there, but I didn’t want to think too much about what was happening outside of the game. I didn’t want to lose my concentration or focus on Turkey.

It’s very rare to get your first international goal in your first start, especially as a defender. I’ve seen the guys on the Senior Team score goals and see them kiss their patch and everything like that. I didn’t think too much about my celebration, but I had a big smile on my face. There was time for about a half-second’s worth of chills, but then it was back to work.

I went into the camp open mined, and I knew I would learn a lot that I didn’t know before. I experienced a completely different tempo of the game that you get in MLS and in club games growing up and in college. It was interesting to play against different countries and get a sense of the different styles. Italy was very technical, Turkey was very confident on the ball and good tactically, while the Ivory Coast was very athletic and also good on the ball, so it was interesting to see the different styles of play.

Peter is a very intense coach who knows what he’s looking for. He expects a lot out of his players, and he gets it. The intensity of the training camp is second to none. It pushes the players to think quickly and react in scenarios that benefit you once you’re in the game. He’s constantly trying to instill the tactical side of the game into us so that it becomes more natural over time. He wants it to seep in so that those tactics just happen naturally.

As a team, I think the idea was for us to gain experience at the international level, just like Coach Nowak said. The Italian team was close to the team that they may take to the Olympics. It’s not easy to play against European teams on European soil, and to have that experience can only make you better. Those players are bred for soccer from the moment they’re born, and we’re just starting to get there in the U.S. I think that's the biggest thing I'll take from my experience. Maybe we're not there yet, but we continue to improve as a soccer nation, and we're catching up with the "Italys" of the world.

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