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The Valentin Chronicles - A Special Valentin(e)'s Day Edition


Ciao!

Hello again loyal fans! Today’s foreign greeting comes from the land of real pizza, Juventus, and smooth talking Romeos. Today, I welcome you in Italian, a fitting language for today’s romantic installment of The Valentin Chronicles. Ciao!

Thank you for joining me for today’s special Valentin’s Day Chronicles, being brought to you on this February 14th. No folks, that was no typo. I am boldly and officially changing the name of this time honored Hallmark holiday by dropping the omniscient "e" and naming this day after myself. Well, at least until the end of this installment we can call it that, but I’m sure that it won’t stick.

Now lets get on with today’s special Valentin’s Day Chronicles.

Cupid’s Arrow Soars in Bradenton

As I’ve been trying to say since the beginning of my era here at ussoccer.com, we here on the Under-17 Men’s National Team are just normal kids. Considering that we are just 15,16, and 17-year-old boys, girls are pretty much always on our young minds. So, I thought that the public might like to know what some of the guys from the U-17 MNT are doing for their girlfriends on this Valentin’s Day to further state the fact that we are simply normal kids.

I’m sorry if I break any young, female hearts in this segment, but I simply speak the truth. If you couldn’t care less about our "puppy love," feel free to tune me out right now and I’ll get back to soccer shortly, but I strongly recommend reading on. It’s actually rather enlightening to hear a different side of the Residency Boys – a much softer side.

I have been with my beautiful girlfriend, Ginny, for a year and five months (sorry ladies). She lives back in my hometown of Lancaster, Pa., so we do the long distance thing while I’m here in sunny Florida, but I love it.

We both have decided that Valentin’s Day is a fake holiday that just tries to steal hard-working people’s money. So, being the brilliant mind and amazing boyfriend that I am, I thought I would take a surprise trip home and take Ginny to a nice dinner out with my new driver’s license – a "date" if you will.

Now on to the rest of the boys:

I’m sorry girls! I regret to inform you that young YM Magazine heartthrob Danny Szetela has a girlfriend, Sherri, who lives near Miami. Instead of going home to New Jersey, Danny is flying to Miami to spend Valentin’s Day with her. "I’m taking her out to dinner and getting her some stuff so she will remember me forever." Aww, Danny always knows what to say to flatter the ladies!

Rodrigo Hidalgo, who is already considering marriage with his girlfriend Leah, is actually home in Ft. Lauderdale this Valentin’s Day getting his U.S. citizenship. While I did not mention this matter to Rigo before he left, I’m sure that Rigo, being the Casanova that he is, has something special planned for the girl whom he refers to as "Princess."

Outside back Greg Folk’s girlfriend, Erin, goes to Edison Academic Center with the team. From speaking to both Greg and his girlfriend, I have gathered that Greg has nothing at all planned for his poor girlfriend. Greg defends himself by saying, "I’m broke!" Erin is not too happy about that.

Goalkeeping sensation Marcus Rein is planning on sending his girlfriend, Sadie, "some small stuff" in the mail as he calls it. "We both agreed…don’t worry and keep it under 10 bucks, so that it’s simple for both of us, but still a nice little gift."

Metrostars’ new acquisition Mike Bradley is currently "girlfriendless." He is an extremely eligible bachelor. I asked Mike his feelings on his whole female situation for all of you interested ladies. "You know what, Jules, you guys are all whipped – spending all of this money and time on your girls. Being single is the way to be, I’ll settle down eventually."

Gabriel Farfan is currently "talking" to Steve Sandbo’s ex-girlfriend from last month. I asked Sandbo about he feels about this current situation and he replied, "Oh gosh, just fine because I’m not looking for a relationship." All current signs show that Gabe is going to steal her from the giant Sandbo, who could surely squash the smaller Farfan. I have yet to see any animosity there and I hope that it stays that way for the team’s sake.

