What’s up everyone? I want to welcome y’all (yes, that is the Texan in me coming out) to my first piece for ussoccer.com. My name is Jamie Watson and I am a member of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team and currently a member of the DFW Tornadoes of the Premier Development League (PDL). I was also a member of U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program from 2002-03 and teammates with the now famous author of “Jules Journal” and “The Valentin Chronicles,” defender Julian Valentin.
Now, while my piece isn’t exactly a journal, I’m hoping it will give you an interesting insight into what it’s like to play and train with a PDL team all summer long, and find out what an honor it is to play in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a smaller, non-professional team like the DFW Tornadoes. And who knows, if we go on a hot streak and make a run through the Open Cup, maybe I’ll get the chance to write my own “Jamie’s Journal.” Hey, Jules didn’t have the little copyright symbol at the bottom of “Jules Journal” so that means it is free to use and steal its originality. (Truthfully though, I called him and begged for his approval just in case and also asked for some expert advice for this piece since he has a big fan base with the ussoccer.com crowd).
You might be wondering what exactly the PDL is. Well, the PDL is the “summer league,” if you will, of soccer. Many of the players are college level players at top Division 1 schools, combined with a wide range all the way to smaller colleges as well. Some teams are even stacked with ex-MLS players and current or former national team players.
The players and coaches devote hours of hard work into improving down the road, along with the generous owners who graciously help make that process easier by funding everything for them. The owner of the Tornadoes, Jim Mertz, flies each player on the traveling roster to each and every road game and also pays for meals throughout the trip. That is unheard of for most teams simply because of the cost issue involved. This shows the level commitment from the front offices and it’s these types of owners and the dedication of the players that is helping the PDL evolve into a successful league.
To me, the best part about being on a PDL team during the summer is making new friends every time we get together. The players are such an interesting mix that it makes for some crazy, but funny moments in the locker room before and after games and practices.
We have guys from all over this great country on our team, as well as from around the world. For instance, right-midfielder Tarik Guendoozi (I have been with the team for a month now and I still don’t know how to say this so, good luck figuring this one out) is from Wales and you can tell from his crisp, Welsh tone that he bleeds green and white and has un-dying love for that funny shaped animal in the middle (kind of looks like a lion and dragon combined if you squint your eyes and stare at it for a while). Think that one is easy? Try goalkeeper Ryszard Gorski or Brazilian Lourenzo Andrade de Souza. These names don’t get easier with time either people. My fool proof method is referring back to the “Hey man” or “What’s up bro?” method of acknowledgment. I wonder if we could send Lourenzo or Tarik’s name to Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee for next year’s contest. Anyone think a 12 year-old could spell either one?
Other than having fun saying each other’s names, we as a team have become close and now call ourselves family when talking about each other. These friendships help remind me why playing the game of soccer is fun and make me forget the stressful parts of the game.
Since I have been home from the University of North Carolina, we have been practicing basically every morning at the break of dawn. Well, 7:30 a.m. seems like dawn for an 18-year-old kid. These practices are normally about two-and-a-half hours long, consisting of everything from possession to finishing to fitness. Our coach Bernard Brodigan has been preparing us for the season well and we are hoping to respond by performing well.
Our team is currently 7-2 in league play and has qualified to play this Tuesday night, June 8, against Legends FC in the U.S. Open Cup first round. The second round pits the winner of Tuesday’s clash versus A-League powerhouse Virginia Beach Mariners. Then from there, the winner of that will advance to the third round with a possible shot at my hometown Dallas Burn. This just goes to show the level of competition that the U.S. Open Cup has to offer. Throughout this year, we, the Tornadoes, have been looking forward to this opening round game and hopefully all the way through to the championship match.
For my final thoughts, I’d like to say that, basically, the PDL is here for amateur status players who want to play in a very competitive league during the summer. That is what I would say is the best way to wrap up the PDL. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I am thankful for everyone from the USL, (United Soccer League, which is the governing body of PDL) from the owners of each team, to the coaches, and all the way down to each player for putting in a lot of work to help make my experience, along with everyone else’s, a good one. Hopefully, I have helped shine a light on the smaller, less glamorous side of semi-pro soccer. You can go to www.uslsoccer.com to check up on your favorite PDL team and try to catch one of these games. It’s a great family outing at inexpensive prices with some good quality soccer.
So, ussoccer.com readers, I want to thank you personally for reading along and showing a little love to my first ussoccer.com piece. I hope you laughed a little as well as learned a quite a bit about PDL at the same time. If you feel as though this one entry isn’t enough to quench your desire and you find yourself hoping for more entries from me, cheer for the DFW Tornadoes as we compete in the Open Cup. Until next time, take care, and make sure to keep up with the U-20’s as we begin an exciting summer with trips to South Korea and Northern Ireland, with games against teams such as Brazil, South Korea, and Poland to name a few.
Take care, and so long Y’ALL.