We caught up with Quakes academy product JT Marcinkowski to talk about his recent experience at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Costa Rica, training with the first team this week and preparation for the U-20 FIFA World Cup starting this May in South Korea.
sjearthquakes.com: How have the past couple days been training with the Quakes first team?
JT Marcinkowski: “It’s always nice to come in and get high level training with David [Bingham] and Andrew [Tarbell]. You just learn a lot from them without even talking to them. You just learn from watching them train and play. It’s always nice to get that opportunity.”
SJEQ: Just a couple days ago, you and your teammates lifted the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship trophy, the first time ever in the United States' history. Talk about that experience.
JM: “The championship was pretty surreal. To be the first ones to win in the 56 year history, it’s pretty crazy when you think about it. I think we definitely deserved it. It wasn’t a fluke thing. After the first game, we got our heads on straight. We deserved every bit of it. We worked really hard and we’ve been training for it since the first week of January. Having those two months together really paid off in the end.”
SJEQ: Talk about the level of play you faced with the U-20s. How much different is it than the collegiate level?
JM: “The players at that level just think a lot quicker. In college, the players are fast and strong and really physical but at the international level, everyone is pretty equally physically. At the international level it’s definitely more mental and that’s why they’re far superior and that’s why they’re on the national team.”
SJEQ: Besides lifting the trophy, what was the favorite part of your CONCACAF U-20 Championship experience?
JM: “Before we lifted the trophy, we had beaten Mexico for the first time in 31 years at the U-20 level. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. Just being in Costa Rica was a highlight for me. At the end, we were kind of upset that we were leaving. We had a really good time. Just being with the guys off the field and building that comradery was great for us. The friendships we made there will be forever lasting.”
SJEQ: You’ve experienced success at both the collegiate level and the international level. Where would you say you are now as a goalkeeper after your recent experience?
JM: “The Academy gave me a really good base to go out and try different things, but I would say mentally, on and off the field, I’m stronger. I’ve done a better job in finding my presence within goal and being the leader that the team needs from the back. It always helps when you’re playing up a couple years in college when you’re just an underclassman. Now going into my junior year, I really need to be the voice in the back to make sure we really do well and exceed expectations.”
SJEQ: What do the next few months look like for you ahead of the U-20 World Cup?
JM: “Hopefully, I can be in training with the Quakes as much as I can. We are going to be having a couple of training camps with the team overseas and back in the states before we go to South Korea in May. It’s almost two months until the World Cup, so it’s about training as much as I can, but also stepping away from the game and letting my body rest. We’ve been going for two straight months so it’s nice to come back home and relax a little bit and get high-level training."