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The Valentin Chronicles - Issue VII

Dzien' Dobry

Hello folks!  Thank you for joining me for today’s action-packed issue of The Valentin Chronicles.  I know it’s been a while since my last installment, but I hope that you’ve missed me.  I’ve been so busy lately trying to get all of my schoolwork done so that I can graduate early, and then on top of that I still have training.  I also really have nothing to write about anymore, as you will find out in this installment, as I write about complete nonsense at times.
Anyway, today’s international greeting comes from the land of juicy kielbasa, Danny Szetela, and the Warsaw Pact.  I am greeting you in none other than the great Polish language – dzien’ dobry! 
Don’t ask me how to pronounce that one, but I felt that Polish would be a fitting language considering the U.S. MNT handled the Polish national team by a score of 1-0 on a DaMarcus Beasley goal in late March.  It was a solid win for the MNT as they defeated a strong European group on their turf.  Great stuff guys!

Long Walk on the Beach

Since you’ve heard from me last, our team’s sports psychologist, Trevor Moawad, took Freddy Adu, Danny Szetela, Rigo Hidalgo, Eric Avila, Tim Ward, Adam Sloustcher, and myself down to Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach for the afternoon.  Everyone was invited, but we were the only ones who jumped at the invitation.  It was a great day.  Earlier that day we handled a big, physical Virginia Tech team by a score of 3-0, so we went to soak up some rays shortly after the victory.

The trip was partly in celebration of a good victory, partly just to get out of IMG’s overwhelming walls, and partly because Freddy Adu would be leaving in a couple days to join D.C. United full time.  It would be our last chance to spend some time with Freddy.  Okay, who am I kidding, it was spring break for many colleges and we thought it would be a good chance to go and check out the ladies.  Even though I have a girlfriend, I went anyways.  I figure just because I’m on a diet, doesn’t mean I can’t look at the dessert tray.  I just can’t try the cheesecake.

Anyways, we got out of our Chevrolet van and were instantly greeted by a hairy man wearing a black Speedo bathing suit.  After persevering through the horror, we were quickly cheered up by the feel of cool water and powdery, white sand on our feet.  We set up shop near the lifeguard stand and threw some towels down as a base.  Adam Sloustcher and I went right into the water as all the other guys chose to stay and check out the ladies.  Danny Szetela worked on his caramel-colored tan, Freddy Adu lounged with his cool sunglasses on, Rigo Hidalgo spent time with his girlfriend who met us there, and Tim Ward and Eric Avila just chilled.
The waves were nonexistent in the gulf, so I quickly got bored with the brisk water.  I actually spent an hour and a half making a sand pyramid.  I skillfully crafted the structure in the middle of the beach, while all of my colleagues made fun of me.  In the face of ridicule, I was able to construct the greatest structure since the Great Pyramid of Giza.  Yet, right after I built it, I realized how I wasted my time and how childish I was…so I demolished it.
Before we left and headed back to IMG, we cruised down the shore to see the “sights”, stopping for an occasional “photo-op” with people who recognized us.  On the way home we made a quick stop at McDonalds, which just topped off a great Saturday.

Battle of the Century

With the Residency group up to 40 players this year, there is a natural separation of sorts even though they are still a close-knit group of guys.  Looking at it realistically, the younger group – the 1988 age group – is preparing for their U-17 World Cup next year with a lot international events coming up.  Then there is the 1987 age group who is training with the younger guys and going to school to graduate early and move on either to college or the professional ranks.  There are different goals for the two groups.
With all that said, the Residency 40 often split up into “older” and “younger” groups for matches. The older group tends to play the tougher games against college and pro teams, while the younger group plays most of their matches against older club teams.  Of course, in that type of environment there is a bit of natural trash talking between groups.
About a month ago there was a chance for both groups put their money where their mouth was so to speak.  With all of the ’87s in a camp with the U-18 team, coach Bob Jenkins set up a game with the U-17 ‘88 Men’s National Team, our younger counterparts.
Understandably, the older group was confident going into the match with Rigo Hidalgo, Danny Szetela, and Christian Jimenez doing the mouthing on behalf of the ‘87s.  Johnny Villanueva, Cameron Jordan, and Blake Wagner were the first from the ‘88s to lash back as the game approached.
In a brilliant coaching genus, Coach Ellinger and his staff had the ‘88s play in a 3-4-3 formation to neutralize ’87 outside backs Greg Folk and Nathan Sturgis who love to enter the attack from the back and cause problems on the flank.  The irony of the situation is that coach Ellinger, coach Hackworth, coach Mellor, and coach Fulk spend so much time training the older group to be great players and now they had to coach against them – sort of like Dr. Frankenstein fighting his monster.  

