Jules Valentin is a defender on the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team and in the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida. He was a part of the U.S. squad that competed at the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Finland this August and has been writing a column for ussoccer.com since that competition (although, sometimes, it seems like a lot longer). His column includes wit, wisdom and flare, so do yourself a favor and keep reading.
Hello there, folks, and thank you for joining me again. It’s great to have you! Hopefully you read, but more importantly enjoyed, the first article in my new series that I like to call The Valentin Chronicles. How about we get right into things this week?
I would like to start off this column with a late Thanksgiving greeting. I hope that you had a great day spending time with your family, stuffing yourself with turkey and all the fixings, and taking a nap while the Detroit Lions sang you to sleep on the couch. Happy Thanksgiving!
This makes me think: I feel bad for all those turkeys. Lets analyze the situation for these noble birds. Before I start, don’t forget to remember that this is the animal that Benjamin Franklin proposed as our nation’s bird before Thomas Jefferson selected the eagle. Many are born right into turkey farms, with no hopes for a life of longer than a year. The lucky ones who are conceived in the wild also have little hope as they live with a constant threat of being picked off by an archer while they scamper the countryside for seed. Now just think of the sheer number of turkeys that are eaten on Thanksgiving with 350 million people in our great country and our fearless, incredible troops overseas. That’s a lot of turkey! I guess that it might give the cows a chance to vacation and breath easy for a short spell.
So today’s installment is dedicated to that poor turkey who graciously gave his delicious life for my greedy taste buds. You are a true hero.
The boys here in Bradenton and I were given quite a treat this past week. U.S. MNT goal-scoring sensation, Clint Mathis, came down to join us at IMG. He was heading off to the UK to try-out with Glasgow Rangers, Fulham, Leicester City, and possibly others and came down to train before he hit the skies. For many of the new ‘88s it was the first time that they have ever seen someone from TV in person. When Clint showed up at our training the first day he was here, I swear that I saw 25 young boys wet themselves in shock and delight. That’s not to say that I wasn’t star struck too, but I’ve just been around a bit longer. Sorry for that visual.
Anyways, he trained with us a few days, single-handedly raising the level of the whole group through excellent skill and technique, showing all of us just why he is where he is in his career and why he’s one of our country’s premier forwards.
On the field everybody sees Clint’s fiery, competitive side, which often can give him a bad rap. But those who really know Clint know that he always has something funny to say and he teems with personality. The cool thing is that he was just like one of the guys for the week and it was a great experience for everyone here. He is such a cool, funny, nice, down to earth guy. So, for the U-17 MNT, it would be my pleasure to thank Mr. Clint Mathis for joining us this past week. I wish that you could just move down here with us, but I know that you have other things to do than play “dad” for 40 young lads who aren’t yet potty trained.
This segment is being written from the United States’ beautiful Arco Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. This place is home to everything from Olympic speed walkers to archers to quarter-milers and it is a haven for any high-level athlete who is hoping to go to Athens and win the gold. So far, we have trained a couple of days, persevered some 40 mph winds and airborne ashes from the recent wildfires here in So. Cal., and taken a trip to the movies. As a group, we are all getting excited for our upcoming games here. It should be a good test for both the regional teams and national teams alike.
We, U-17 Men’s National Team, are here this week and we’re also being joined this week by the U-14/15 Boy’s National team, many of them in their first National team camp. From what I see there is some sort of buzz that follows that younger group around. It will be interesting to see what happens as they get older.
The games here are set to begin on Saturday the 29th as we square off against Region II in our first heavyweight bout. Wish us luck as we play this week, and I will make sure to let you know how the results and the play goes this week.
Unbelievable Adu is Everywhere (U.A.E.)
This segment is called “Unbelievable Adu is Everywhere” or “U.A.E” – sorry for the corny play on words. I will actually only touch on Freddy for a single sentence. Congratulations to Freddy Adu for being the youngest player to ever sign with the MLS and for being named to the U-20 team after an unfortunate injury to Arturo Alvarez. Great work buddy – you deserve it!
Anyway, the main point of this segment is to wish our boys luck as they get ready to partake in the highly anticipated U-20 World Cup. Due to a postponement because of political instability in the region in March, our boys have been chomping at the bit to get everything underway and show the world what the United States can do. Now it’s finally time guys!
I know what it’s like to be in an Under-17 World Cup, and I am so excited for the U-20s. So speaking as the cyber-voice for the whole United States and U-17 MNT, I would like to say a couple things. Good luck guys, do us proud! Do your best, wear the crest with pride, and have fun. In the meantime, I will try not to steal too much of your well-deserved ussoccer.com website space.
The Nike Friendlies
It’s almost that time of year again. Young kids have been waiting all year for its arrival of time off of school and off the wall fun. No, I’m not talking about the holiday season of presents and grandma’s cookies. It’s almost Nike Friendlies time again!
Here is a quick cute story. The other day at training, coach Ellinger assigned Tim Ward, Jeff Scanella, and I to assemble a brand new Kwik Goal bench. The bench, which is made by Kwik Goal (the official goal and field supplier of U.S. Soccer), came with idiot-proof instructions. I felt like that old man who has proudly, but foolishly, taken on yet another do-it-yourself project around the house to impress his wife and save a buck.
Tim, Jeff, Braden Chandler (our full-time equipment manager), Matt Yoder (our team’s utility man), and I struggled to make sense of the metal odd and ends but finally pieced together the bench after a couple hours. So if you are attending the Nike Friendlies this year, sit with caution! (Editor's Notes: all Kwik Goal instructions are definitely idiot-proof. What does that tell us, Julian?)
Anyway, the United States’ premier soccer tournament is back for its third year and all early signs would say that this year could be the best yet. Bradenton is buzzing as there is a constant stream of Nike, Gatorade, and Kwik Goal supplies being shipped in for this highly prestigious tournament. Another major development is that his year Brazil’s Under-17 National team has accepted U.S. Soccer’s invitation to participate in this year’s event.
Also, it seems that my chronic crying and begging about lack of soccer on television is beginning to off. This year our games against Brazil will be broadcast on Fox Sports World! For those of you who do not get Fox Sports World in your home, you may want to call you local cable provider or go to your favorite pro-soccer sports pub because these games are sure to be something special. The first game broadcast will be the U.S. U-17 MNT (’87s) v. Brazil U-17 MNT on December 11 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) That game should be nothing short of a barnburner as it is a rematch from earlier this summer when we tied 1-1 with that same Brazilian team in Nottingham, England. The second televised game will be the U.S. U-17 MNT (‘87s) v. Nike Friendlies All-Stars on December 12 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) This should be a very volatile game that is ready to break open at any moment. It should tough and hard-fought for 90 minutes. Fox Sports World will wrap up its coverage of the Nike Friendlies with the U.S. U-17 MNT (‘88s) v. Brazil U-17 MNT on December 12 at 11:00 p.m. (ET) So if you can’t make it down to Bradenton, make sure to support us and check out all of our games on Fox Sports World!
Goodbye for now folks. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this week’s edition of The Valentin Chronicles. Please make sure to visit ussoccer.com on a regular basis for daily updates on the U-23 MNT in their quest for the Olympics, U-20 MNT in their World Cup, the Nike Friendlies, all of the other great features that come up on a regular basis, and of course the next installment of The Valentin Chronicles. My only wish is that you take it easy until then.