Barça Academy Player, Julian Araujo, on his U-18 USMNT Opportunity in Spain

U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team head coach Omid Namazi has named a 20-player roster for the team’s fourth gathering of 2017, an international camp in Marbella, Spain from Oct. 1 to 10. It will be the final camp of the U-18 cycle before the group moves up to the U-20 level in 2018.

During camp, the USA will take on Belgium today and Russia on Oct. 9.

Of the 20-player roster, nine return from the most-recent U-18 MNT gathering– the 2017 U-18 Lisbon International Tournament in Lisbon, Portugal.

All but one player called to camp were born in 1999. Julian Araujo, born in 2001, is the lone 16-year-old on the roster.

In his debute, Julian Araujo is ready to make a difference. The Barça Academy standout has been called up by the United States U-18 National Team and has traveled with the team to Malaga, Spain ahead of games against Belgium today and Russia on Sunday.

Araujo has been an experienced campaigner with the United States U-16s, but is making the step up the age groups for the first time.

“Speed of play is higher, it’s more physical out here,” said Araujo. “The first training session, I didn’t really expect it, but I started to develop into it, and started to find ways to play how they play. For the third training and the fourth session, I’ve really got into it. I’m doing a lot better now. It’s a lot more exciting and a higher level out here.”

Part of the process of adapting to the new level for Araujo has been learning to play a different position.

“I’m traditionally a center back, but I’ll be playing right back,” Araujo said. “At right back, you have to be a little faster and quicker to move, to a pass, to a player, it’s usually 1v1. It’s a lot more running.”

However, Araujo feels that his time with Barça Academy has prepared him for the challenge.

“I played right back a couple times for Barça Academy, I played right back in a couple games and scrimmages. It’s not that much of a difference, so I can adjust to it,” said Araujo.

As for the Academy itself, Araujo said he feels that it is helping him to grow tremendously.

“I’m liking the Barça Academy a lot,” Araujo said. “Leaving family and friends was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do, but knowing what I’m doing it for, for my future, this Barça Academy is going to help me.”

“Obviously, I want to play overseas so, being here helped me become a better player, to learn how to live on my own. I kind of like how there’s nothing but soccer. Our focus is nothing but soccer and school. It makes you focus on playing and developing.”

Since it is his first time being called into the U-18 setup, Araujo hopes to learn about his own level and make an impact on the squad.

“I’m just looking to learn off this trip, learn off older guys, and it’s a good opportunity just to test my level,” said Araujo. “I want to see where my level is at and get some playing time and play against older guys.”

Araujo doesn’t expect to start against Belgium, but is vying for a place in the first eleven for Sunday’s match against Russia.

“Tomorrow I know that I’ll be coming off the bench, but I feel like I’ll be getting a little bit of playing time against Belgium,” said Araujo. “But against Russia, I’m going to aim for a starting spot.”

As for the team, Araujo says there is only one goal.

“We want to get two wins as a team, we want to get two W’s and end the trip on a good note.”

While he is enjoying his time in Spain, he can’t wait to get back to Casa Grande.

“I’m liking it so far, and it’s only going to help me in the future, to make me a better person,” said Araujo. “The Barça Academy has been nothing but good to me.”

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