Tag Archive | "Interviews"

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Future Focus: FC Delco and The Haverford School’s Max Kurtzman

Posted on 17 February 2011 by Breton Bonnette

One of the toughest things as an athlete is to overcome the adversity of a serious injury. It tests an athlete to the core. Will you come back the same? Can you stand that long spell on the sidelines?  US youth international, FC Delco and The Haverford School star Max Kurtzman can tell you first hand what it takes. After a junior season that saw him earn national attention (Top Drawer Soccer’s #1 GK recruit in 2009 and 2010) with FC Delco and Delco Player of the Year for the Haverford School, it was only right that his senior season would be full of more accolades all across the board. Instead a patellar fracture sustained in a collision during play with the Haverford School kept Max out from late September onward. Life went on, of course, and Kurtzman’s resolve and knowledge of the game became huge assets for his high school team as he manned the sideline essentially as a player-coach.  Instead of sulking, he watched from the sideline, supported his teammates, and worked on his own rehab as the months flew by. Flash forward to February 2011 and Kurtzman has committed to the University of Pennsylvania, coached by Rudy Fuller, where he will follow in a long line of impressive goalkeepers several of which went on to careers in professional soccer. He has the resume already to make a splash in University City and once fully healthy, you can expect Kurtzman to be a stronger, more driven, and incredibly hungry player for the Quakers.

ASN Philly put the Future Focus on Max as he continues his rehab and hopes to be ready for the summer of his first year at Penn:

Q: You’ll take your talents to UPenn next year and link up with Coach Rudy Fuller. What is it about Coach Fuller, his approach, and his style of play that made you want to join Penn’s program?

A: Coach Fuller, from day one of the whole recruiting process, has been straight forward and completely honest with me; his honest approach was a major factor with my commitment as I have known where I stand with him since I have starting the recruiting process. Penn’s defense, present and future, is very solid. With that, a major factor for me is their defensive leadership and strength in the program.

Q: Coach Fuller has an impressive crop of new recruits coming in, a class boasting three US youth internationals (including yourself), have you spoken to any of your new fellow classmates? What is it that Coach Fuller expects from his freshmen?

A: I have been in recent contact with not only Agye [Botchway] and Duke [LaCroix], but also a few of the other recruits as well. Coach Fuller expects us to come in and compete as hard as we can for a spot on the field from the start, just like every other player out there.

Q: You’ll follow in the footsteps of several great UPenn goalkeepers in Matt Haefner, Danny Cepero (formerly of the Red Bulls), and Drew Healy, what would you like to accomplish in your first year in University City?

A: I still have a lot to learn about the college game; I want to look up to the three goalies ahead of me and try to gain as much knowledge from them as I am able to. Obviously, I want to compete to get on the field as best I can.

Q: Both of your parents are Wharton graduates. You will also be entering Wharton come the fall. This may be a rhetorical question but was heading to UPenn a forgone conclusion? What is it you like so much about the place?

A: UPenn has always been a part of me, as both of my parents went there, and many family friends as well. The combination of academics, athletics, and social life made my decision very easy for me; on my visits to campus, I was shown a great time by not only the soccer team, but also but other students around campus that I know from either high school, or through mutual friends.

Q: You have endured an incredibly busy last couple years, playing with FC Delco, the Haverford School, and on the youth international level – does the juggling of time ever get old and overwhelming? How supportive and influential have your parents been in all of it?

A: The juggling of soccer, my academics, and social life has never been an easy task. I have been lucky enough to have my parents and friends there by my side to help me if I needed it; my parents show endless support to me in my soccer, and also my other sports, life, and extra curricular activities.

Q: We’ve asked this before to people and never quite received the most in-depth answers but we’re still curious. What is it about FC Delco that makes it one of the country’s premier soccer clubs?

A: The coaching staff. The coaches here at Delco are not just coaches, but they really connect with the players which allows a much closer, tighter knit environment for which to play in. Also, the players here are all very close. I can honestly say that playing with some of my best friends is a lot easier than playing with people I am not as close with, which makes playing with Delco that much easier, and makes our team better.

