FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With only one professional season under his belt, New England Revolution center back Henry Kessler impressed in his rookie campaign. The 22-year-old captured not only the attention of Revolution supporters and MLS watchers, but also the U.S. Men’s National Team, earning him his first-ever call-up to their annual January Camp with the Under-23 side.
“I’m very excited to be representing the U.S,” said Kessler. “This is my first-ever camp. I haven’t been to a single other youth national team camp, so it’ll be a new experience and one that I’m looking forward to.”
Kessler will head down to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to join the USMNT U-23s to train alongside the senior roster. The unique joint camp features 26 players on the U-23 side, with an additional 12 on the senior roster, including Kessler's Revolution teammate, goalkeeper Matt Turner, who is getting his third career USMNT call-up.
“Kess, he deserves it, for sure,” said Turner. “The guy is a workhorse and he’s somebody that’s a coachable guy, who is young, but also has the experience now.”
In Kessler’s inaugural MLS season, he maximized his opportunities in New England. The New York City native became the first rookie to win Revolution Defender of the Year since 2011, leading New England in interceptions (34), tackles won (21), possessions won (123), and clearances (83), while appearing in all but one game across all competitions.
The young defender will now look to use that momentum to propel him into the USMNT January Camp.
“I was talking with coach [Bruce] Arena about it a little bit, and he was saying he thinks five weeks [for an offseason] is ideal, because you don’t have too much time, you don’t lose too much fitness [and] you’re not too rusty,” said Kessler.
Luckily, Kessler will also have Turner as a mentor heading into camp to show him the ropes, allowing the first-timer to focus on making a strong first impression.
“Something I wish I had when I got my first call in was somebody that I knew also there,” said Turner. “The first time I got called in, I knew of a lot of the players, but I didn’t know any of the players.
“I want to be that person for Henry. I want to be the guy that he can rely on, he can ask questions to, he can know where to go, what to do and not have to figure that out on his own so he can be focused on making sure he puts out good performance on the field every day.”
“Yeah, I have spoken with [Turner] a bit,” said Kessler. “He’s given me a little rundown on what it’s going to be like or what it was like in the previous camps, and that includes off the field stuff like food.
“On the field, too, it’ll be nice to play with him and get that opportunity. He’s someone I’m very comfortable with and obviously we’ve spent a lot of time together, so it’ll be good to have a familiar face.”
Having Turner as a guide will enable Kessler to stay honed in on training as he is presented with a unique opportunity with the U-23s. At the end of camp, several U-23 players will be elevated to the full USMNT roster in advance of a planned match in late January.
“There’s certainly competition for those 11 spots, but my mindset is just kind of play my game,” said Kessler. “You know, do what I’ve been doing. I think that’s why I got called up, so [I will] continue to keep the same mindset, don’t try to do too much, play like I’ve been playing and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to join the senior team.”
Both Kessler and Turner will be with the USMNT from Jan. 9-24 before joining the Revolution for preseason training after their return.