Sporting Kansas City homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown opened January with a flight home to the United States after a yearlong stint in Portugal. He concluded the month with another major shift — a trip to Orlando on Tuesday to join the United States Under-20 men’s national team.
Palmer-Brown, 19, was named to the U.S. Under-20 national team training camp ahead of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which begins Feb. 18.
The call-up made for a busy day. Palmer-Brown took part in Sporting Kansas City’s first scrimmage of the preseason Tuesday morning against San Jose in Tucson, Ariz., before he flew to Orlando. San Jose defeated Sporting KC 1-0 in the scrimmage.
Palmer-Brown spent only a week with Sporting KC this preseason after returning stateside. He was loaned to Portugal club Porto B in 2016.
“He definitely has matured in both his game on the field and also off the field,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He’s very determined on what he wants to do as a player. You can see it in the way he trains, and you can see it in the way he plays with the group.”
The camp will take Palmer-Brown away from Sporting KC for the foreseeable future. U.S. U-20 coach Tab Ramos will trim the 24-player camp roster to 20 before the United States opens the CONCACAF U-20 Championship on Feb. 18 in Costa Rica. The tournament, which also serves as the U-20 World Cup qualifier, concludes March 5.
Palmer-Brown is thought to be competing for playing time at center back. Sporting KC also has Matt Besler, Ike Opara and Kevin Ellis for those two spots.
“It’s a good experience for him,” Vermes said. “I know he’ll take that time very seriously and do what he has to do to make sure he can handle it.”
Defender Matt Besler and forward Dom Dwyer opened the preseason on the sideline after they each underwent offseason surgery to clean up bone spurs in an ankle. Besler has returned to full training. Dwyer has increased the intensity of his workouts but remains out of practice. Neither participated in the scrimmage Tuesday.