Julian Valentin’s Column: Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Welcome back again everyone – thanks for joining me!  I hope that you enjoy today’s article.

 

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

Well, we lost 4-0 to FC Dallas last Sunday.  It was a really bad result and, to be honest, I don’t really feel like talking about it or giving a synopsis of what happened.  It may not be the most honest journalism but, it’s my column and I can do what I want.  It’s one of those games that you just need to learn your lessons and move on.

Looking ahead, we travel to San Jose this weekend.  It’s obviously a big game for us as we look to get a win and get back on the right track.  The good news is that we’re still in the mix in the Western Conference standings – tied for second and only 4 points behind Real Salt Lake in first place.  San Jose is a good team who’s recently been stocking up with a number of new signings including former Premiership player Darren Huckerby, Brazilian journeyman Francisco Lima, Arturo Alvarez, and Scott Sealy.  Last time we were up north, there was a big crowd at the Oakland Coliseum and it was a good win for us.  We hope to repeat that performance this weekend!

This Week

On the pitch, this week has been sort of a gut check.  Training has been extremely intense and we’re focused solely on San Jose.  With a Sunday match, it has given us ample time to train and work on different things.

But life can’t be all business and Tuesday night was a sweet night.  All of the guys who live in our apartment complex – Alvaro Pires, Brandon McDonald, Ely Allen, Michael Gavin, and myself – took a trip down the 405 Freeway to a place called Boomers.  Boomers is Mecca for an 8-year-old.  This place has bumper cars and bumper boats, go-carts, an arcade, a Ferris wheel, two mini-golf courses, and batting cages.

We wanted to try our hands in the batting cages.  I did not ease into things at all and went straight into the “Very Fast” 70 MPH pitches.  It took a few strikes to adjust to the speed but before long I was smacking the pitches out into the netting like Chase Utley and Pat Burrell.  I was surprised by how fast a 70 MPH pitch was and I gained a lot of respect for baseball players who can hit 90 MPH curve balls 450 feet.  After my time was up in the “Very Fast” pitch, I had to move down because my hands hurt so badly and I couldn’t take it anymore without gloves.

Brandon, the natural athlete, was belting some serious dingers in the cage.  Ely the lefty pulled a lot of his hits down the first base line but had a good showing for himself.  Gavin was probably the most consistent performer on the afternoon.  He’d played baseball in the past and he made constant contact and had the best looking batting stance.  Not that the batting stance really made a difference but it definitely made him look more credible.

Speaking of batting stances, I’d have to say that the surprise performance of the day came from Alvaro the Brazilian.  I don’t even know if he’d ever held a baseball bat before but he was making some pretty good contact.  His stance was all over the place and looked like a mix between Jeff Bagwell and a praying mantis.  See these links for a visual reference:

But it doesn’t really matter because he quite efficient behind the plate.

We were all pretty good at the cages and then went to hit the mini-links with a friendly 5 dollar wager paid to the winner.  From the first hole, I’d have to say, this one was a no-contest.  I came out of the blocks with a -1 and never looked back.  Mini-golf is one of those things that’s all about confidence and not getting too mad at yourself.  I kept my cool, through good holes and bad, and put together a consistent performance, taking home the grand prize while the others crumbled around me, nearly throwing their putters like Happy Gilmore.  I threw away the scores but the finishing order went as follows: Valentin, Allen, McDonald, Gavin, Pires.

It was nice to be an 8-year-old for a night.

Around the World

Another one of my favorite websites is www.worldstadiums.com.  Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll go to this site and look at some of the cool stadiums from around the world.  It’s also fun to go to an exotic country like Fiji or Iraq (maybe not exotic) and look at their stadiums.  So today I thought that I’d do a countdown of the top 10 stadiums that I have played in during my career.  I have been other stadiums that would definitely be on this list but unless I made it on the pitch, I’m not counting them.  Enjoy “My Top 10 Stadiums:”

  1. Veritas Stadion – Turku, Finland

This stadium was one of the venues of the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup.  This Finnish stadium makes the list almost purely on nostalgic value.  We lost to Brazil 3-0 in the quarterfinals and I came on in the 80th minute or so, but it was my first big international tournament appearance.

  1. Meadow Lane – Nottingham, England

I played in this small, charming Nottingham County stadium during a tournament a number years ago.  The crowd was quite good and I was a part of the first American team to beat England in England.

  1. PAETEC Park – Rochester, USA

During one of our tune-up matches for the U-20 World Cup this past summer, we played Argentina in Rochester Rhino’s stadium, PAETEC Park.  Even though it is a synthetic surface, it’s a beautiful stadium and perfect size for soccer in the US.

  1. Stadio Arechi – Salerno, Italy

I played in this stadium a long time ago in Salerno, Italy but I still remember it clearly.  The stands are extremely tall and it feels as if you’re playing in a box.  A small seaside town, the Salerno mountains provide a nice backdrop for the pitch.

  1. Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá – San Jose, Costa Rica

This stadium in Costa Rica was a rowdy venue for an intra-regional friendly.  Home of Costa Rican giants Saprissa, this stadium sometimes hosts heated US-Costa Rica derbies.  This was also one of my first international events and it was a memorable experience to play in this stadium at such a young age.

