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U-20 MNT Trio Discusses Canada Camp

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team just wrapped up a weeklong training camp in Canada where they played the Canadian U-20s twice in three days. Hours after their second match, we caught up with Julian Valentin, Robbie Rogers and Blake Wagner in an instant message chat room. With as host, they talked about their 2-1 win and 1-1 draw against their northern rival (including Jules own goal!), competing for a spot on the U-20 squad, preparing for qualifying next year and what they thought of the World Cup final (and Zidane’s head butt). And you better read up because the guys missed a meal and “Entourage” to type away.

Julian Valentin: Holler!
Robbie Rogers: Am I in? Ha. You are in, Robbie.
RR: Oh, ha. Nice. Where is Blake?
Blake Wagner: I’m here.
JV: Can we bang this out? We're trying to hit the town. ready to get this thing started
RR: Yah.
JV: Alright. I guess we'll start off with the first match....Robbie how did the game go overall? It seemed like a tale of two halves.
RR: Yah, exactly. We started off really well and kept the ball, scored some goals and then took our foot off the pedal and kind of let them back into the game. Can you explain your goal?
RR: Sure. I dribbled down the endline and instead of crossing it I got stripped. Then I chased down the left back and kind of got a poke, took another touch, looked up and I saw the keeper still on the far post, so I took a shot. Luckily, it was a pretty sick shot.
JV: You didn't look closed your eyes and struck it.
RR: Ha, ha. Shhh…
BW: Good goal though.
RR: Come on now…not as great of a finish as Jules’ volley, but it was all right.
JV: Ha, ha. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ha. We'll get to that in a bit Robbie. So, Josi scores as well six minutes later and at half you have a 2-0 lead. Pretty good. But then it seems like Canada took control. What was going on in the back, Blake?
BW: We were playing pretty solid but mistakes happen...the luck was with them at that point. We just absorbed pressure, focused on organization, and battled through it. Okay, bend but don't break it seemed for a bit. But then Jules decides to break right?
JV: Ha, ha. Riiiight! Here's your chance to explain yourself.
JV: It was a great finish...just the wrong goal. They whipped a ball in and I miss-hit the clearance.
RR: Great finish.
BW: Great finish. upper V?
RR: Fo’ sho’.
JV: Pretty much...clinical. At least we won and I can laugh about it. No doubt. Happens to everyone. Okay, so game two...the rematch. Ends up 1-1.
RR: Yah. A better game? Someone give me a rundown.
RR: 1-1. Could have been more…go ahead Jules.
JV: was pretty much a battle. The whole game was hard-nosed and pretty direct. Your former U-17 teammate Amaechi Igwe gets the goal. Quality header or lucky deflection?
JV: Yea, we got our goal in the second half - Robbie was tearing up the flanks all game and served a ball to Amaechi who "neck-balled" it in.
RR: Ha, ha! Yea, he kind of necked it. Or backed it in.
JV: It was a very awkward goal but it counts on the scoreboard and silenced the Canadian crowd.
RR: We even had the crowd on our side for a few minutes.
BW: They know good soccer when they see it, I guess. The last five games before the draw were one goal victories for the U.S....why do you think these U-20 games against Canada are such close battles? Is it because you know each other so well? They get fired up to beat the U.S.?
RR: I think it’s a big rivalry, and they really were pumped up to play us this time.
JV: I think that they feel they have something to prove playing against us. We have to come out and match their intensity.
RR: I think we caught them off guard last game.
JV: I agree. We took it to them from the first whistle. This game was a battle for 90 minutes which is right up my alley (although I only played the first half).
RR: And the start of the second game was really fast and direct. We had to settle the game down. By the way, I’m so mad I’m missing “Enteroug” tonight.
BW: Ha, ha. That makes two of us...great show!
RR: Love it.
BW: And you spelled "Entourage" wrong.
RR: I know. I always do. Thanks for correcting me.
JV: I've never seen the show.
RR: Wow, bro. You’re missing out.
JV: The guys in my house are all about it, but I've just never caught it. I'm more of a "Curb" guy Both quality. Blake and Robbie, which character in “Entourage” most resembles Jules? Turtle?
RR: Ha, ha. Drama. Who's the "Vince" of the U-20 pool?
RR: Alfonso. Ha! The team coordinator?
RR: Yea, he’s a pimp.
BW: I second that. Ok, moving on. What has Thomas been telling you guys during these first couple camps as you move toward qualifying next year?
JV: I'll take that. There's still an evaluation process going on, but at this point it's becoming more about results. We're pretty happy about getting 4 points here this week. That would usually be enough to go through in the World Cup. We need to continue to get good games like these as we get ready for qualifying.
RR: (Thomas) is trying to build some team chemistry and keep a positive winning atmosphere. A "professional attitude." A lot of MLS/European guys aren't involved right now. Guys like Nathan Sturgis, Freddy Adu and Tim Ward have been with the U-20s before, so they, in some ways, have a leg up on some of the other guys trying to make the team. Does that add pressure to make an impact on the coaching staff now? (Obviously, those guys aren't on the team automatically, and still have to make an impact, too.)
RR: Of course. Everyone is always being evaluated, so every time we step onto the field we have to perform well.
BW: Right. It's all about finding the right chemistry of guys. Coach wants to put the best group on the field whatever mix of players that may be. The Northern Ireland Milk Cup is up next for the U-20s, from July 27-Aug. 5. Did Thomas talk about when you'd find out if you were going on that trip?
RR: No, not yet. Or not to me.
JV: No, he hasn't said anything other than when it is. Take it day-by-day I guess.
RR: I think if you have played well then you might have an idea, but other than that it’s really up in the air.
JV: Again, that relies on availability of pro/euro guys and such as well.
RR: I’m starving.
JV: Me too...we're missing a meal for this! Okay, last question. And then we’ll let you go. What did you think about the World Cup final...and who was for Italy and who was for France?
RR: Oh my gosh, I hate Italy. Everyone was for France.
JV: I was really just hoping for a good game and we sure got it. Very entertaining match, I thought.
RR: Yea, I guess. How 'bout Zidane's PK?
JV: Ballsy…can I say that? You just did.
RR: Good stuff Jules. I agree. Sickness. He is so good.
BW: Dirty. The head butt was classic. I was shocked. Do you think the head butt hurts how people will perceive him? I mean he goes out like that! He's done! No more!
RR: No, I don’t think so. I think they will try to make a big deal out off it but people will still love him.
JV: I think so, but he'll be remembered for what he did, not just the head butt.
RR: Yea, kind of like Jules’ own goal. It won’t really affect they way people look at him back home.
JV: Awww…thanks man. That means a lot.
BW: I'll always remember Jules' own goal.
RR: Ha, ha, ha! Alright guys, great stuff. Thanks for the time and good luck in college or MLS (where we'll see you all soon, if not some other professional team). Now, go eat!
RR: Thanks. Peeeaaaacccceee.
JV: Thanks a lot. I'll talk to you later on. O’Doyle rules!
BW: Later!