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Jules' Undercover Journal - Eighth Entry

Welcome Friends

Hello folks!  Welcome to “Jules’ Undercover Journal.”  Thank you for joining me again today for this, my eighth chapter.  I’ll get right into things today.

I will start of today with a pledge to my readers.  It is nearly impossible to get Internet access at our hotel, so I had to go to a local travel agency that had free Internet to read the finished product of my seventh journal entry.  I read it again (for the 300th time, considering I wrote it) and it seemed a bit longer than usual.  I asked Jonathan Spector, who went to the agency with me, if he thought that it was longer than usual and he said “yes,” reassuring my initial notion.  Then more and more people began to tell me that it was rather lengthy.

I’m not Charles Dickens getting paid by the word here, although it would be nice (In Dickens’ career, he made his money by the word).  This column is my labor of love, and I simply aim to please my audience.  So, from this day forward, I pledge that I will keep my entries between 2-3 pages. That’s not too short and not too long for a daily journal.

Now I will get on with today’s installment, which boasts perfect length for an undercover journal.

Three Games Down, One to Go

Our team’s plan from the first day here in Finland has been to take this tournament one game at a time – so we have only one game in mind right now.  On Wednesday, we suffered a frustrating loss against a strong Spanish side.  Hopefully, that result will be enough to wake us up, as it’s safe to say that our performances in our last two games have been less than what we are capable of.  Now, it’s “do or die” time for us as we are matched up against perennial soccer power Brazil.

Our great team doctor, Dr. Jimmy Gilbert, who closely resembles Lord Farquat (sic) from the hit animated movie Shrek, gave me a great idea the night before we battled Spain (the spelling of Farquat (sic) is questionable).  He was the doctor for the ‘82s during their World Championship in New Zealand in 1999 when that group made a sign that said “Thank You Auckland.”  The whole country of New Zealand then adopted our boys and supported them as they marched to a record-setting 4th place finish.

So, the night before our Spain game I stayed up until midnight and constructed a sign of my own in an attempt to increase our fan base.  My sign said “USA [heart]’s LAHTI” with bold, black letters, and I even went as far as to draw the heart in red!  This sign was my baby, as I meticulously crafted it from scratch.  It was made on a cardboard box that I’d cut up and taped back together, using supplies from our training room including athletic tape, pre-wrap, petroleum jelly, and some sort of ankle adhesive as “spray glue.”  Only a few of these products actually functioned, but it just proves that I was on a very limited budget.  Overall, my sign was rather bootleg. It looked as if a dog had chewed it up and was taped back together, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

Sadly, after the conclusion of the game, the fans scattered and left the stadium quicker than I could run into the locker room and get my sign.  Also we had just suffered a bitter loss and nobody was really in the mood for promoting my humorous poster.  So I didn’t run around the stadium’s track sporting my “USA [heart]’s LAHTI” message as I’d planned.  But, if by any strange chance Lahtians might be reading this, I would like to let them know that their kind treatment and support for us in their beautiful city was greatly appreciated.  Quitos Lahti!  Quitos is “thank you” in Finnish.

The Big Switch

Today we switched hotels, moving from Lahti to a town called Turku for our quarterfinal game.  It was about a three-hour bus ride through the beautiful Finnish country to our new town. 

The journey was filled with the beautiful landscape of Scandinavia, which was one of the only upsides to the long drive.  The scenery on the way to Turku reminded me of a painting by the late Bob Ross.  Many may remember Ross, with his huge Afro on daytime television.  I used to watch his painting show when I was sick and stayed home from school.  Anyways, he would effortlessly paint pictures that the audience was supposed to duplicate, but I’m sure rarely ever could.  In his soothing voice he would always speak of “happy little trees” or “calm little cotton clouds” which were very prominent on our drive today.  If you do not know of the painter that I speak of, I’m sorry for wasting your time with that comparison.

While the scenery was great, the ride itself was a struggle as we suffered our long drive with no air conditioning.  As we cruised through the countryside, half of the team couldn’t take the heat anymore and emphatically removed their shirts. While beads of sweat dripped from Chris Germani’s armpits, Freddy Adu, Kyle Helton, and Brandon Owens somehow tolerated their woolen hats for the whole bus ride.  I guess that’s the price you pay for style.  The heat did offer good sleeping conditions and I read a couple chapters from my biography on Kurt Cobain and then drifted off to sleep for a couple hours.

I was awakened by the loud sound of laughter.  Confused, I tried to figure out what was going on.  I looked to the front of the bus to see trainer Jacob Joachim with large black marks on his shaved head and our press officer grinning as he filmed the event.  Joachim was in a deep sleep and he was being toyed with like he was at a childhood slumber party.  Brilliant goalkeeper coach Peter Mellor (I call him brilliant because he told me I was hard on him), who loves a good time, also tickled Joachim’s ear with a wrapper.  Somebody else, as I later found out, had scribbled on trainer Joachim’s head with the infamous black marker.  This event just goes to show that not only does U.S. Soccer have great coaches, trainers and doctors, but they like to have fun too!

