CARSON, Calif. – About a week after the LA Galaxy lifted MLS Cup, Oscar Sorto received a phone call from a number that he didn’t recognize. He initially let the phone ring just a little bit before garnering the courage to answer the unknown number.
On the other end of the phone was U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann inviting him a place in the USMNT’s upcoming January camp at StubHub Center and the possibility his first cap with the senior squad. Very much the 20-year-old, the Galaxy Homegrown Player and longtime member of the U.S. system at youth levels had one thought when he heard the message from the legendary German striker.
“Oh crap. This is really happening.
“I was so excited when he called me and I’m really looking forward to this because it’s a new step for me,” Sorto told LAGalaxy.com. “I just was emotional when I spoke to him because I knew that this was serious stuff. Right away, I told my dad who told me to be prepared. It was a great phone call.”
Despite his initial shock, Sorto is primed to pounce on the opportunity that Klinsmann is providing as the U.S. boss begins to turn his attention to qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero. Although qualifying is a still year away, Klinsmann is wasting no time trying to rebuild after the 2012 edition of the U-23’s failed to qualify for a tournament that was ultimately won by archrivals Mexico.
“The idea [of this camp] was to combine the senior guys with the future in the Olympic team group,” Klinsmann told reporters on Monday. “This is why we split the roster to include the backbone of the senior team, but also 14 younger players who are in our picture for qualifying for Rio de Janiero in 2016 which is a tournament that is very important to us.”
And the Galaxy defender seems tailor-made to make that jump, particularly after impressing in flashes during the U.S. Under-20’s 2012 campaign at the U-20 World Cup. While there have been few immediate success stories from that squad, Sorto admits that he’s looked at the emergence of his former U-20 teammate DeAndre Yedlin and thought, “why not me?”
“That experience with the U-20’s and the U-23’s will help me because head coach Tab Ramos was using the first team’s drills and the way that they played,” said Sorto. “That’ll help me a lot because I got confidence being with the national team, but this will be different because I’ll be with top players. I’m not nervous though because I know the system will be the same.”
Sorto may be relatively untested at the first team level with just one appearance in two seasons with the LA Galaxy, but in 2014, he regularly manned the right side of defense for USL PRO affiliate LA Galaxy II. During the team’s inaugural season, Sorto made 24 starts as he helped the club reach the semifinal round where they fell to eventual USL PRO champion Sacramento Republic.
After a year of subsisting on appearances with the academy and reserve league play, Sorto believes that the chance to shine with Los Dos put him in the window to be seen by the U.S. National Team’s scouts.
“It helped me big time because it got my confidence level up and when I earned U-23 call-ups, I felt game fit and that helped me last year,” said Sorto. “I’m getting confidence on the field and I think that it’s a good thing that we have Galaxy II, but I’m trying to keep moving on. I’m not trying to be with Galaxy II forever, I want to make it further.”
The Galaxy Homegrown will certainly have every opportunity impress Klinsmann during the month-long camp as he joins a U.S. squad that is thin at outside back with Seattle Sounders FC’s Brad Evans one of the few full backs included in the January roster.
And if he does impress in camp and the two matches in the coming weeks against Chile and Panama, a place in the Olympic Games and possibly even a look with the senior team–for club and country—could be on Sorto’s radar.
“My goal is to simply work hard like I’ve been doing. It’s not going to be easy because I know that there are more talented players out there. I know that making the squad will mean a lot, but if I was part of the team then it’ll be huge,” said Sorto. “It’s great that Jurgen believes in the future and is giving opportunities to us because you never know who will make the senior team next.”