Two D.C. United Academy alumni, Suliaman Dainkeh (Maryland; Reston, Va.) and Ian Harkes (Wake Forest; Fairfax, Va.), have been invited into the U-20 National Team Camp from Jan. 3-12 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. They sat down during their afternoon break at camp to answer a few questions about their time with the National Team.
What has your history been with the U.S. National team?
Suliaman Dainkeh: I have been called into camp with the U-17s before, and I was with the U-18s for two years. This is my first call up to the U-20s.
Ian Harkes: So far nothing until now. The U-20s is my first-ever call up to the National Team. I’m really excited.
What is the national team environment like?
SD: It’s very competitive; especially the U-18s and U-20s because most of the guys are already pros and some of them are playing in Europe. They bring a different style and energy to the camps. Everyone is fighting for a spot on the team.
IH: It’s really intense and they really create a great atmosphere of you wanting to play the best you can every training session. It’s all soccer all the time, day in and day out.
What is the most difficult part about the national team schedule?
SD: It’s just most of the training. We have two-a-days, and it’s rough the first few days because your legs aren’t used to it. The level is so high that there isn’t time for you to take a break because it’s always a competition between you and the other guys.
IH: Just showing up to practice every day and really having the confidence to do your best. When I first got here, it was kind of intimidating because it is my first time with the National Team, but you find your way into it really quickly.
What is your favorite part about the national team?
SD: Meeting all the new players and coaches as well as seeing old friends. You get to learn a lot while you’re there and train with some of the best players in the country. You get better every day.
Ih: So far it’s been playing with and against players that are better or equal to me. It’s really helping me become a better player. The trainings have been great, and the coaches are really knowledgeable. It’s just been a really great first experience here.
How has D.C. United help prepare you for the national team?
SD: My time with D.C. United helped me a lot. I was in the academy since I was 14. They helped me understand the game more and they gave me the exposure to the national team and colleges.
IH: D.C. helped me a lot because it was really the first time I was put into a competitive environment. They gave me the opportunity to be seen by college and national team coaches. They take you to tournaments where hundreds of college coaches come out to scout you and the national team events also take place during that time too. Lots of national team coaches are out watching you. D.C. let me put myself out there and challenged me to do well in a competitive setting.
What are your goals and aspirations for your soccer career?
SD: I just want to play at the highest possible level for me. I would really like to play professional soon and one-day, maybe even play in the World Cup.
IH: Right now, I just had a fun and successful first season in college at Wake Forest. I’m looking forward to keeping that going into the next season and the rest of my college career. Maybe eventually, I would like to play professionally, but I know that it takes a lot of hard work, and I really hope that playing professionally is in my future.