Hello fans and thank you for joining me for today’s issue of The Valentin Chronicles. I hope that you read and enjoyed my Special Report: "Jules With the Big Boys," where I interviewed Ben Olsen, Eddie Pope, and Bobby Convey from the Men’s National Team. I had a great time doing each interview and I hope that you had a great time reading each one! I would like to thank each player again for allowing me to basically waste 15 minutes of his life for my interview. If you have not yet read them you’re missing out, but they can still be found on ussoccer.com somewhere hidden beneath all of the important news. (Editor’s note: Click on the above names of those interviewed to read their "Jules With the Big Boys" installment.)
Anyway, now I’m back from training with the U.S. Under-20 MNT at the National Training Center in Carson, Calif., and I’m once again down in Bradenton to resume my normal Residency lifestyle.
To end all inevitable confusion, today’s foreign language greeting is in Albanian. Albania is a small nation in southeastern Europe, nestled to the northwest of Greece – which will host this summer’s Olympic games – and directly south of Yugoslavia. In case you were wondering, I definitely do not speak Albanian, but I would like to thank my friend Steph for this information and a host of other "foreign hellos" that I will use throughout my Chronicles.
Now let’s get into things today.
One Small Step... One Giant Leap
Upon landing on the moon for the first time, astronaut Neil Armstrong, with his cohort Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, muttered the words, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." These words will be forever quoted in American culture. Two of my U-17 MNT teammates have taken both a small step in the right direction, and one giant leap into the MLS.
After a week of exposure on MTV’s cheesy, teenybopper music show, "Total Request Live" and ESPN 2’s morning talk show "Cold Pizza," Freddy Adu is now officially a member of DC United. After being selected as the first pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Freddy becomes the youngest player to ever sign an MLS contract. I’m sure that this is news to only a few people, but I felt that it had to be said once again.
This is obviously quite an accomplishment, but what I like most about Freddy’s whole current situation is that he is the same person that he’s always been. Whether that is good or bad, I’m still not sure. Just kidding buddy!
In all of the glamour and hype of the "Adu Factor," there lies an unsung song. My great friend and roommate Mike Bradley also recently signed a Project-40 contract and was drafted to the MetroStars. Mike is a "thinking man’s player" with great composure and touch on the ball. He is an extremely hard worker who is always willing to put in the extra effort on and off the field. I am happy for Mike and the Bradley family that everything panned out the way it did for them.
Edison Academic Center
First of all, I would like to apologize for the late arrival of this installment. I have been caught up studying for exams and that’s been occupying most of my time lately. Well, studying and my new digital music player that I love to fool around with.
Speaking of exams, it’s an undeniable fact that when people hear about U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program, they immediately think about our daily training and the history of the program – soccer only. However, if I were a betting man, I feel it would be a safe wager that people don’t usually consider our schooling here in Bradenton. The reality is that we spend more of our day at school, or doing school related matters, compared to physical activities.
All 40 guys from our team go to a small school called Edison Academic Center. It is a small, private school consisting of our team and about 110 other people from kindergarten to 12th grade. That brings the grand total of students to a whopping 150 kids.
Because of our hectic travel schedule, Edison fits the U-17 MNT perfectly. Our team is always on the go to different events and trips and Edison allows us to take our work with us. Most of Edison’s curriculum is an extension of Texas Tech University, which allows us to work ahead in our studies and ultimately graduate a full year early, allowing us to go on with life after Residency. We are able to get a quality, individualized education that is catered to our needs.
That individualized education is due to an extremely dedicated staff that is willing to bend over backwards to help us succeed. The whole "Edison Operation" is headed by its founder/director Mrs. Barbara Iannarelli. Mrs. Iannarelli is an absolute saint for us here in Residency. She not only acts as our principal, but also as a college advisor, guidance counselor, friend, fan, and anything else we might need. Under Mrs. Iannarelli’s masterful leadership, there is a great staff of educated teachers that are always here for us should we need academic guidance. On countless nights, when we may be in need of extra help, Mrs. Iannarelli and some of our teachers will come on campus to offer help – that’s what makes them different from other teachers who only work from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
I would like to thank Edison’s staff: Mrs. Simard, Mrs. Bolotin, Mrs. Riley-Love, Mr. Stewart, Mrs. Cumbee, Mrs. Tighe, Mr. Barrie, Mrs. Dorner, Mr. Ford, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. VonSaman, Mrs. Marquez, Miss Peterson, Mrs. Ursini, Mrs. Chambliss, and Mrs. Shulla. I would also like to give a special thank you to our receptionist – who really does so much more than that – Mrs. Denise for all of her hard work she does around the school and her support for our team.
