Future Focus: A new Penn Quaker, Jonny Dolezal

Posted on 10 March 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Something must be in the water out there in Lower Merion. Between last Future Focus Tolani Ibikunle and our feature today, Jonathan Dolezal, there’s a lot of talent coming out of that area.

Dolezal, central defender by trade, is set to stay in the area to play for Coach Rudy Fuller at the University of Pennsylvania in the Fall. A senior at Lower Merion HS this year and a key part of his club squad, the Lower Merion Velez, the 18-year old has made the most of his four years and he’s earned the accolades to prove it (recently named Pennsylvania’s “State Top Player” at defender). His years of experience don’t mask the truth, however. “One can always get better”. That advice is what Jonny lives by and that’s saying a lot from a soon-to-be college freshman who has traveled to and played in Costa Rica, England, South Africa and Germany all for the possibilities of “getting better”. Now off to University City he goes, firmly with the vision of becoming a solid NCAA defender a future professional and knowing full well that there might be someone extra watching in those stands come gameday. 

Lower Merion Velez

You’ll be staying relatively local this Fall, what made you decide on that? What other schools were after you?

I have always loved Philly and I knew that if I chose Penn, I would be able to experience both the city scene as well as still being close to home. All the schools I was looking at I liked, but the combination of the academics and the soccer at Penn I thought was the best fit for me. Other schools that I was looking at were Boston University, American University, Georgetown University, and Virginia Tech.

There have been several professionals – namely Alex Grendi and Danny Cepero – to come out of UPenn over the past couple years. Is this an aspiration that you find realistic? What is it about the Penn program that attracted you to Rhodes Field?

Penn is a phenomenal academic school and this definitely had a major impact on my decision. Becoming a professional has always been a dream for me, yet I know that if I do not turn professional in soccer that Penn will have prepared me to enter the world with a top-notch education. I felt that Penn was the best fit for me, and I felt very felt comfortable with Coach [Rudy] Fuller and Coach [Robert] Irvine and knew that I would enjoy playing for them in my fours of college.

What would you say were your strengths as a central defender? Weaknesses?

Strengths: Overall tactical defending, communication to others around me, strong in the air both offensively and defensively, good long driven ball, game-fitness
Weaknesses: Physical strength, technical abilities

What are your goals heading into your first year at the University of Pennsylvania and under Rudy Fuller?

I would like to contribute substantially to the program as a freshman and make an impact where Rudy won’t hesitate to put me in the game or start me.

Have you been keeping track of the Philadelphia Union? What are you most excited about in their first year?

I’m most excited to see Danny Mwanga play, as he is a young player who looks to have a ton of promise. I can’t wait to see how he will develop in his first year in the MLS. I am one of the many people who have been dying to have a professional team to root for at home and can’t wait for their season to begin.

You’ve had some pretty amazing experiences between Lower Merion Velez and your high school squad, what would rank at the top?

First off, one of the best decisions of my life was to stay with club soccer rather than play academy because it gave me the opportunity to stay with ODP and go on one of the best soccer trips of my life with Region 1 to South Africa. My club experience helped me develop as a player in order to make region 1 and with my club team I have had some great experiences. With Lower Merion Velez it would have to be tying Chelsea’s youth team at the Disney Showcase or going to Nationals back to back years. For high school it would have to be beating nationally ranked St. Benedict’s with 5 starters missing and scoring in that game or assisting in a miracle goal to send a district playoff game into OT with 1.3 seconds left.

You and Tolani are good friends. All in good fun, are there any friendly wagers on your college soccer careers? You were the one to introduce Tolani to Lower Merion Velez, should you get royalties if he makes it professionally?

Hah. I taught him everything he knows (just kidding). I don’t want to get into any trouble with the NCAA or anything like that by making wagers haha but one of my dreams is to have the opportunity to play with Tolani on a professional team or play against him during my four years of college. I would love to play him in the NCAA tournament especially. And, yes, he will owe me royalties if he makes it professionally (haha). I hope that one day he will make it because I believe he has the talent to do so.

Growing up, what made you decide soccer was the sport you wanted to excel in?

I loved it from day 1. I began playing when I was about 6 years old and have never thought about not playing since. I possessed natural ability that allowed for me to excel and I have always enjoyed it.

How do you think the Union will do in their first year?

I think the Union will probably have a difficult start with so many young and less experienced players. I think that they may have some trouble with the more experienced teams in the league, but they have great potential down the road with so many young studs and a great coach in Peter Nowak.

The Union have recently signed affiliation deals with the Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2) and Reading United AC (PDL). Have you had any thought about playing with Reading AC in between seasons and using these “levels” as a step towards the pro ranks?

Whatever I do in the offseason are things that I would have to discuss with my coaches. Whatever being the best for me, Reading or the Islanders or sticking with my club team, I’d certainly try to do in the offseason, but for now I have a goal to make it to nationals this summer and hopefully come back with a trophy.

Quick Kicks

Favorite club team?


Best striker you’ve ever had to play against?

Frank Nouble (played for Chelsea Youth at Disney Showcase)

ASN Philly Note: Nouble (18 years-old) now plies his trade for West Ham United, the same club that developed stars Frank Lampard and Kieron Dyer, after spending several years in the Chelsea youth academy (where Jonny got the chance to mark him). He has seen the pitch for the first-team but most recently spend loan time with W.B.A. of the English Championship.  

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

“You can always get better”

Who is the best player in the world at your position right now?

Fabio Cannavaro

World Cup winner?


Union player you are most excited to see in action?

Danny Mwanga

What are you most looking forward to about living in Philly?

I can come home whenever I want and I can still have my mom do my laundry (haha).

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