Freddy Adu is currently in a long distance relationship with a girl named Sarah from his home in Maryland. According to Freddy, she’s "the one" and he even mentioned her on his recent TRL appearance – they’re so cute at that age. Even with this fact, he still doesn’t know what he’s doing for his lucky girlfriend. I’m sure that it will be nice.

Christian Jimenez is dating Laime, a Venezuelan tennis player from here at IMG Academies. I asked Christian what he is doing for Laime. With a perplexed look on his face, as if he had completely forgotten, Christian answered, "I don’t know, what are you doing? I suck at imaginations."

Taylor Waspi, an ’88 center back, is going out with another local girl, Haley, who attends a nearby school. They have been together for about a month and started using the "L-word," on a regular basis, after only a week! Waspi is planning on giving his girlfriend a nice necklace that he bought for her.

I would also like to send a special Valentin’s Day wish to my second girlfriend. She is my incredibly beautiful, charming, and very English girlfriend Ms. Pam Perkins. You are absolutely "smashing" baby. I hope to see you soon!

A Few Good Games

This past week, the tropical palm trees and amazing stadium of The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., welcomed the U-17 MNT as we utilized the beautiful facilities and played some very good games there.

Our first game was against perennial college powerhouse UCLA, which is comprised of past and present national team players, including Jordan Harvey, Chad Barrett, and last year’s U-17 players Brandon Owens and Trini Gomez.

The Bruins took an early lead on us, finishing a crossed ball that caught our outside midfielder off guard. Not to be outdone, we swiftly rebounded with a great run from Rigo Hidalgo. After Danny Szetela played a ball into the box for Rigo, he was fouled (although he made quite a meal of the slight nudge) and was awarded a penalty. Szetela knocked the ball home from the penalty spot.

UCLA then struck again with another well-played goal from a cross. It was Hidalgo again that would equalize the game as he was found on another through ball. Making a diagonal run that split the defense, somebody from my team, who I don’t remember (sorry for my horrible reporting), sent a ball in a compromising position for the UCLA goalie. Making a decision to come out and defuse the play, the goalie came out to win the ball but Hidalgo touched it past him and slotted it into the open net. [Editor’s Note: In the game report, Tim Ward was awarded with the assist on Hidalgo’s goal.]

UCLA struck once again before the half and we headed to the halftime bench down by a score of 3-2.

It was not until the waiting moments of the game that Tim Ward broke the stalemate with a memorable strike from a 30-yard free kick. Ward stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and in the face of a three-man wall, he unloaded on the poor ball, nearly tearing off the skin. The Nike Geo Merlin cleared the wall and headed for the goal with the velocity of a freight train. The UCLA goalie fully stretched out for the ball, but his valiant attempt was no match for Ward’s bomb. The ball landed in a prefect upper-90 position, sparking an instant outburst from the bench. The free kick was so good that Tim should legally change his name to Robert-Carlos Ward.

We ended the game with a 3-3 tie.

The next day we squared off against the Los Angeles Galaxy. The game started off in a disheartening fashion for us as the Galaxy knocked the ball around for an extended spell without giving us a single touch. We were still able to stay defensively sound and keep the Galaxy from scoring. Gradually we started to fight back and make a game out of it with Danny Szetela, Mike Bradley, and Dax McCarty winning battles in the midfield. Nathan Sturgis, Greg Folk, Tim Ward, and myself, fought hard in the back to contain the likes of Carlos Ruiz and Joseph Ngwenya. We soon came out of our shell, began to play, and made a game out of it.

Arturo Torres broke the scoreless deadlock in the 27th minute with a strike from the corner of the 18-yard box. Not wasting any time, we came back two minutes later with a somewhat lucky goal from Adam Sloustcher.

Little Dax McCarty waded though a thicket of Redwood-like Galaxy defenders, forcing two of them to slip. Then McCarty served the ball to Sloustcher at the top of the 18-yard box, who put a dribbling ball on frame. It was one of those plays where everything just seemed to go in slow motion as the ball trickled into Kevin Hartman’s right side.

We continued to fight hard but Joseph Ngwenya would knock home two more goals by the end of the first half to complete the scoring.

