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Training with USMNT a “surreal” experience for John McCarthy

McCarthy was called in to train with the U.S. team on Tuesday

MLS: Orlando City SC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy awoke to multiple phone calls from “random phone numbers” on Monday morning, he had no idea the attempts to reach him were coming from the U.S. Men’s National Team.

But when he did pick up, he discovered it was the team coordinator from U.S. Soccer inviting him to train with the national team at the University of Pennsylvania.

“That’s something you dream about as a kid,” said McCarthy, in an interview on Thursday afternoon.

Putting on the U.S. training kit Tuesday morning, the 25-year-old who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and Cinnaminson, N.J. (his dad is a former mayor of the South Jersey town) couldn’t stay wide-eyed for long.

“It was a different perspective, a different mindset,” he said.

While he had a chance to interact with goalkeeper coach Matt Reis and meet several of the players in camp for the first time, there was one player McCarthy was already well-acquainted with in Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono. The two split time in goal during a summer together at Reading United in 2013 while McCarthy was still at La Salle and Bono at Syracuse.

“I always liked Bono, he’s a great guy both on and off the field,” McCarthy said. “I’m happy to see how well he’s done in Toronto...I was just happy to train with him for the national team for a day.”

While at La Salle, where he still serves as an assistant coach in his free time in the fall, McCarthy played a couple games at Penn’s Rhodes Field.

“It was one of those moments where it’s like geez I was playing on this field in college a few years ago against them [Penn], and now I’m playing on this field for the national team,” he said. “So it was one of those surreal moments.”

While backing up Andre Blake makes first team minutes on the field hard to come by, McCarthy continues to stay sharp and ready by splitting Bethlehem Steel FC starts with Jake McGuire. His most recent start on May 16 was a clean sheet in a 3-0 win over New York Red Bulls II. McCarthy had a pair of saves in the match.

The USMNT will take on Bolivia on Monday night at Talen Energy Stadium in an international friendly. While there won’t be any Union players on the team, at least one Union player will have a lasting memory of this particular visit.