  1. BMO Field – Toronto, Canada

BMO Field gets lots of publicity because of the passionate and boisterous fan base of Toronto FC but the stadium is a great place to play a game and see a game.  The fans are right on top of the field and with the CN Tower in the background it’s a beautiful site in downtown Toronto.  Again, a synthetic surface is the only downside to this stadium but it’s the only a small complaint for such a fantastic venue.

  1. Estadio Rommel Fernandez – Panama City, Panama

During CONCACAF qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, we played in this Panamanian national stadium.  Because it was expected to be an all-or-nothing match for the home side, over 20,000 red fans came to watch us play the home side in the final qualifying match.  The home fans were subjected to a 5-0 thrashing of their team as we cruised to the World Cup in Canada.  It was a good, hostile atmosphere for an important match.

  1. Home Depot Center – Carson, USA

Although I’ve yet to make my debut with the Galaxy, I’ve played in the Home Depot Center several times before.  It is the premier soccer stadium in the US and sets the tone for all other soccer-specific stadiums.  It’s a pleasure to call this place home.

  1. Montreal Olympic Stadium – Montreal, Canada

This stadium was one of the main venues of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.  We played South Korea and Poland in this stadium that had about 45,000 people at each game.  Although it’s a giant dome and had a synthetic surface lain down, driving up to this stadium and going underneath to the locker rooms was amazing.  It’s also really cool how that big weird building goes over it and amazing to play in an Olympic stadium.

  1. Busan Asiad Main Stadium – Busan, South Korea

 

This 2002 World Cup stadium is by far the best stadium that I’ve ever played in.  Packed with 36,000 fans I played in this stadium several times, in two different tournaments, against South Korea, Poland, Brazil, and Argentina.  The architecture is beautiful.  It is colorful and when packed with fans, the acoustics create an incredible environment.

Q & A

  1. Hi Julian, tell us about the new signing, Eduardo Dominguez. What’s he like, how’s his play looking, is he fitting in with the defensive system, and do you think he’ll be starting in the center of the back line soon? Also, which coach spends the most time working with the defense on the Galaxy? Does Ruud Gullit work with all parts of the team, or does he specialize in the offense?Also, if you had a chance to play in a league outside of the USA which is not the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, or the Bundesliga, where would you play? Any interest in somewhere like Australia, Norway, Turkey, etc.? Would you ever consider playing in Mexico or South America?-Jay, Los Angeles

Jay in LA – Lots of good questions from you – keep them coming!  Eduardo is a good guy, nice and sort of quiet.  He has a good soccer brain, he’s clean technically, and composed in the back.  I think that he fits in our system well and he can help us out defensively.  It’s been nice getting to know him.

Coach Gullit works with all units of the team.  Saying that, he’s been helping the forwards work on their runs and coordinating movements.  But he definitely covers it all.

Interesting question about playing in a foreign league that’s not one of the “big leagues.”  I think it would be a good experience to play in Turkey.  The Turkish league is a good level with lots of good players and a few very good clubs.  It would also be interesting to live there and immerse myself in a culture that is not Western-European culture.

I don’t think that I would consider playing in South America – and definitely not Mexico.  My style of play would not be conducive to the style of play in Latin American leagues and they typically have rosters full of Latin American players anyways.2.  Were you at all hesitant after the injury in the national championship game? Even for a week or two after? I was wondering if suffering an injury like that factored into your game play, even temporarily, thanks!

-Crystal T

Crystal T – Good question.  I have to admit that there was a time after my facial injury where I was a bit tentative.  Even though I had a couple months for everything to heal up again, I was hesitant to “put my head in harm’s way” for a short time after my plastic surgery.  And then I kept reopening my facial scars so that didn’t help either!  Even with the Full90 for protection, which I continue to wear to protect my facial scars and prevent concussions, I needed unpsych myself out.

Now I’m back to my old ways, fearless and putting my body on the line for the team.  I think I just needed to get over it…or something.  I actually got a new cut above my eyebrow during the Toulon tournament earlier this year.  Just another day at the office…

  1. I was wondering, as a player, if there was one thing you could change about Major League Soccer, what would it be and why?

-Will, Santa Barbara

Will – There are actually a number of things that I would change about our league but the most important thing to me is getting rid of Developmental salaries and raising the minimum salary.  This issue affects me directly and the money is definitely out there.  Everyone knows that most players in MLS don’t make a whole lot of money but the fact that Developmental players make either $17,700 or $12,900 annually is embarrassing for the league.  Many developmental players are rookies and it’s nearly impossible to live off of this amount of money without help.  And it just sucks when you see NFL and NBA rookies are making millions.  WNBA rookies make about $30,000 according to several websites.  The fact the league allows for that is sort of ridiculous but this issue only affects a percentage of the players in the league (myself included), players with no say in anything, so a lot of people just ignore it.

Thanks a lot for all of your great questions and make sure to keep them coming to Julian@americansoccerreader.com!

I hope that you enjoyed today’s article.  Thanks so much for joining me and I’ll see you next week!  Peace.

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