The second half was a possession war, and the game ended 3-1 Galaxy, but it was a solid showing for us both defensively as well as offensively.

We took the redeye from LAX Friday night, arriving in Bradenton early the next morning after a long layover in Atlanta’s infamous Hartsfield International. With such a long travel day, the preponderance of the team laid out on the floor trying to catch up from lost sleep. I could not sleep so I took the liberty of I strolling around my weary teammates and capturing the moment on digital film. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words.

That day, I took the team through a light jog and stretch as we prepared for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Fire.

The game against the Fire started off with a bang in the early stages with a goal from Dax McCarty assisted by yours truly. There was a foul about 30 yards out. Freddy Adu stepped up to the ball and I invaded the penalty box from my center back position, as I usually do, for a header attempt. Freddy played the ball to me at the far post. I skied above the crowd and seeing that I didn’t have an angle for a goal, I headed the ball back across the net to a waiting Dax McCarty. It was a flashback from the first goal of World Cup 2002 when John O’Brien rocketed his famous top shelf goal in the early stages of the Portugal game. McCarty took my headed pass out of the air and netted the ball right under the crossbar.

Later that half we struck again with another through ball to Rigo Hidalgo, identical to his second goal against UCLA. Now, we were up 2-0.

We held that lead until the final five minutes of the game when we gave up two goals and I got knocked out. During a fair shoulder-to-shoulder battle with the Fire’s giant Nate Jacqua, our feet got tangled up in the box and I took a spill, slamming my head on the ground as Jacqua came tumbling down on top of me. My head got crunched between the ground and his body like a vise. The referee horrendously awarded Chicago a penalty (and I’m not just saying that because it was against me – ask anybody who was there), and to make it worse, I got a concussion, my first ever, from the encounter. Chicago put away the penalty.

Then with two minutes left on the clock, I watched from the sideline as we gave up another goal on a cross and ended up tying the Fire 2-2, rather than a deserved victory. It was still an extremely good game for us – just an unfortunate ending.

To end a series of four great games in six days, we were fortunate enough to play against the full men’s national team as they are still training here in Bradenton before flying off to Amsterdam to play mighty Holland on February 18.

The game was a rather informal scrimmage with the two teams sitting on the opposite sides of the field. I found this a bit odd. It reminded me of the early days of intramural rec. soccer with the team sitting with its parents. The only thing missing was oranges at halftime and a post-game juice box.

As expected, the full team took it to us in clinical fashion as they knocked the ball around with excellent skill, pace, and technique. They showed us, pretty much, why they are the full team, but we still managed to get our little spells of play when they felt like taking a rest.

MNT goals came from Ante Razov on a remarkable turn and one-time shot from 18 yards out, a half volley from Corey Gibbs off a Chris Klein cross, a remarkable Beckham-like bended goal from Klein himself, and a few more that I forget (terrible reporting once again).

It was quite an accomplishment for us when ’88 forward Quavas Kirk was able to get in behind the MNT defense after a miscue and beat Johnny Walker for a goal! It was a joyous day and quite an achievement for a group of 16-year-old boys against the best team in the land.

We ended up loosing the game 6-1, but the experience itself was a great one that will serve as both a fond memory for us, as well as an indicator of where we are right now and what we need to work towards. It shows us what we have to do to become the best and play under coach Arena someday.

Good luck to the full team as they square off against the construction cone orange and black jerseys of the renowned Dutch National team on February 18. You can do it guys!

The End

I guess that this is it for today friends. I’m sorry if today’s installment ran a little long and lost your interest with all of the mushy girl stuff, but I hope that I rebounded well with my reports of the game. Feel free, as always, to email me at thevalentinchronicles@ussoccer.org, with your questions, comments, or suggestions.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s Valentin’s Day special of my Chronicles. Make sure that you do something special for your significant other today. Whether it’s chocolates, flowers, a nice card, or even jewelry to show them that you care on this Valentin’s Day. Until next time, this is Jules, signing off.

Jules

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