Portland Timbers defender Michael Harrington making the most of his time with U.S. national team
Caleb Porter thought so highly of then Sporting Kansas City defender Michael Harrington that he made him his first official acquisition as the Portland Timbers head coach.
Now Harrington is hoping to similarly impress another coach: US national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann.
The 27-year-old left back was one of four players to receive their first senior national team call-up when Klinsmann set the January camp roster on Jan. 3. And armed with a message of motivation from his club coach whose faith was rewarded after he turned in the best season of his seven-year MLS career, helping lead the Timbers to the Western Conference Championship of the MLS Cup Playoffs, Harrington is hoping to prove he belongs on the USMNT.
“He just tells me that don’t forget that you deserve to be there and just motivates me to continue to move up and make a case for myself to make this team and hopefully play left back for the full national team at some point,” Harrington said of Porter’s message to him before he shipped out to the camp in Southern California.
And things are going about as well as could be expected after his first full week with the squad. Harrington, along with the rest of the 26 players who started in camp, played well enough to be a part of the group’s transition to Brazil, where they will go through a sort of World Cup dry run for the next two weeks. Initially, Klinsmann said he would pare the group down to 23 players for the South American trip.
Yesterday the U.S. team played a closed-door scrimmage against Brazilian club team Sao Paulo FC. While full lineups were not released, MLSsoccer.com reported that 24 of the 26 players saw time in the 2-1 loss and judging by the photo above, Harrington was among those participating.
“This is what this camp is all about, kind of stating your case in terms that you can compete at that level and that you want to go to the World Cup,” Harrington said. “That’s what everybody’s here for, to show that you’re good enough and that you can make the team better. That’s really what I’m trying to show in these few weeks, that I’m a competitor and I can come here and make this group of guys better.”
And with all but one of the players in camp coming from MLS, Harrington said that’s created a uniquely intense desire to prove something to Klinsmann. For Harrington, especially, he’s hoping to show there’s no need to search far and wide to fill the left-back spot, which has been somewhat of an enigma on the senior team in recent years. He’s eyeing the Feb. 1 friendly against Korea Republic as a chance to do just that while earning his first cap.
“He wants to see everybody here, whether you’ve got 100 caps or no cap, kind of show who you are as a player and what kind of personality you can bring to the game and the team,” Harrington said of Klinsmann’s message to the group. “… It’s exciting for a player like me because if I come in and perform well and play well, I can possibly earn myself a place in the team.”
Harrington’s call-up is especially rewarding considering he was part of the first US U-17 Residency Program at the Bradenton Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 1999, a group that included eventual national team stars Landon Donovan and Kyle Beckerman. Harrington then progressed up through the academy ranks all the way to the U-23s, but the coveted senior team call-up eluded him until now.
“I was a little surprised,” he said. “But at the same time I thought I had a good season and felt like I deserved at least a look, an opportunity to get a closer look from the coaches, and have the opportunity to show them I have a national-team-type level in me.”