Q: Your biggest strengths, according to former coaches, is your constant communication with your backline and overall tactical awareness of the game. Would you say they are right? What is it that you are surveying and relaying to the defenders in front of you?

A: I would have to agree with them. Being behind the backline, and entire team, I am able to see the field, and know where the players are supposed to go. If a defender steps up, it only makes sense for the others to fill in the gaps behind or next to that defender. It is also very important to me to have a good relationship with my defenders so communication with them during games is that much easier.

Q: Entering into college, what would you say are the biggest things for you to work on this offseason?

A: I would say that my biggest goal this offseason is to get back into the shape I was in before my injury. I currently weigh about 180 right now; I lost a lot of muscle in my legs from my injury, and I want to get my weight up to around 185-190.

Q: It was a disappointing end of your high school career after suffering a broken patella in a late September game, are you fully healed?

A: I am not yet fully healed; I recently had another surgery to take the pins and wires out of my knee, but I am well on my way to being stronger than I was before my injury. My doctor, Dave Rubenstein, projects that my knee and legs will be stronger than they were before the injury occurred.

Q: What did the rehab and time off from soccer do for you?

A: The time off from soccer and rehab really regenerated my passion for the game, and want to get back on the field. It has been since September 25th since I have been on the field, and it is about time that I am back out there.

Q: You have seen the rise of Zach Pfeffer as the Union’s first ever homegrown player. If offered the opportunity, would that have been an option that you entertained instead of heading to UPenn? Have you spoken with Zach at all about his experiences with the Union so far?

A: That is a very tough one. My gut reaction is to say yes, but though playing professional soccer is the ultimate goal of mine, I feel that my game is not yet ready for that level. and I still have to mature as not only a player, but also a person. Playing college soccer is very important to me because it will allow me more time to get better on the field, and also off the field. I have spoken with Zach many times about his playing with the Union; Zach is a good friend of mine, and he has only great things to say about the Union and his experiences so far.

ASN Philly spoke with Zach about Max and asked for a little scouting report: “As a goalkeeper, Max is fantastic. He’s very, very quick and agile and he also is very comfortable with the ball. He commands his area very well and is a true leader on the field. He also has a great personality which carries over to his play on the field”

Q: With that said, have you been to many Union games? What did you think of the first season?

A: I have been to quite a few Union games; I thought that the coaches and players did a great job so far, and they will only get better as the seasons come.

Quick Kicks

Courtesy: Mainline Media News

Q: Can you pinpoint a favorite soccer moment for you so far?

A: I have to say that playing against Atletico Madrid in Madrid with the U-15 National Team is my favorite soccer moment. Also, playing alongside Zinedine Zidane in the ESP All-Star Game.

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

A: Iker Casillas.

Q: Between you and Zackary Steffen, FC Delco has become sort of a goalkeeper factory these days. What can you say about Steffen and his future potential?

A: The bottom line is ‘Steff’ is a phenomenal goalkeeper. His potential is endless; I have no doubt that he will be one of the best goalkeepers that FC Delco has ever had.

Q: Who are some of the rising stars coming out of FC Delco?

A: Zack Steffen, Colin O’Neill

Q: The best advice you have ever been given…

A: Always believe in yourself.

Thanks for the time Max and good luck with your continued rehab and we wish you nothing but the best during your stay at UPenn. We’ll be checking back in!

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News from the Training Ground: Interview with Rookie Michael Farfan

Posted on 29 January 2011 by stoma

As the first leg of training got underway, a week of warm-up before the public and media at YSC in Wayne, PA before the intensity kicks into high gear when the Union travel to Orlando next week, we got a chance to speak with Michael Farfan, the team’s 2nd round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.  The 22 year-old discussed making the adjustment from college to the pros, his hopes for his rookie season and beyond, and the possibility of playing for the Philadelphia Union with his twin brother, Gabriel.

