Thank you ladies and gentleman for joining me for the second installment of the new and improved "Jules’ Undercover Journal." I have been brainstorming some new twists that I can use to make my column better for my rapidly growing fan base. I felt that my previous picture may be scaring off our female readers. To remedy that problem we added a new and much more eye-pleasing picture for the welcome. So here you go ladies, but sorry, I’m already happily taken. I will also be doing a new segment called "Undercover Jules," which will be a true undercover mission. I’m secretly going to keep an eye on a member of the team and analyze their behavior for a couple days. I will expose idiosyncrasies, true personality traits, and any other interesting tidbits about some of the finest young soccer players in the nation. My goal is to prove that we are more than just soccer players. The final new addition is called "Play of the Day." This will be, well, the play of the day.
Freddy’s Day at the Playground
I know that many of you may already know how our game panned out due to the speedy updates from our press officer, but if you haven’t been tuned into ussoccer.com, we beat Blackburn 4-2. While I traditionally don’t focus on individuals, I would like to give a special thumbs up to my little buddy Freddy Adu. I know that Fred is getting constant attention, but I will give him a little bit more because it’s well deserved. I’ll keep this brief and rather vague so that any Rovers who may be reading this won’t get flashbacks and start to tear up. But, Freddy came on in the second half and scored three goals in 24 minutes. That’s tres for my Spanish-speaking amigos. So, with no pun intended, my "hat" is off to Freddy. Now let’s just keep that going when we’re in Lahti, Finland.
Our team likes to live and die by the saying "Never Out Worked" or "N.O.W." We have team T-shirts that bear this slogan. Many of us have N.O.W. saved as our laptop screensavers and I even wrote N.O.W. on my shin guards. Our loyalty to our motto was never more evident yesterday after lunch in the Chris Germani/Brian Grazier room. I got an anonymous phone call advising me to go to their room. I asked no questions and took the stairs down, barely fitting in the room when I got there. The room was sweltering and reeked of hot, sweaty, smelly teenager. I never would have expected to see my teammates bench-pressing each other. With the hotel fitness center charging extremely steep rates, my boys had to improvise. So Grazier and Phil Marfuggi grabbed Germani while John DiRaimondo and Jamie Watson were used as spotters. It was quite a sight to see Germani and DiRa – each a good 150 lbs. - being literally benched by their teammates. Corey Ashe, Memo Gonzalez, and yours truly were simply spectators to this strange display of strength. This "Human Bench-Press" may possible be the newest event on ESPN’s World Strongest Man competition, replacing the "Mack Truck Pull."
Today’s unsuspecting victim for "Undercover Jules" is Phillip Oreste Marfuggi, Jr. – quite an Italian name I must say. Phillie and Cheese, as we sometimes call him, is from New Jersey and headed to Clemson University in the fall. He is quite a hard worker when it comes to everything from school to video games. He is an avid sports fan. When I say sports I mean mostly football, baseball, and hockey. We here on the U-17 National Team think that he is good enough to be a solid collegiate quarterback (maybe he’ll walk on at Clemson). Phil and I are real close and we love to argue and laugh about simple observations from the day. Take last night at dinner for example. Phil was deeply troubled because the pitcher of orange juice had ice in it.
"Why would they ever put ice in the orange juice?" Phil cried with his New York accent. "That’s like putting ice in milk – you just can’t do it!"
I disagree with my buddy. The OJ (not Simpson) simply needed ice – it was warm. So if you’re ever around Phil make sure that your citrus juices are ice-free. Please note that this includes dry ice as well. Also, I found it interesting that according to Phil, during trips days are basically over after training is done. This means that, for Phil, today after training his day is technically over and it becomes the next calendar date. Phil is already in tomorrow…wow! Quite a profound concept for such a young mind! Ladies and gentleman, that is the inside scoop on Phillip Oreste Marfuggi, Jr., the person, not the goalie.
The Trafford Center
The boys and I took a nice little trip to the Trafford Center shortly after lunch today. The Trafford Center is a huge mall on the outskirts of Manchester. It’s big enough with enough stores, floors, and attractions to compare to the Mall of America but without the amusement park. Many of the guys went to various movies that were available (which were already out in the States weeks ago), including 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Incredible Hulk and Bruce Almighty. However, some of us chose to walk around and enjoy the other options of this center.
John Spector and I weren’t too into going to see a movie so we decided to go have a nice meal at Pizza Hut. Before long Ashe, Steve Sandbo, Jake Peterson, Eddie Gaven, and Mike Harrington joined us for our meal at the American based Pizza chain. This turned into one of the most frustrating meals of my life. With questionable waitresses, our food took a good 45 minutes to arrive…at a Pizza Hut! The worst part was when it came time to pay, the restaurant employees acted as if they had never heard of multiple checks at one table before. It took a good 20 minutes to get the money situation sorted out. I made sure to get a good handful of mints on the way out as my revenge, but we still had a good time. When I got out of the store I thought, "what am I going to do with 150 dinner mints," and threw them away.
The most memorable part of this trip was the Teen Pop Idol kiosk. There was a large tent set up in the center of the mall where anyone could sing karaoke for free. Well, the boys at US Soccer will never back down from a challenge as Jamie Watson decided to give it a go, hoping to be the next Justin (the curly-haired goofball from the first American Idol). He sang his ear-splitting, absolutely terrible version of some country music song that none of us had ever heard of. It sounded similar to a howling dog (Check out the photo...great photography work by Adrian Chevannes).
Never wanting to be out worked, I took the stage, doing my version of Alanis Morisette’s "Ironic". Even though her voice is octaves higher than mine, I gave a stunning performance to the early 90s hit. Back at Bradenton I actually have a band with ’87 goalkeeper Marcus Rein called Double Negative. He plays guitar and I sing and write songs. Sorry, but I had to promote my band. My act was a very high-energy show that consisted of jumping, hollering, sign language, and kneeling on the ground singing to the sky. The boys loved it and so did the crowd as I walked off the stage with a plethora of cheers and even prompted one couple to passionately kiss throughout my song. Yes, America, these are the things that the U-17 National Team players do in their free time.
Thank you for tuning in to the second edition of "Jules’ Undercover Journal." Please stay tuned intoussoccer.com until then for many updates as we continue on our Road to Finland. Good night America.