Natalie Chudnovsky

Well after his teammates had been dismissed from practice, freshman defender Javan Torre trotted across the North Athletic Field, helping the team managers pick up the remaining balls and move the goals. It was an act of helpfulness that represented the character of the UCLA men’s soccer team.

Fittingly, it came from the player who had just represented the United States overseas.

Torre was selected as one of the 19 members of the United States Under-20 National Team and traveled to Spain for the Marbella Cup from Oct. 6 to 17.

“It’s definitely an honor because, for me at least, it’s the highest level I’ve played at, so its something I’ve always worked for and once I’m there I try to represent myself well and where I come from,” Torre said.

Torre, a late addition to the U.S. team, started all three games against Canada, Scotland and Azerbaijan and made his presence felt.

“It was a very fortunate (experience),” Torre said. “To go from not being a part of the original group to then starting, it’s some luck in my favor, but it also wasn’t so good for some of my friends, because they got hurt and that’s how I got the chance to play.”

It was certainly good for the U.S. National Team though. Although the games were just friendly matches, the U.S. technically won the round-robin tournament, bolstered by Torre’s two assists off throw-ins in the team’s 2-0 win over Scotland.

After helping the U.S. National Team, Torre returned to help UCLA, starting in three of the past four games ““ all three of which were UCLA wins ““ and taking over a large portion of the throw-in duties. Coach Jorge Salcedo has noted some improvements in Torre’s play since his stint overseas.

“The fact that Javan got to play in three international games within a 10-day period really helped his match fitness, his sharpness and his tactical awareness, so it benefitted him,” Salcedo said.

Torre’s experience isn’t unique among his teammates. In fact, 11 Bruins have experience with the U.S. National Team.

Torre, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Earl Edwards, junior forward Victor Chavez, freshman midfielder/defender Holden Fender, redshirt senior defender Chris Cummings, redshirt senior midfielder/forward Fernando Monge, freshman goalkeeper Juan Cervantes, senior forward/midfielder Evan Raynr, redshirt freshman Nati Schnitman, freshman midfielder/defender Cole Nagy and junior defender Patrick Matchett all have played with the U.S. National in some capacity.

With so many players on the team who have had this experience, it’s hardly a mystery why UCLA has a chance to win the Pac-12 title for the second straight year on Friday in its final regular season game against San Diego State.

“You come here and there’s no drop off really from the level of play there and the level of play here. I think UCLA does a real good job at recruiting the top players in the country and it’s a high level and I think this is the highest level you can play at in college,” Edwards said.

Training with the country’s best players and playing against those of other countries has prepared UCLA’s National Team participants for a higher level of competition.

“Players that they play against are pros everyday and they have to figure out how to be competitive everyday, so that is a real beneficial aspect of it,” Salcedo said.

But time spent with the U.S. National Team has influenced these players beyond just their soccer skills.

“It’s something that’s like a mentality, something that they are proud they are able to represent our country at an international level, so that experience is invaluable,” Salcedo said.

“That experience … just broadens their horizon and makes you really open your eyes to what’s out there in the world.”

While the U.S. Soccer program allows its players to improve through international competition, the exposure to such a wide variety of cultures has also contributed to participants’ improvements as people.

“It’s not really something I think about, but I’m sure there is something that comes with that, at least the travel aspect, that I’ll find out when I’m older,” Torre said.

But Edwards, who has the most National Team experience among the Bruins as a member of the U-13/14 National Team and the U-17 Residency Program where he spent three years training for the U-17 World Cup, can already attest to the personal value of his experience.

“I went to 14 different countries, hit almost every continent, so it was pretty cool to see how everyone lives,” Edwards said.

“You really take things for granted while you’re here, but going to places like Africa and South America, you really come back and appreciate what you’ve got.”