Following Gabriel’s departure from Cal State Fullerton, where the two were teammates from 2006-2008, Michael moved on to the University of North Carolina, where he earned NSCAA First Team All-American honors in 2009 and 2010.  Here’s our conversation with the rookie many believe could make the biggest impact for the Union in the midst of his first MLS training camp.

Q: The talk we’ve heard amongst our readers almost since the moment you were drafted was that you have a chance to be a real 2nd round steal.  In your contact with clubs leading into the draft, did you have any idea where you could go?

A: Not really, I didn’t really know.  I had talked to a few clubs, just interviews, but a lot of players did those, so it wasn’t like anyplace was a sure thing.  I really didn’t know where I was going to go.  With trades and all those kinds of things, you really have no idea.

Q: Were you surprised that you fell to the 2nd round, especially as a two-time First Team All-American at North Carolina?

A: No, not too much.  I didn’t think I had performed as well as I could have at the combines, so I felt that hurt me a little bit.  But, I just came into the draft open-minded and hoping to end up in a good spot.  I’m really glad I ended up in Philadelphia.

Q: Will having teams pass on you in the draft provide extra motivation, to prove them wrong?

A: Obviously, everyone’s goal is to do as best as possible and show their ability.  So, yeah, I’d love to show my potential and my ability.

Q:  In the first few days of training, which of the current Union players do you most look forward to working with and learning from?  Is it any different as a midfielder, leaning on other midfielders with the team more so than other positions?

A: I’m looking forward to working with everyone.  Everyone has something different to offer.  It’s fun to get to know new players, get to know their tendencies and abilities.  As a midfielder, it’s always fun to work with other midfielders.

Q:  Is there anyone in particular who has emerged or is established as the most outspoken on the training ground or in the locker room?

A: There are a couple of guys who like to joke around.  Everyone’s a little bit different, but I would say that everyone is pretty close and everyone is up for a laugh.

Q:  Talk a little about the transition from college to the pros, even at a traditionally high-level program like North Carolina, in terms of the speed of the game and the level of play you’ve seen coming in as a rookie.

A: I think the level of play is definitely higher.  Everything is held to a higher standard.  Just the professionalism of everyone, training and working their hardest.  It’s about making sure you get better every day because now it’s a career, not just, I guess, a hobby.  It’s fun to experience this and to work with such great players has been an amazing experience.

Q:  You talked about it in terms of a career and not just a hobby.  When do you think it clicked for you that soccer was something you wanted to pursue as a career and keep going forward with it?

A: I’ve always had the dream of becoming a professional.  Over the years, you just work hard towards it, and [at some point] I realized that I had a chance to succeed in my dreams.  Then you just keep working harder and harder until you finally achieve it and, once you achieve it, you work hard to stay up there.

Q:  Your twin brother, Gabriel, left college for the pros a couple of years earlier than you; has he been able to provide any advice or insight as you begin your pro career?

A: Yeah, he played in Mexico [with Club America] for the past two years, so he knows what it’s like.  He’s shared his experiences, told me what to expect and given me little tips here and there.  It’s nice to have someone with experience help me through it.

Q:  A lot of folks have noticed Gabriel in camp at the public workouts the team has been having this week.  Have you two talked about what it would be like to play on the same team again, this time as professionals?

A: Obviously, it would be amazing.  There’s nothing better than having family close to you, and having him on the same team would be one of the most awesome things someone could ask for.  We’ll just wait and see, but hopefully things work out.

Q: Last season, Peter Nowak found midfielders he was comfortable with and, for the most part, stuck with them.  In the first few days of training, have you gotten a feel for the technical staff’s style and what kind of chances you will have to make an immediate impact?

A: We haven’t trained 11 v. 11 too many times yet.  I think I’ll get a better feel for everything once we get down to Orlando and get into the training camp there.

Q:  Your style at North Carolina was as a player who liked to hold the ball and create. Do you think you will be given that opportunity as a rookie in the MLS?