The game kicked off and there was little soccer played by either side as the teams struggled to find feet and played a more direct style.  It was a chess match of field position and defending.  The ‘88s came out of the box like a rocket from a launch pad, challenging the ’87s to weather the storm.  The ‘88s managed to get a couple chances off a Quavas Kirk 20-yard shot that sailed over Marcus Rein’s goal, and upcoming forward Michael Stevens was able to put a toe-poke on net.  Chances on the other end, for the ‘87s, were more frequent with a good chance from Mike Grella that was scooped up by ’88 goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner, and a number of solid chances off Christian Jimenez’s hard work and services from the left flank.
The second half was much more lopsided as the ‘87s came out and handed the game to the younger group.  The ‘87s had a plethora of chances in front of net, but wasn’t able to knock any into the back of the net.  The possession arrow was emphatically in favor of the older boys as they kept the ball for seemingly hours at a time showing their technical and tactical dominance.  Still neither team was able to stick a chance in the back of the net and take the lead as the ‘88s battled back and began to create chances again.  As the referee blew the 90-minute whistle, the scoring deadlock was yet to be broken and the game ended up with a 0-0 draw.
Now back to the first person perspective:  As they say, “a tie is like kissing your sister,” and I’d say was mine a bit wet on that day.  For the ‘87s it felt like a loss and for the ‘88s it was a big win.  Looking back on it, a tie is probably the best thing that could have happened because if either team had won, the trash talk, which had become pretty bad, would have continued on forever.  Also, each team in Residency seems to have a turning point.  Even with some tough international results lately, I hope that this “win” for the ‘88s can be a launching pad for them as they continue to prepare for Peru 2005.

Big D

This year’s Dallas Cup was a bittersweet event for the U-18 national team in the U-19 Super Group.  For the opening game of the tournament we squared off against C.A. Paranaense from Brazil, who would later take the Super Group crown.  The game started off in a “rapid-fire” fashion with guys from both teams just running around on the artificial high school football field at Lake Highland HS.  Mid-way through the first half, Danny Szetela ripped a shot from 20 yards that clanked off the crossbar and served as the lone highlight from the first half.  The second half was more of a soccer game with both teams gaining possession of the ball and getting quality chances on goal.  To make a long, bitter story short – Paranaense scored two goals in the second half and took the game 2-0.
With no time to sit and think about the loss, we got right back to work the next day against Costa Rican power Deportivo Saprissa.  Playing much better than the first game when we came out flat, we took it to Saprissa from the opening whistle.  Hard-nosed defensive center midfielder Mike Orozco was sent off about 20 minutes into the game, so we played shorthanded for the rest of the match.  Battling hard with an organized back line, we were able to knock the ball around and find seams in behind the Costa Rican defenders despite the numbers game.  