When we arrived in downtown Turku I silently gazed out the window.  We drove for about ten minutes around the town as I recorded the sights in my memory.  Then I began to recognize many of those sights and knew it was a bad sign.  When I saw the same fast food restaurant for the third time, I was certain that something was wrong.  We had been driving in Turku for about a half-hour and the driver finally pulled over at a park to sort out where we were supposed to be.  We were officially lost in Turku.

The driver got back on the bus with a confident walk and began to drive again.  It wasn’t even three minutes before we were lost again, blindly driving around town.  Then as we were stopped at a red light, a man came running towards us from behind the bus.  He was wearing a FIFA shirt and he took the lead in his van as he ushered us to our destination.  We were lucky that the FIFA officer saw us wandering around or we may still be looking for our elusive hotel.

Quintessentially Quentin

Welcome to my Undercover Jules segment.  Today’s subject is Quentin Oyamo Westberg – a very original middle name I must say.  Quentin, or “Q” as we often call him, is from St. Cloud, France and he plays for Troyes (pronounced Twa) in the French First Division.  He is fully bilingual, speaking French and English.

On the pitch, Quentin is an athletic goalkeeper who makes countless acrobatic saves in the goalmouth.  He also likes to play the French style of goalkeeping, never hesitating to come off his line.  He is especially vocal on the field as he organizes the team from the back of the field.  Perhaps Quentin’s best asset is his foot skills, as he (seemingly on command) can deliver precise “sidewinder” volleys downfield.  At times, Quentin acts as an extra field playerc as he is comfortable with the ball at his feet and has no problem distributing short or long balls.

Off the field, Quentin enjoys listening to R&B music and watching DVDs on his laptop computer in both English and French.  He may appear quiet at first, but after you get to know Q he is almost as outgoing as I am.  Well, maybe not that much, but he loves to joke around and isn’t as shy as he may seem.  Quentin is also a wealth of soccer knowledge and often answers many of the team’s questions about players, transfers, or any other questions about European soccer. Almost all our questions can be answered by “Westberg’s Football Encyclopedia” and he has solved many arguments with this knowledge.  Like Roget with his thesaurus, Q should publish his information and make a cool million.

It seems that many of my teammates have odd sleeping habits – some of which I have already mentioned in previous installments.  Westberg follows this trend as his may be the strangest of all.  Quentin has been known to wake up in the middle of the night and sleepwalk, usually ending up in a bathroom somewhere.  Okay, that’s not that outlandish.  But not only will he sleepwalk to the restroom, but he also rattles off French gibberish at the same time.  That is a bit strange!

One night when Quentin came to train with us at IMG, he got up and started walking to the bathroom in the same manner as he usually sleepwalks.  His roommates, Spector and Phil Marfuggi then began to toy with sleeping Westberg, saying what little basic French they knew in an attempt to spark a hilarious conversation with their roommate.  “Parlez-vous François?,” Spector said.  Marfuggi followed with the simple comment, “Bonjour.”  Then, Quentin stopped in mid-step and looked at his cruel roommates, who were laughing hysterically.  “Dude, I’m awake guys,” Quentin said in crisp, clean English.

That, my friends, is the lowdown on Quentin Oyamo Westberg.  We here at the U-17 MNT are lucky to have Quentin with us whenever we can.  Please make sure to keep checking to see who my next victim for Undercover Jules will be.

Play of the Day

Welcome to my “Play of the Day” segment were I honor a special play from training today.  Today’s play was a bit harder than usual to select because, honestly, there were few plays that stood out in my mind.  Today’s session was an intense, high-pressure affair in preparation for our Brazil game in a couple days, which should be just that – intense and pressure packed.

With that in mind, one play did manage to stand out in my mind as the “Play of the Day.”  It comes from Danny Szetela, who has really emerged as one of our most solid performers in the tournament.

Now the play:  A through ball was played into the penalty box and goalkeeper Phil Marfuggi came off his line and cleared the ball out.  Just in front of half-field, Szetela calmly settled Marfuggi’s clearance and looked towards goal.  Under high pressure, Szetela saw that Marfuggi was a bit out of position because he’d left his goalmouth to clear the ball.  Szetela quickly struck a frozen rope from 25 yards, in the face of a frantically blitzing defender.  The ball seemed to pick up speed as it flew towards goal and Marfuggi’s outstretched body wasn’t enough to stop Szetela’s perfect shot as it aggressively landed in the left side netting.  One inch to the right and Marfuggi would have saved the “cracker,” and one inch to the left and it would have stuck the post and gone wide.  However, Szetela placed the ball so perfectly that it could not be stopped.

There it is folks, today’s “Play of the Day” from my good pal Daniel Szetela.

Well fans, I’m sorry but now is the time that we all hate.  It is “goodbye time,” and I have to leave you hanging for another couple of days.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s installment of “Jules’ Undercover Journal” and especially its perfect length.  Please make sure to wish us luck as we will go into combat against the Brazilians on Sunday.  Until next time, keep on truckin’!