They say that good things come in small packages. In the case of Edison Academic Center, I would have to say that this old adage is emphatically true. While it may be much different than "normal" public school, Edison fits us just right. Now, hopefully my teachers will read this segment boost my B+ to an A.
World’s Most Shameless Plug Segment
My column has gotten me to the point, once again, where countless people are begging, pleading, and crying for a mention in my articles. I figured to make everyone around here happy I would dedicate a segment to the world’s most blatant, unnecessary, and most shameless plugs.
Braden Chandler is our equipment manager here in Bradenton – equipment extraordinaire I should say. The apprentice to the great R.J. Noto (who is now team manager for the U-23 MNT), Braden used to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Mutiny before accepting a full time job with the U-17 MNT. Braden is a genius when it comes to laundry ideas and stocking Gatorade products in our refrigerator. Braden is always the first one at the trailer for training and the last one to leave – now that’s dedication. Keep up the good work buddy. Now can I have some Nike gear?
I would also like to give my center back partner, Tim Ward, a shout-out because he was standing over me while I was writing this segment and demanded a mention. There you go buddy.
The next ridiculously shameless plug goes to Corey Stenstrup. Corey works for IMG Academy’s IPI (International Performance Institute), which is our weight training and conditioning program. There are a handful of other "IPI Guys" including Stacy, Jason, Seth, Ned and others who all do great work for us, but Corey goes above and beyond the call of duty for our team. A mastermind in nutrition, he wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to eat breakfast with some of us, and stays until 10 p.m. to help us lift weights. Corey honestly cares about us as a group and as individuals, only trying to help us get better on the field. Thanks Core – there is your plug.
My third shout-out goes to my Philadelphia Eagles. This year we all saw another disappointing loss in the NFC Championship game, but I know that we’ll get to the Super Bowl next year. I’ll always be there for you guys. Keep you head(s) up.
The last shout-out goes to some of my great fans from all around the country. I have been getting countless emails from people like Steph, Lauren, Mom, Michelle, Bill, Brittany, Peter, and my good friend Julie who also goes by Jules. Thanks for all of your support. I appreciate it!
I would like to remind you that you can reach me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcomed.
The Return of Jules Undercover
I decided that The Valentin Chronicles needed a little extra spice, sassafras if you will. Not knowing what to do, I took a look back in the ussoccer.com archives and read some of my old Jules’ Undercover Journals and thought that I should probably introduce some of the new ‘88s (guys born in 1988) considering you will be reading their names for another year.
To kick off the return of my world famous Jules Undercover segment, I have selected ’88 defender Kwame Ofori (O-for-e) Sarkodie (Sar-KO-de). Ofori, as he goes by, is from Dayton, Ohio and has been living in the United States his whole life, even though his parents were both born in Ghana. Through some strange rule of the Ghanaian royalty system, Ofori is actually the prince of his tribe back in Ghana. The rule says that the second child of his mother and father’s arranged marriage will be the prince – and that’s Ofori. I guess that this means that he controls Freddy! (According to Ofori he has no real desire to go and fulfill that duty of royalty.)
Ofori is a joy to be around off the field. He always greets people with a smile on his face and is extremely polite. Ofori was blessed with a photographic memory, which helps to make him a good student as well. He also has a deep, bellowing voice that makes him seem a bit intimidating, but he is far from that.
On the field, Ofori is a tenacious outside back for the ’88 group of U-17 MNT. First and foremost, he is a hard worker who is always trying to get better, staying after practice with coach Keith Fulk on countless occasions to do a little bit of extra fitness. His blazing speed helps him to run down attackers and his good awareness and anticipation is used to defuse opposing threats. Ofori is one who will only get better with time and is a name to remember for the future for the U-17 MNT.
Well ladies and gentleman, that’s all that my brain could muster up for today’s installment of The Valentin Chronicles. I hope that you enjoyed it and I would like to ask you to keep reading ussoccer.com, your source for U.S. Soccer news, and the next "Valentin Chronicles." Thanks.