A: Who knows? You never know. Every coach is different and different coaches expect different things out of you or see different things in you.  So, I’m not too sure; only time will tell.

Q:  How can you use your strengths to contribute in other areas?

A: I think I’m a versatile player.  I can play on the left or right, which can help a lot.  I’m pretty much up for anything: wherever the team needs me, I’m going to work hard.

Q:  What do you feel you will need to improve upon in your game to contribute to the team?

A: I think just adapting to the high level of play, but I think that will come with time.  Working with my heading ability, I think that’s one of the biggest individual things I need to work on.

Q: How different do you think it is for guys coming up with you as opposed to players in years past in terms of the perception of the MLS as a viable option to start your career or even to spend your entire career playing in?

A: Every year, the league has gotten better and better.  I feel like this isn’t a place that people look down on anymore.  It’s a place where people are happy to start their careers as well as finish them.  It’s definitely a great thing what the US and MLS have done

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MLS Combine: Brief chat with Penn State’s Corey Hertzog

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Credit: Mark Selders/Penn State Athletics

Penn State striker Corey Hertzog rebounded after a so-so day one at the Combine with two goals today on the second day. He helped jumpstart his squad to a near comeback from 3-0 down, eventually losing 3-2. Hertzog had made quite the impression, essentially wiping away day one from the books. Hertzog is used to finishing what chances he gets. This past season, the Reading, PA native led the NCAA in goals scored (20) and overall points registered (46). He flew under the radar early in the season but even when the defensive pressure was piled on as Penn State sought the College Cup, he continued to score. As he gears up for this Thursday’s draft, his mind is firmly on heading to Philadelphia. He has the resume to succeed there and it’s clear the Union want him, going as far as to try and sign him under the Homegrown player initiative.

ASN Philly got the chance to chat briefly with Corey on his expectations for the Combine, his future, and his past few years with Penn State.

ASN Note: This interview was conducted several days before Major League Soccer’s Combine.

You started the year relatively low key on the national scene – no preseason All-American nod or mention – yet you led the Big Ten in goals last season as a sophomore. Did that give you any extra motivation or incentive heading into this past season?

“Yes, I wouldn’t say it bothered me or made me mad or anything. But with teams not really knowing about me. It really helped me in the first couple of weeks with scoring and getting on the radar.”

You had a great year in 2009 but what do you credit your jump to the upper echelon of NCAA in 2010 to? What improvements were made?

“The number one reason was my confidence coming into this year. Also, me and my coach worked on finishing anything inside the box and having that killer instinct.”

It has been relatively apparent that the Union want you – how involved were you in the talks to bring you on as a homegrown player? How much were you hoping that would work out or were you looking forward to seeing where you end up in the Draft?

“Going to Philly is my number one team and I would love to go there. People have told me that they are fighting really hard for the homegrown player but unfortunately they couldn’t because they were such a new team.”

What are your expectations for the Combine? With a Generation Adidas contract in tow, you are virtually guaranteed a spot in the draft. Does that change your approach to the Combine at all?

“No, the only thing that will change is that I can’t wear my lucky NIKE shoes [laughs], but I wouldn’t say it’s going to change the way I play because it’s just a couple more soccer games to score some more goals this year.”

How do you feel the season ended up? Who were some big contributors to Penn State’s success this season?

“I think our season ended up just the way we wanted except for winning the Big Ten Championship but other than that, you couldn’t have asked for a better season with any team. Coach Warming really brought our team closer and fixed the little things that we needed to fix and that is why we had so much success this year.”

One can only imagine how hard your decision was to forgo your last year at Penn State. Can you shed a little light on what goes into the signing of a Generation Adidas contract? What kind of things did you and your family have to decide upon? And who do you consult to help with the decision?

“Generation Adidas is a guaranteed two year contract with MLS and is more then what most players make coming out of college their senior year. The decision was hard but my family and I couldn’t turn down the money and offer financially.”

Did you have any thought of going overseas to try and secure a contract or were your sights always set on Major League Soccer?

