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Jules Undercover Journal - Third Entry

As the "Good Word" Spreads…

Hello World! Welcome again to "Jules’ Undercover Journal," which is hopefully the talk of every office water cooler by now. I would like to start off today by thanking the U.S. Soccer Communications Department for allowing me to continue to write my column every other day. I have such a great time writing it and, from all indications, I could fast become an international journalistic superstar. Okay, probably not, but even though I’d rather be known for my soccer skills and/or good looks, writing "Jules’ Undercover Journal" takes a close third. So, thanks to all of the "Press Guys" (for lack of a better word) in Chicago for helping me try to achieve a celebrity status.

As the "good word" of my column continues to spread through our U-17 MNT camp, I’ve been getting constant nagging from my teammates to mention them in my next edition. It seems that now, every action or funny comment done within the team is followed by, "Dude, put that in your article." They beg like toddlers to be named in the "Play of the Day." I simply smile.

I have even been getting countless requests from staff members to mention them in my upcoming installment. While I would love to write about every person in every chapter, it’s just not possible, but don’t be surprised to see some "shameless plugs" today to accommodate some of our staff’s requests.

Saying that, this introduction has been brought to you, in part, by S.K. Sports Management and it’s owner Steve Kelly. Kelly organizes many of our European trips, including this trip to England and our family’s trips to Finland. So I would like to thank Mr. Steve Kelly and S.K. Sports Management for the quality organization of this trip and others in the past. (You’re welcome Steve, there’s you’re shameless plug. Now you have to stop pestering me!)

A Day of Rest

Yesterday, Coach Ellinger blessed us with a timely day off to rest and physically regroup. For us, a day off simply means no training as our hard work never stops. Shortly after breakfast, our trainer extraordinaire Jacob Joachim (shameless plug) arranged a formal "core" workout. Core, as we refer to it, is simply another term for the abdominal region of the body, which is literally the core or foundation of your body. Try to picture 20 well-built players piling into our small training room, laying out on the floor to assume the position for our workout. Now try to imagine the smell, the sound, and the sight of this event – it was near pandemonium! We began our demanding exercises as we quickly started to sweat and yell as the burn kicked in.

At one point during my anguish I raised my leg and accidentally kicked John DiRaimondo in the head. DiRaimondo got instant payback as Eddie Gaven swiftly booted my nose with his Nike Shox. Freddy Adu and Danny Szetela were on top of tables in agony, Quentin Westberg and Jamie Watson were nearly on top of each other as they began to feel the burn, and trainer Joachim, the mastermind behind this operation, just laughed with his devilish smile. Overall, I feel that it was a good event for the team and even more proof that we will never be outworked.

Later on during our day of rest, we were fortunate enough to go out to eat two times in one day! We rarely get a dinner out at all…but twice in one day is simply unheard of. A special thanks for this is due to our team manager Jeff McRaney (shameless plug), who does such a remarkable managing our team.

First we went to McDonalds and put back on the weight that our core workout had just burned off. This was actually one of the most pleasant experiences of my life. How many times have you waited in a McDonalds drive-thru line for hours just to get cold fries and a poor burger slopped on a bun? Well, the Micky Ds here must be different. I placed my order and literally, with no exaggeration, got my food 10 seconds later – a steaming crispy chicken sandwich and hot, flavorful fries. I would just like to commend Mr. McDonald and his British employees for great food and excellent service yesterday. Cheers mates! After we ate the guys were able to walk around an indoor/outdoor mall facility near the Micky Ds. Some saw movies, others shopped, while the majority of the guys just walked around the plaza and checked out the many females that were there. To avoid any conflict with my girlfriend, I shopped.

For dinner we walked to a nice little restaurant in Manchester called Harper’s. The food was good, but the highlight of the meal, and the day in general, had to be from an unexpected visitor who came to wish us good luck. To our surprise and great delight, we walked into Harper’s to see Blackburn Rovers and US National Team goalkeeping standout Brad Friedel, who warmly greeted us at the door. Mr. Friedel spoke shortly about how he will be supporting us every step of the way. He also congratulated on our results thus far (one of which was against one of his youth clubs) and wished us luck as we continue on our road.

Being the reporter that I have suddenly become, I saw quite a photo opportunity at that moment. I asked Mr. Friedel to pose for a picture with our goalkeeping coach Peter Mellor and our three goalies: Phil Marfuggi, Quentin Westberg, and Steve Sandbo. One thing that the US is known for is our excellence in goalkeeping. Although coach Mellor is English, when I look at that picture, I see the past, present and future of US goalkeeping. Mr. Friedel had to leave before he could sit down and eat with us, but I would like to thank him, from all of us here at the U-17 MNT, for taking time out of your day to speak with us.

Super Special Sandbo

Today’s unsuspecting subject for Undercover Jules is another one of our nimble-fingered goalkeepers. I would like to thank the Microsoft Word thesaurus for the word nimble-fingered – it, more or less, means "skillful." Stephen Douglas Sandbo, Jr. is from Columbus, Ohio and is one of my fellow ‘87s. His former high school in Ohio is actually the home of golf great Jack Nicklaus. Sandbo has become obsessed with wanting a feature in my column – so I thought that I’d grant his request and make him regret it.

