Julian Valentin’s Column: Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Welcome all!

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

The second match of the 2008 Honda Superclassico is now in the books and it was another good one at the Home Depot Center.  At the end of the last article I said that “something’s got to give” and, well, nothing really gave – besides Salt Lake leapfrogging into first place after their win.  Our match ended up in a 1-1 tie and it was a wild, back and forth affair.

Chivas had the better of the play in the first half as we struggled to find a consistent rhythm.  Our coaching staff tweaked the midfield a bit and David and Pete Vagenas paired up in the center of midfield.  Chivas pressed us well in midfield and caused lots of problems for us as we struggled to find time to play.  They got a goal early in the first half on a counter attack.  With our defense retreating to delay the play, Ante Razov hit a one time shot from about 20 yards out to beat our keeper from the second line.  Good goal.

In the second half we played quite well.  We found the game and created a number of dangerous opportunities.  We defended well and pressed more aggressively.  Our breakthrough came in the 72nd minute when Pete slipped a fantastic ball through to Edson who buried it for his 11th goal of the year.  Eddie’s been on blistering pace this year, earning him an All-Star write-in vote. Congratulations Edson and also to David and Landon who were named starters to the All-Star team.

The game ended 1-1 in the end and it was a pretty fair result – Chivas had the better of the first half and we had the better of the second half.  It was an open game, end to end at times, and certainly was an entertaining one for the fans to watch.  It had everything that makes a good derby match.

Now we get ready to take off to the East Coast to play New York.  It’s a big match for us and important that we pick up 3 points.  We’ve slipped to second in the West, with RSL jumping ahead after our draw, and it’s important that we get back to our winning ways.  Last year when the Galaxy played New York there was something like 68,000 at the game in a 5-4 match.  Hopefully this year will be another good match with a Galaxy victory.

This Week

Another typical week here in LA.  We’ve been training hard, getting ready for this weekend’s match.

The US Soccer Development Academy Finals are at the Home Depot Center right now and I got the chance to check out some of the games and catch up with some of my old coaches.  I was really impressed by the organization of the program and started to realize the importance of this program.  I was also impressed with the level of the games.  I know there are people out there who grumble about the new system but I think that it is, and will continue to become, an extremely important tool for the development of soccer in our country.

These players are playing good games against the top competition in the country, in a pressurized environment, in front of some of the top coaches in the country who can track the players’ progress and help to tailor their development.  There are also a ton of important resources for players including educational meetings, video review, the use of ProZone (a player analysis tool), and other things that can help players reach their full potential.  There are certainly some kinks that need to be figured out with the system but I was extremely impressed with how the event was run and the potential for the program.  This is something that we’ve never had in our country and it’s an important step in mimicking youth systems and scouting networks used around the world.  Visit www.ussoccer.com to learn more about the program.

Tangent 1: I came across this video a while ago and wanted to pass it on to you.  Diving in soccer is something that Americans really hate.  At times, embellishing a call can be a good tactical play but it’s totally against the hard-nosed, blue collar mentality of the American athlete and the American sports fan.  Anyways, enjoy this video of some of the worst soccer dives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ioyt2zzm530&feature=related.

Tangent 2: I was thinking about the ’94 World Cup the other day and I remembered those horrendous denim-looking cotton jerseys that we wore in that tournament.  You know, the sky blue jersey with the white stars.  Geeze, those things were terrible.  They were so terrible, in fact, that they are cool now and I want to buy one.  So, I used my internet research skills to track one of these antique shirts down and I stumbled across a great website out of the UK to buy retro soccer jerseys.  It’s definitely worth your time and if you have a few extra British pounds lying around, why not splurge on one of your favorite old school jerseys.

Around the World

I’m struggling for material in this section so you’ll have the week off here because of my difficulties.  Hopefully something will come up soon worth writing about – there’s a lot of stuff brewing right now…

Q & A

  1. Just curious if the Ohio State guy who planted his cleats on your face in the College Cup ever apologized to you.  I know he is in MLS now and wondered if you’ve come across him since.

Also, are you wearing that head gear because of that incident?

-Far

PS – Take some samba lessons from Alvaro in your spare time.  I actually believe it will help your footwork, balance and dribbling. 

Far – Interesting story to answer your question.  The day after the national championship game when I got kicked in the face, a Denver-area phone number popped up on my cell phone.  My girlfriend is from Denver so I thought it was someone who she knew.  On the other end of the line was the kid who kicked me in the face calling to apologize.  He said he was sorry and didn’t mean to kick me in the face.  I wondered how he got my number and found out later that he got it from my girlfriend’s old club coach, who knows the kid who kicked me. The coach called the kid and told him to call me and apologize.  It was a nice gesture.