“I would love to go overseas and play but Major League Soccer has always been my dream and a great place to start at.”

Your former teammate Jason Yeisley – in fact, he pegged you as the next PSU soccer star in last year’s interview – enjoyed a decent year with FC Dallas, have you been in touch with him at all about Major League Soccer in general? The difference in training, pace, etc?

“Yes, me and Jason have been in contact, he helped me on my decision a little bit with telling me how different MLS is than college ball. He talked to me about the money and being moved to a place, and also the training, practices and games. He has been a huge help.”

Were you able to make it to PPL Park this season? Being a relatively local guy, how do you feel the Union’s inaugural season went?

“I haven’t seen PPL Park but I felt the team had a lot of talent and for a first year team coming out, they did pretty well. I am very excited to see how they do next year with the new guys they got. Maybe I’ll even be playing with them!”

How much of an influence did the Union have on your time at Reading United AC? Did the affiliation see a Union scout at every game? Or did everything go on as it did when it was the Reading Rage?

“I mean this summer I tried to make all the [Reading United AC] games that I could, but with doing summer classes three hours away it was difficult. But the games that I did go to and played in i didn’t really see a difference but I wouldn’t know. I don’t think so.”

Be your own scout. As a player, what are your strengths and weaknesses?

“My weakness that I really need to work on is my back to goal. I’m not the strongest or biggest forward out there and developing that part of the game would really help me in Major League Soccer. My strong points are my work ethic and finishing, killer instinct in the box. All I want to do is score goals.”

Quick Hits

Who is the best striker in the world right now?

“Not exactly a forward but [Lionel] Messi is my favorite player. Best striker, I would have to say [Wayne] Rooney.”

Favorite club team?

“Barcelona”

Favorite Major League Soccer team?

“Union”

Favorite PSU memory?

“The bus rides with the guys.”

Favorite movie?

“Friday Night Lights or The Blind Side”

So Yeisley predicted you would be PSU’s next star. Now it’s your turn. Who’s the next star player to come out of Penn State?

“I’m hoping Jordan Tyler, big guy in front of the net and is fast! Hopefully, he will bring home that Big Ten trophy next year.”

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

“Never Give Up”

3v3 game, pick your two ideal teammates…

“My man Matheus Braga [in this year’s Combine as well] and [Lionel] Messi [laughs].”

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MLS Combine: An interview with Akron’s Zarek Valentin

Posted on 04 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

ASN Philly has an interview with potential top five pick in this year’s SuperDraft Zarek Valentin.

Zarek Valentin leaves the Akron Zips as a 19-year old NCAA Champion with boundless potential and a  near future, at least, that lies in Major League Soccer. The Lancaster, PA native has left quite the footprint in only two seasons, one  that has been duplicated on the international level with Thomas Rongen’s U-20s as well. A  local product projected to be a top 5 pick in this year’s SuperDraft and a starter of every game as a Zip, regardless of where he ends up in Major League Soccer, he looks set to do well. And if his rookie year is not with the Union, there will still be fans in and around Philadelphia wishing nothing but the best for his professional career. Valentin, however, is one of two potential first rounders that are local products. Both Zarek and Penn State’s Corey Hertzog (a Reading native) could very well be on Coach Nowak’s shortlist heading into the SuperDraft. A defender known for his composure and proper distribution out of the back, at only 19 and on big stages, could be the best pick to make. Only time will tell but wherever Valentin ends up, he’ll be one Philly area prospect to keep an eye on.

The interview is over at ASN Philly.

