D.C. United defender Perry Kitchen captained the U.S. under-20 national team at CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Guatemala, which for the Americans culminated with a 2-1 upset loss to the host nation in the quarterfinals. Kitchen, 19, is not accustomed to losing: At Akron last fall, the NCAA champions were 22-1-2. The former Akron Zip returned to Washington on Thursday night, via Dallas, and trained Friday. His starting job will probably be waiting for him Saturday against the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium.
After Friday’s practice, he met with reporters.
“I wish I were back in better terms,” he said, “but it happens.”
How is your fitness and fatigue level?
“It’s good so far. Just a couple nicks and bruises, playing three games in 12 days or so catches up with you, but overall I think I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready if I am called upon. If Benny needs me, I’ll definitely be ready.”
What are your general thoughts about the U.S. elimination?
“It’s just disappointing. We worked so hard, and to not go to Colombia [for the World Cup], it gutted us all. I talked to the guys and we are going to keep working hard because we still have something to prove if we can get in with the Olympic team or the full team. It’s not the end of the world. I told some of the guys to stay focused and eventually we’ll get back on track. That’s a great group, one of the best groups I’ve ever been a part of. To fail with that group is disappointing.”
Did you underestimate Guatemala?
“No. We knew they were going to be good, and with the crowd behind them, it made them an even better team. At the end of the day, they probably deserved it because we didn’t work as hard as we should have and we didn’t play as well as we should have.”
Playing in that environment, what did you take from it?
“It was an awesome experience. Great crowd. Nobody for us. After we scored, it was silent. Hostile environment. It’s fun to play in those games, when you have everybody against you. Just wishing the result was the other way.”
If you do play against the Galaxy, will the familiarity with your teammates still be there after being away?
“We had a good preseason. I know these guys. I’ve been with them for three months. It’s nothing new. I fit right back in. It felt good to be back.”
Were you keeping up with United while you were in Guatemala?
“For sure. I couldn’t watch them because I don’t have the MLS package, but I saw the highlights and tried to keep up the best I could on Gametracker.”
What were your impressions?
“I wish I could’ve been out there. It’s still early in the season. We just have to get on the right track. The Open Cup game was a step forward in the right direction.”
Saturday has a big-game feel to it with the opponent and the big crowd. Is there a sense among the players that this is a big game?
“There is definitely a sense. Anytime you play L.A. — tons of big names on that team — everybody’s excited, everybody wants to go out and play well, especially in front of the home crowd. We just have to come out flying and play our game.”
Is there added excitement for you playing against Beckham and Donovan?
“Definitely. Donovan is one of my favorite U.S. players. To play against him will definitely be something special.”
What are your memories of Donovan when you were growing up?
“I don’t have a very good memory.” [laughing]
You remember the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, right?
“A little, a little. Not so much. I was only 9 or 10 [years old] at that point. Definitely my favorite memory has got to be this past World Cup with him scoring that goal against Algeria. I still get goosebumps when I watch it. He’s done a lot for this country.”
You’ll probably have to deal with Juan Pablo Angel a lot.
“He’s good in the air and he’s a tricky player. He may not seem like he’s doing something and then you look back his way and he’s a yard or two behind you. He’s a very smart player. If I’m in there, I always have to be thinking what he could do or what his next move might be.”