I got stitches on the spot the night I got kicked and waited a month for it to heal.  Then when I started playing again, my facial scars kept breaking open again (requiring more stitches) so I was forced to go back down to Wake Forest to get plastic surgery to fix and strengthen my scars.  My doctor told me that I had to wear the Full90 protective headgear for at least 6 months after surgery so that the scars can fully heal.  So I started wearing the Full90 headgear because I had to and ended up actually liking it.  It’s a good product and, to be honest, I can’t really notice that it’s on when I’m playing.  I also decided to continue wearing it because, the way I play, I should probably further damage to my dome because I’ve been busted open and concussed so many times already.

Good suggestion on the Samba lessons, although I’m not sure Alvaro’s dancing is too organized and sophisticated (if you saw his goal celebration against Colorado)…

  1. My question relates to locker room morale. How much does moral fluctuate week by week? Do individual losses discourage the team, and do individual wins help the team? It’s a long season, and teams go on streaks, so I am curious the effect a single game can have. Does that change with a more veteran team? Bonus question: do you feel that the Galaxy may be a year away from their best form, with all the rookies on the team, or do you feel that the team is coming together this year already? 

– Jay in Los Angeles

Good questions, Jay in LA.  I’d say that morale doesn’t typically fluctuate from week to week.  Soccer’s a funny game and it’s weird how sometimes wins are treated like losses and even sometimes draws are thought of as wins based on how the match goes.  As a rookie I’m still learning the real answer to your question but I’d say that no single game is devastating enough to cause more losses.  I’m learning that part of being a good professional is being able to pick apart losses and change things to try to avoid another bad result.  Luckily I have some good veteran role models to learn this from.

I think that while we will be continue to be a good club in the future, we definitely have what it takes to be real contenders this year.  The team is really coming together and we have a really good mix of veterans and young players.  If we can stay healthy, I think that we have what it takes to win it all.

  1. I was wondering, is there any one particular veteran player that has helped you the most? Anyone thats gone out of their way to show you something or help out? Just curious, thanks!

– Cindy G

Cindy G – There has been a few older guys who have really helped me out but coming to mind first is Chris Klein.  He’s a great guy, hard worker, a true professional, and a model of consistency.  He’s a positive personality on the field and is really good at working with the younger players.

Greg Vanney is another guy who’s helped me along.  He knows the game so well, having played in the French first division, and he does a good job of “coaching” while on the field.  He’s helped me to read the game better and work on my defensive shape.  He also strikes a great ball and sometimes we’ll hit balls after training.

Landon Donovan has also helped me a lot, in a different way.  Playing against him every day he has really forced me to push my game to the next level in order to defend him.  His pace, vision, intelligence, and finishing touch requires that I bring my best game every day or else it will be a long one.  I also have a good relationship with Landon off the field and we often talk about games.

It’s also really cool hearing some of David’s stories from Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the English National Team.

  1. Is there any particular club/national team(s) you’d like to play? Any particular player past/present you’d like to match up against?

– Stab in Budapest, Hungary!

Wow – Stab in Budapest!  I’ve gone global!!!  Welcome to my blog!  It’s always been my dream to play for the Full United States National Team.  I’ve been fortunate enough to play for US National Teams at the U-17, U-18, U-20, and U-23 levels but to earn a cap for the full team would be unbelievable.  I would never want to play for another nation.

I spoke about it a couple issues ago, but it would be amazing to play for Manchester United.  It’s such a great club with such a strong tradition.  It would also be awesome to play for Portsmouth.  Playing for any Premiership team, actually, would be a dream come true.

I don’t know if I can pick just one player that I’d like to play against some day but I’d just like to go up against some of the players that I watched in the latest Euro Championship such as Ibrahimivic, Torres, Toni, and Klose.  It would be amazing to be at their level some day and test myself against players of their caliber.

  1. I was wondering, have either Cobi or Mr Gullit played any reserve games/taken part in any training exercises or anything along those lines for fun? If they have, do either of them still have some talent left? Also, any inside news or rumors about the galaxy that you could share?

– Pam E

Pam E – Cobi and Ruud don’t play in any reserve games but sometimes if we need numbers, Cobi will step in and play in training.  He definitely still has it and you can tell how well he knows the game.  Now that Ruud has recovered from his knee surgery, he’s become pretty “hands-on” when working with us – the forwards in particular.  His touch is still clean and his understanding of the game is so clear.

To be honest, I have no inside news or rumors – I usually find stuff out the same time that you do!

That’s all that I have for this Thursday.  I hope that you enjoyed today’s article and I’ll be back next week.  Take care!

-jules

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