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MLS Combine: An interview with Lancaster’s own Zarek Valentin

Posted on 04 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Zarek Valentin leaves the Akron Zips as a 19-year old NCAA Champion with boundless potential and a  near future, at least, that lies in Major League Soccer. The Lancaster, PA native has left quite the footprint in only two seasons, one  that has been duplicated on the international level with Thomas Rongen’s U-20s as well. A  local product projected to be a top 5 pick in this year’s SuperDraft and a starter of every game as a Zip, regardless of where he ends up in Major League Soccer, he looks set to do well. And if his rookie year is not with the Union, there will still be fans in and around Philadelphia wishing nothing but the best for his professional career. Valentin, however, is one of two potential first rounders that are local products. Both Zarek and Penn State’s Corey Hertzog (a Reading native) could very well be on Coach Nowak’s shortlist heading into the SuperDraft. A defender known for his composure and proper distribution out of the back, at only 19 and on big stages, could be the best pick to make. Only time will tell but wherever Valentin ends up, he’ll be one Philly area prospect to keep an eye on.

Less than a month removed from helping Akron to its first NCAA Men’s Soccer championship, ASN Philly got the chance to chat with Valentin before his versatility and talent is on display in Florida for this weekend’s 2011 MLS Combine. 

ASN Note: This interview was done before Major League Soccer announced that Zarek Valentin alongside Zac MacMath, Omar Salgado, and Perry Kitchen will not be attending the Combine. US Under-20 camp duty instead.

How satisfying was it to win the College Cup, especially after losing on PKs last season to Virginia? Was that the primary goal after last year ’s loss in the Final even after losing teammates like Teal, Ben, and Blair?

“It was especially difficult to lose in PK’s and then come back the next year with a huge target on our back. But, with that in mind, it was especially gratifying to win it all and bring it back home. I can’t put it into words what it meant to our team to overcome the disappointment of last year and then losing such great players. It was an incredible feeling to win the first National Championship, ever, for Akron. I’m still smiling as we speak!”

Can you tell us about your soccer upbringing? As a kid growing up in Lancaster and attending Mannheim Township, what and who were your big soccer influences?

“Soccer was big in my family and having my brother, Julian, lead the way with two youth World Cup appearances and a pro career really helped. Having him as an influence and to be able to talk to him, about anything and everything I will be facing…both on and off the field, is a major advantage I have and I communicate with him just about everyday. As for Lancaster, I was fortunate to have great coaches to help me while I was there. They all helped mold me, in different ways, to make me the player I am today. Mannheim Township is a big soccer area so the environment was conducive to playing soccer at various levels.”

How instrumental has your brother been in preparing you for making the transition to the professional ranks? Any sibling rivalry involve d in your quest for your eventual College Cup win a couple weeks ago?

“Julian has helped with preparation and mostly just reminding me to be myself and that it’s just another game. I looked at the big picture and he reminded me I’ve been there before and to just let it not get to me. As for the rivalry, there hasn’t been any but he did send me a picture of his National Championship ring, earlier in the year, and said, “It’s time to get yours!” I put it as the background on my phone and the rest is history. We did talk about how, if my championship team played his, it would be quite the game!”

ASN Note: Zarek’s brother Julian played for Wake Forest from 2004-2007, winning an NCAA title in 2007 before being drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy. He now plays for FC Tampa Bay of the NASL. Funny side note – Julian’s Deamon Deacons lost in the College Cup in 2006 only to do just what Zarek’s Zips did. Come back and win it the next year. 

It seems like the whole Akron squad is set to turn pro in 2011. It ’s a broad question, I know, but what is the secret to Akron’s success over the past several years?

“I think it’s just the way we are prepared at Akron. Coach [Caleb] Porter and the entire staff has done an amazing job with the environment before, during, and after the games. They have prepared us “in” a pro-like environment on a daily basis. We also play a great style of soccer which also prepares us for the high level we hope to be apart of in the future.”

What has been the most important thing Coach Porter has taught you, especially as you get ready to turn professional?

“As much as we look at things on the field as well as parts of my game, Coach Porter has really helped me mature as a player off the field. When I started college, I was, in a way, immature with how I prepared myself as a player, but now I’ve matured greatly by getting good sleep on a daily basis, eating well, hydrating myself, treating little knocks right away and just taking a more ‘pro’ approach to everything.”

What are your expectations for the Combine? With a Generation Adidas contract in tow, you are virtually guaranteed a spot in the draft. Does that change your approach to the Combine at all?