Nico Colaluca broke the deadlock with a nice piece of play in the 55th minute after a good ball from Christian Jimenez.  Colaluca found the ball at his feet, shook a couple defenders in the box and slotted the ball home from the penalty spot.  Saprissa would get a goal back later in the game off a corner kick header and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.  It was a gutsy performance from us playing down a man, but now we put ourselves in a testy situation and advancing from the group would require a lot of help from the other groups.
Game three was against a feisty CF Monterey team from Mexico, although it would quickly turn into a WWE wrestling event.  This game was right up my alley considering I am a huge wrestling fan as many of you already know.  I was hoping that I would get to whip out “The People’s Elbow” like The Rock or The Ultimate Warrior’s “Gorilla Press.” 
At the beginning of the game we were on the defensive as the Mexicans strung some good chances in a row, putting one in the net in the 22nd minute.  Good ol’ Dax McCarty tied the game up before the halftime break with a nice chance taken from a slim angle.  We took full control of the game from that moment on and put on a nice show of possession, organization, pressure, attacking, and defending.
Shortly after the halftime break things got hairy.  It actually started with me scoring as you may have known from, which included my horrendous mug shot on the match report.  I promise that I look better in person.  Anyway, the ball was served and Mike Vidiera won a header at the near post and flicked it to me on the penalty spot.  I calmly collected the ball and without aiming, blasted the ball on frame.  The outstretched Monterey keeper got two hands on it, but the sheer force of my volley was too much for his gloves.  (The great thing about this job is that I have the power to make my goal sound much greater than it really was).
After my go-ahead goal, Monterey began to panic and started getting “chippy.”  The Monterey team earned two quick red cards off of potentially deadly, and extremely late tackles.  Skirmishes often broke out on the field due to dirty tackles and poor refereeing.  We continued to put on the pressure as Jamie Watson and Mike Bradley scored goals to build on the lead as the Mexican team continued to foul and get players sent off.  By the 80th minute we were playing four men up.  We ended up winning the game 5-1, but it was not enough to advance to the second round. 
Even with our failure to advance we played some good soccer in the tournament, excluding much of the first game.  Even with that, the week was not over as coach Jenkins had scheduled friendlies with Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Costa Rica’s U-20 National Team for later in the week.
The SMU game was not one of out better outings to say the least.  We came out flat and stayed that way for the preponderance of the game.  We could not keep the ball or stay organized and SMU punished us for that.  They were a good side, but we did not bring a team that wanted to play that day.  We lost to the Mustangs 2-1 and looked to redeem ourselves against Costa Rica.
The week finished off with a bang against the Costa Rica U-20 National Team.  We came out flying and kept the pressure on the whole game.  We didn’t give the Costa Ricans time to play or even think.  We defended well and the possession arrow for the game must have been a whopping 80-20 if someone was keeping track.  Still with our dominance, the score was 0-0 at the half.
The stalemate was not to last long as second half substitution Nathan Sturgis attacked from the left back position and netted his second international goal.  The game continued on and Costa Rica began to take some of the game and create some chances of their own, they were unable to score with Steve Sandbo in net and Greg Folk, Karl Schilling, Nate Sturgis, and myself behind the ball.  Our midfield also played an extremely solid game with Christian Jimenez on the left flank, Mike Bradley, Mike Orozco, Dax McCarty, Danny Szetela, and Jamie Watson all in the midfield at different times.
We earned a penalty later in the game as Nico Colaluca was cracked in the box.  Danny Szetela planted the ball in the net for a 2-0 lead.
The game ended with a 2-0 score.  Coach Jenkins, coach Mondelo, and coach Yamamoto put together a fine week of games for us and I think that everyone came out having learned some valuable lessons.  This international victory was a great way for us, the U-18 MNT to end the week, as we put all of our themes from the week together in one game.  Now we are preparing to go to Argentina on May 23rd.

