“I was very surprised and happy at the same time. I think it means that hard work always pays off. Those are the things that we as players always dream of—playing for a national team or playing at the next level.”
This is how Crew SC midfielder Tony Tchani describes his reaction to his first-ever call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team. Along with Columbus teammates Ethan Finlay and Wil Trapp, the midfielder will travel to Carson, California for U.S. Soccer’s training camp from January 10 to February 6.
The call-up is the result of Tchani’s laudable performances in his fourth full season with the Black & Gold. The Cameroon native has shown impressive progress under Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. In 2015, he achieved a personal best five goals and six assists in 32 appearances, all of which he started.
“It’s just getting that confidence from the coach, being able to play every game, being able to give 100 percent,” he says. “And also just having the support of my teammates, the whole organization and the coaching staff, because I feel like without those guys I wouldn’t be able to do what I do right now.”
Tchani’s work rate and confidence have earned him two international call-ups in the past couple months—one from Cameroon in November and now the United States. Since he was unable to join Cameroon due to injury, he remained eligible for the United States.
It’s no surprise the hard-working central midfielder has garnered attention from both federations. His hustle on the pitch is evident as he led Crew SC's field players with 310 recoveries, 96 more than the next guy, in 2015.
In addition to his hard work, Tchani credits his coach for the call-up to the national team camp.
“I feel like just being in the new system with Gregg Berhalter had me getting there,” he says.
Tchani’s physical and controlled style of play is matching up well with Berhalter’s system and boding well for the Black & Gold. With 98 tackles in 2015, he boasted the second-most on his team, only trailing defender Waylon Francis by one. And he wins most of them at an impressive tackle success rate of 86.73%.
But will the center midfielder’s tight touch and box-to-box hustle match up with USMNT Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s philosophy? Tchani doesn’t have the answer just yet, but he’s willing to adapt if necessary.
“It depends on the coach and how he sees the player, because I haven’t been through the system,” he says. “This will be my first time and I think you just have to adapt.”
Fortunately, fitting in and getting comfortable with the group in Southern California should be a little less daunting, thanks to the familiar faces of Finlay and Trapp.
“That will be great to have those guys that are my teammates and that we have been playing together the whole year,” he says. “Just having those guys, having each other, is going to be something that will help us.”
Another factor that may prove beneficial for Tchani is Berhalter’s experience with the national team. The soft-footed midfielder already got some pointers from his coach.
“It helps a lot because I got to talk to Gregg a little bit and he told me to make sure that I’m ready, don’t be afraid, just do what I’ve been doing with the Crew,” he says.
Tchani’s performances on the pitch have gotten him this far and his national recognition is at an all-time high. Grateful for the opportunity, the determined and ever-improving player is prepared to live out his dream this month.
“It’s something that we all dream of because that’s something you’ll be able to tell your kids, your family, that once I was a member of the national team or I had a look at the national team.”