“I expect the Combine to be very competitive and a little bit hectic at times because most players aren’t used to each other and the varied styles but I still expect a high level. Most players want to impress but I’m just going to try and focus on my game and as my brother would say, ‘It’s just another game.’ That’s the approach I’m going to take and, hopefully, fare well in front of all the coaches.”

Did you have any thought of going overseas to try and secure a contract or were your sights always set on starting your pro career in Major League Soccer?

“Most players look ahead to playing in Europe but, at this point in my career, I believe it is best for me best for me to start off in the MLS, get my feet wet and, hopefully, refine my skills and continue to really grow as a player. I’m excited for the Draft and where I may end up. I have no clue so I can only hope for a good situation and to make a good case to get playing time this coming year.”

You are truly a veteran at the U-20 level and it’ s safe to say you should be representing them in this year ’s CONCACAF qualification campaign and hopefully the U-20 World Cup in Colombia. Assuming that qualification is first and foremost the goal, what are the expectations heading into Colombia?

“We have a really good squad down here right now and the competition is high every single day. I think that will ultimately lead us to success. My last official tournament with this team was the Milk Cup where we took home the Championship. We had a very good team and we are continuing to add quality players. I think we have a good shot to do well and, hopefully, make a great run. I watched my brother do very well in Canada and fall short against Austria, but I hope to emulate that success and even be a part of something even more special with the 20’s.”

Be your own scout. As a player, what are your strengths and weaknesses?

“Of course, as a player, we look at our weaknesses and where we need to improve, more than our positives, so I’d start off by working on all defensive categories. You can never be too good in the air or 1v1, so I would start off by working on all my defensive categories. Coach Porter would call it the “functional” stuff. I also need to continue to find passes into my forwards’ feet and to players higher up the field. I believe that some of my strengths are that I communicate well on the attack and defense. Playing center mid, my entire life, has also allowed me to be calm on the ball (in the back) which helps with my passes and decisions.”

A bit off-topic but have you been able to catch a Union game at all? What did you think of their Expansion season?

“Sadly, I haven’t been to a game. I have two good friends in Amobi [Okugo] and Jack [McInerney] on the team and have heard great things from them and friends but haven’t yet been to a game. I think it was a good start for them and hopefully those guys and their team can continue to improve next year.”

Valentin (L) celebrating with Akron GK David Meves after winning the school's first NCAA title

Quick Hits

Who is the toughest player you’ve ever had to mark?

“I’m going to have to give props to my Akron boys and say Steve Zakuani. He came back to play in a scrimmage. It was Steve-O and Teal up top, Ampai and Darlington [Nagbe] in the midfield, with Blair and Ben Zemanski behind them. It was quite the inter-squad game but it is forever one of my favorites.”

Who is the best in the world in your position right now? And why?

“I don’t know if people consider me a right back or center back right now, so I’ll pick one of my favorites outside backs and that’s Ashley Cole. They [Chelsea] have been slipping as of lately but Ashley has been absolutely amazing on the defensive end while also creating attacks.”

Favorite club team?

“Fulham FC. I follow them so much after all the American players have once played there. Hopefully, one day, I can play at Craven Cottage.”

Positives and negatives of Akron, Ohio?

“Positives include a tight group of people living on and around campus and who is not a commuter. The campus is also quite small but still nice. I also love our soccer community that is out there, day in and day out, in the snow or any weather. The only negative I can think of is just the really cold temperatures that come and go and they seemingly endless gray skies. It gets freezing at times.”

Who are the Zips returning next year that we should be watching out for?

“I think all the returning starters have a great chance to really show well next year and become future professionals but one player, a little bit under the radar, is Ben Speas. He subbed on to a lot of games and provided a great spark. I think he will be a great addition to the starting line up next season.”

If one goes to Lancaster, what’s the first thing they should do?

“I think they should visit Tanger Outlets. There are a bunch of great stores as well as it is in the center of Amish Country. You can smell the farms from Banana Republic which is something most can’t say…haha!”