I’ve roomed with Sandbo for the last year so I have endless "dirt" on him, but I’ll try to keep this short. Speaking of short, that is one thing that Sandbo is not. He’s a towering 6’2" and add cleats you’ve got an extra couple of inches. This can be quite an intimidating force for opposing forwards! But off the pitch, he is a genuinely nice kid from a quiet, hospitable family.

Sandbo is pretty quiet, but when he wants to use it, he has an extremely deep voice, which actually cracks rather often. He works extremely hard, especially on his schoolwork. During the winter months, he enjoys snowboarding in Colorado with his family. He also likes listening to the music of Dave Mathews, O.A.R., Guster and other bands of the sort, which many would consider quality music. I also found it interesting that when I secretly looked in his CD book, he has two LFO (Lyte Funky Ones) albums. You may all remember LFO from your 12-year-old daughter’s Christmas list.

Being a massive, strong kid, his body needs to be constantly replenished with fuel, so Sandbo eats a lot. The majority of his per deim, which is our money allotment on trips for movies, snacks, etc., is spent on snacks. An interesting tidbit on Sandbo is that he really loves muffins. He eats a muffin with every breakfast, on every airport travel day, and pretty much any time he can get his hands on any flavor of this baked good. Back in Bradenton, Sandbo and I have taken countless walks to the nearby Winn Dixie for a grocery run – with him always buying triple of what I do. Well folks, that is Steven Douglas Sandbo, Jr. in a nutshell and I’m pretty sure that he won’t want a mention in my column ever again. Please stay tuned to who my next innocent victim for Undercover Jules will be.

Special Report: USA Pretty Boys

Today I got a much-needed haircut from our team barber Brian Grazier, who is actually quite good. My curls had simply gotten to be too much work and I had to trim my vine-like locks. We went very short, but I think that this drastic change was necessary. He also trimmed Steve Curfman’s "YM" featured mop a couple of days ago.

While Graz snipped away at me, I thought that my fans would enjoy a special report on the hair of the U-17 National Team. Because he is so good (and free), Grazier does the bulk of the cuts for the team with his trusty scissors and clippers. That shameless plug for Grazier is my payment for the haircut, as he simply won’t accept monetary donations. Anyways, he also does coloring, along with Chris Germani who dyed mine with nice blonde streaks. I’ve also been known to do some haircuts in my free time. Many of you may remember Corey Ashe’s tall, thick Afro from past events, but that is a thing of the past. Corey now prefers the clean-shaved look. I regularly pull out the Mach 3 to give Corey his desired style.

Along with "head hair" comes facial hair, which is also an increasing commodity on our team, as we all continue to grow up. Guys like Grazier, DiRaimondo, Adrian Chevannes, and several others have to shave their excessive beard and mustache whiskers daily. Hopefully I will soon be in the above list, as I would like to someday wear the long sideburn look or Hulk Hogan mustache.

I will end this segment with some of the more notable hairstyles from our team: Jonathan Spector’s luxurious blonde mullet, Curfman’s former Baywatch hairdo, Danny Szetela’s blonde curls that haven’t been cut since 1992, Sandbo’s classic bed-head in the mornings, Ashe’s former Afro and cornrows (rest in peace), and Jamie Watson’s stern military cut that makes it appear as though he’ll be heading off to Parris Island.

Play of the Day

Today’s "Play of the Day" comes from the LA Galaxy’s Guillermo (Memo) Gonzalez. This brilliant goal came from one of coach Ellinger’s favorite games – "the 2 ball game," as we all refer to it. This game has full-size goals placed at the end line and at half-field, and is played with two balls simultaneously in play. Often resembling organized chaos; this game emphasizes quick ball movement, efficient finishing, strong defending, and especially awareness.

Okay folks, now to the play: One ball was played for a corner kick – so now only one ball was in play. Memo was played a ball in the middle of the pitch and dribbled swiftly through the center towards goal. Seeing that most of the opposing team was focusing on the corner kick, Memo crushed a shot from 23 yards out. The ball glided untouched through a forest of players and headed for goal. As the ball got closer to the goal, Watson, who was playing "near-post" for the corner kick, turned towards Memo’s bullet. Watson jumped to his limit leaving only a 1-foot square for the ball to pass through. The ball obliged and it landed violently in the left, "upper V," as it skimmed Watson’s head and the crossbar at the same time. Memo couldn’t have gotten out a ladder and placed his shot any better than it landed! Congratulations to Memo Gonzalez for his amazing strike from his unlikely right foot but, most importantly, for today’s "Play of the Day."

Well, ladies and gentleman, that is all for today’s installment of "Jules’ Undercover Journal." I’m sorry if today’s many "shameless plugs" bothered you, but I am just trying to keep everyone here happy – as I hope that I am keeping you happy at home. Wish us luck tomorrow as we play Manchester United and please remember to visit the best site on the web, (shameless plug) to find out how we do. Bye all!