The Crane Game

We had the day off one day and after a training session in the morning, we decided to take a trip to the movies.  There were three basic groups of guys who saw three different movies.  One group saw “Johnson Family Vacation” with Cedric the Entertainer.  Another group saw “Girl Next Door” as suggested by Dax McCarty, and the last group, which I was in, decided to see “The Whole 10 Yards” with Bruce Willis and that guy who plays Chandler in “Friends.”  A really good friend of mine from Bradenton, whom I will call #41, is a huge “Friends” fan, but even she would admit that this movie was terrible.
|It was a tasteless, lame comedy and a toddler must have thought up the bland plot.  But I’m not here to be a critic or bash this terrible movie.  I’m here to tell you about one of the highlights of the trip.
As we were waiting for the rest of the guy’s movies to end, we spotted one of those crane games where the claw drops and you try to snag the cheap stuffed animals.  They are always so fun, but nobody ever wins because the games are rigged.  I put in a quarter and Tim Ward lined me up on the side while Marcus Rein advised me and Mike Bradley was my right hand man as usual.  I dropped the claw and won a doll that resembled Pippy Longstockings – on my first try!  There was a huge roar from all who were present.
Then Marcus Rein stood behind the joystick to try his luck with the help of the team for lining-up purposes.  In two tries he won Teddy bear with a little hat, a flower, and overalls.  The team celebrated in ecstasy of our second victory. 
Then Mike Bradley gave it a go.  He put in a couple quarters and failed.  Then on his third try, he lifted up a blue bear with an orange and green mouth.  The bear fell out of the claw and rolled into the hole!  We had spent only $1.25 and we had won three stuffed animals.
For the last try, Steve Sandbo attempted to get a little green frog.  He inserted about $2.50 cents into machine to try to get this cute little frog but couldn’t get it.  Coach Jenkins came over and said that we had to go back to the hotel because everyone’s movie had finished.  On the last try, Marcus Rein put in a quarter and in one try pulled the frog into the hole.  Sandbo tried so hard, but just couldn’t win the frog.
Not including Sandbo, we had won four stuffed animals with only six quarters.  That has to be some kind of Guinness World Record.  These 10 minutes were one of the highlights of the trip, but I guess you had to be there.

The “Bad Boys” Scam

Staying on the topic of movies, I’d like to add this little anecdote from the other day.  It is a sad, but true, fact that one of the highlights of week in Residency is our Sunday trip to Wal-Mart.  I usually just go and pick up some things that I am going to need for the week such as face wash, razors (I’m up to shaving biweekly now), or applesauce and French bread, which is my absolute favorite snack. However, the main draw is the interior McDonald’s franchise that is always good for a 20 piece chicken nugget.
Last week, as I made my usual rounds through Wal-Mart’s electronics department, a special deal jumped off the shelf at me.  The store was offering both of the “Bad Boys,” staring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.  Both “Bad Boys” and “Bad Boys 2” DVD were being sold in one set for only $21.50!  Being the DVD fanatic that I am, I knew that I could not pass up this offer, so I threw the set in my cart.  Keep in mind that “Bad Boys 2” alone cost $22.99.  Now that’s bargain-shopping folks.
Anyways, here’s the meat of the story:  I went to the checkout counter and the cashier rung up the set.  All of a sudden the computer screen beeped.  Apparently both of the “Bad Boys” movies are rated “R” and the woman asked me if I was 18 – the legal age to buy the rated “R” DVDs.  I quickly scrambled to answer, “uhh…no – but my friend is,” in reference to my great buddy Mike Bradley, who many would say looks older than I do. 
Although he gave me a look that emphatically said, “how could you ever put me in this position,” Mike went with it and then pulled out his Florida Learner’s Permit for ID. 
The cashier scrutinized the birth date on Mike’s permit.  “2004, ’87, Sunday, July,” she said to herself.  Then, after a great deal of intense mental math, she came to the conclusion that Mike is indeed over 18 and that he had to buy the movies for me.  “Yeah, that works.”
So, in a comical fashion, I gave the money to Mike, Mike gave the money to the woman, the woman gave the change to Mike, and Mike gave the change to me.
I walked away from Wal-Mart that day with two new DVDs and the deal of a lifetime.  For the record, I am older than Mike.

Well folks, that’s it for this issue of The Valentin Chronicles.  Remember that you can reach me at any time at my very own US Soccer email address,  I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and make sure to keep reading!