Sciaretta's Scouting Report
Junior Flores Anxious to Help U.S. U-20 Squad
The 17-year-old Virginia native and Borussia Dortmund attacker is one of the youngest players on the U.S. U-20 side now training in Italy. ASN's Brian Sciaretta chatted with the top American prospect.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedDURING THE CURRENT international window, most American soccer fans' attention has been squarely focused on the U.S. national team and the European World Cup playoffs. Lost in all of the excitement at the senior level: the U.S. U-20 team has opened its 2015 cycle with a camp in Italy. When head coach Tab Ramos revealed his roster last week, it featured many players based with European clubs, including Swansea City, Molde, Lorient, Bayer Leverkusen, and Hoffenheim. The player who represents the biggest club, however, is Junior Flores, a 17-year-old attacker who is currently affiliated with Borussia Dortmund. Flores has featured for a variety U.S youth national teams and participated in the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Florida. Earlier this year, he was on the U-17 team which fell short of advancing to 2013 World Cup in the U.A.E. Now with the U-20's, Flores noticed a different atmosphere immediately. One of the youngest players in camp, he played 45 minutes in the squad's loss last week to a primavera team and he should feature in Monday's friendly against Iran's U-20 team. "It's great to be back to back with the national team," Flores told American Soccer Now from Verona. "It's different from U-17's, I'm not playing with kids my age anymore. I'm actually playing with guys who are older and experienced. Most of them are based in Europe. I feel that it's a lot better environment." "I'm enjoying it a lot," he added. "I feel like I'm doing pretty well. It feels good to be playing with kids who are already playing overseas. They're good players." Born to El Salvadorian parents in Virginia, Flores' success has been noted by the scandal-plagued El Salvadorian national team but he has elected to continue to play for the United States and will try to lead the U-20 team to the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand. Ramos has elected to position Flores as the team's attacking playmaker. It's a traditional No. 10 role, and while Flores is versatile, he feels that this is the best spot for him. Flores acjknowledged that it helps that the U-20's have a similar style of play to the U-17s but his transition to the U-20 team has also been helped by his relationship with Ramos. As the creative force in the attack, Flores plays the same position which Ramos used to flourish in two decades ago when he was captain of the U.S. senior team. "He's done a good job with the U-20s," Flores said of Ramos. "He gives me a lot of tips. He did really well with the last cycle and I'm sure he'll do well with us. I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing now but I'm really looking forward to New Zealand too." As the U-20 cycle moves forward, Flores will be under the guidance of top coaching in Europe with Borussia Dortmund. Last year Flores came to terms on a multi-year professional contract with the Champions League runner-up, but due to his youth, FIFA rules prohibited him from formally joining the club before he turns 18 in March, 2014. Over the summer, there was an appeal to FIFA for him to join the club formally at the start this season but that was denied. As a result he is not able to play in competitive games for Borussia Dortmund's youth teams until next spring. Despite this setback, Flores remains active with the club. Last May he traveled to Wembley to watch the club in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. It was an experience that Flores describes as one of the "craziest days of his life." He is also training regularly with Dortmund's youth teams and has played in friendlies where FIFA/UEFA rules to not apply. He expects to quickly integrate with club once he is permitted to play either at the U-19 or U-23 level. The first thing that has impressed Flores at Dortmund has been the intensity of training at Dortmund, where the youth players are intensely competing among each other for playing time and the right to move up the ladder. "Right now I'm mostly just training," Flores explained. "I can't really play. I'm getting used to it so when it starts I know the environment. The level is higher. Everybody's good and fighting for a spot every week. I can't play but everyone is training hard for playing time." Flores is happy with his progress thus far at Dortmund and the club appears to be impressed with its new signing as well. In recent months, he has been asked occasionally by the coaching staff to train with the first team. Very few American teenagers have been afforded the opportunity at such an age to train with the team of that stature. Flores is obviously excited for the challenges of these experiences but he was impressed also with how helpful the elite players have been. "It was great," Flores recalled. "It's a lot different from what I've done. You've seen those guys on TV and [then you're] training with them. It's is an experience. You learn from them and they give you tips. They're great guys." As for his own timeline, Flores is reluctant to reveal his own expectations since he is not even allowed to play competitive games for another four months. But he is confident he has the opportunity to achieve success. The first step for him, however, is to concentrate on the short-term and not become overly concerned with the big picture. "Every young player wants to play on the first team but it's going to take time," Flores concluded. "You have to keep working hard. It could take two years or it could take one year. You have to take it weekly."
November 18, 2013
November 18, 2013