After a successful U.S. U-23 camp, two important pieces rejoin United
Some things never change.
As United's players loaded up a pair of cargo vans in preparation for Friday's training session, a familiar face was leading the pack. Fresh from a successful stint with the U.S. pre-Olympic side, Perry Kitchen was - as he has been since his first day in Black-and-Red - first in line to help load equipment into the vehicles.
"Good to be back," Kitchen said after arriving at the team hotel Thursday afternoon. "It's weird [not being around the guys]. Of course I'm following my team, this is who I play for first and foremost. I'm always hoping we are doing well."
[inline_node:23442]Also in camp with the U-23's, goalkeeper Bill Hamid joined Kitchen in keeping tabs on his United teammates from afar. By this time a veteran of multiple national team camps, the D.C. academy product acknowledges a certain boost in confidence that can come with an international call-up.
"Playing with the elite players on the U.S. team and against Mexico, who has a lot of young stars in the Mexican league, you are getting great experience," said Hamid. "You have to take [the opportunity] and make yourself better in both environments."
For both Hamid and Kitchen, the highlight of their recent call-up came on Wednesday night. Following victories from both the men's and women's national teams, the U-23's topped rival Mexico 2-0, capping a banner day for American soccer.
"It's a good thing for U.S. Soccer, the three wins," Hamid added. "You see social media and you see the fans are happy. That is what we want to continue, helping the sport grow in this country and national teams are a big part of that."
With Saturday's match against Columbus serving as a final tune-up ahead of the March 10 season opener, both Kitchen and Hamid must acclimatize themselves quickly to United's preseason camp. To that end, head coach Ben Olsen - himself capped 37 times with the U.S. national team - offered some helpful advice to D.C.'s pair of rising stars.
"When I'm with the Olympic team Ben wants all my focus there, he told me that," Kitchen said of a preseason chat he had with Olsen. "When I'm here, he obviously wants all my focus here. He also said to enjoy it. Representing your country is an honor."