Last but not least, who goes number one in this year’s SuperDraft?

“I really think it’s up in the air between two of my teammates in Darlington [Nagbe] and Perry [Kitchen], they are both tremendous players and I think any team to add both players will get a very good player and person.”

Thank you for taking the time, Zarek, and good luck in the coming weeks!

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Union spotlight: Chris Seitz, the 22-year old veteran

Posted on 13 February 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Chris Seitz wasn’t fazed when he started for the University of Maryland in the College Cup final in 2005. The Terps won. He wasn’t rattled, either, when he was between the pipes for a strong US U-20 squad that upset Brazil in group play during the 2007 U-20 World Cup. The Yanks won. And even though he didn’t start at the MLS Cup, Seitz wasn’t fazed in contributing to what turned out to be a MLS Championship season for Real Salt Lake in 2009. So what makes you think he’d be anything but excited about going down in history as the first goalkeeper to start a match for the Philadelphia Union? If that ends up being the case come March 25th, he will be the youngest goalkeeper in Major League Soccer to ever do so.

He has the resume of a seasoned veteran and yet, it’s hard to fathom that the California native is only 22 years old. Coaching and an intense work ethic has fashioned that over the years. He plays older than he is, something that is a necessity for a position that can see the whole field, organize the defense, and ultimately requires pointed communication. He can also save a shot or two we hear. ASN Philly got the chance to chat with Seitz, the favorite for the Union’s number one jersey, about the preseason ‘dogfight’ ahead, his past Major League Soccer experience, and the support that Philadelphia has already displayed for both him and the Union.

ASN Philly: How has the first phase of training camp been going?

“It’s good, there obviously has been a lot of emphasis on getting fit down here as well as team bonding. Been touching the ball as of late so that’s always fun as a soccer player. It’s a long camp but at the same time it has gone by quick cause we’re getting a lot of training in”

ASN Philly: It’s clearly going to be a dogfight between you, Brad [Knighton], and Brian [Perk] but what are your thoughts on the strong possibility of being the first keeper in to start the first game ‘between the pipes’ for the Philadelphia Union?

“I think they did a good job in bringing in three young, competitive goalkeepers. It helps everyday with training.  It keeps us all on our toes and keeps us all fighting to become better. And, as a goalkeeper, that’s really all you can ask for. If it all plays out right and I’m given the number one jersey then I’ll obviously be very excited and very honored and do the best I can for the Union. But until then I gotta fight every day and earn that position. I’m looking forward to the battle and looking to continue it all the way through preseason”

ASN Philly: How has it been “reuniting” with former Maryland goalkeeping coach Rob Vartughian?

“It’s good. He coached me at Maryland and helped me in a very important time there. He helped me become a professional. It’s good to be back with him because it’s obviously a higher level with him and it’s good to see him again and get some good training. He’s a professional at his job and I just look to him to get better”

ASN Philly: Being the youngest trio of keepers in the league, have the veteran defenders shared any advice with defensive set-up, tactics, your play in general?

“We obviously have some seasoned veterans in the back. Danny [Califf] was over in Europe, Jordan [Harvey] has been in the league for quite a while, Shavar [Thomas] is not in yet but he’s obviously experienced as well. But at the same time, I think Brad [Knighton]and I have been in the league for the last three or four years and we’ve been through the ropes with Salt Lake and New England. We always have something to learn though. We’re obviously listening with open ears and all that but at the same time we bring in confidence and we bring in the idea of being there before.  So I think it’s a little mixture of both”

ASN Philly: What do you think you’ll be able to take from your experience as an “understudy” to Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando?

“Nick Rimando is obviously a great goalkeeper. I trained hard everyday at Salt Lake and it was a battle for us. He’s a seasoned veteran and that’s what they were looking for at that position and that’s what they went with. He’s a great goalkeeper and I think I’ll take a lot from him. He has been there the whole time I had been there so I’ve been training with him for three years so I took a little bit here and there from him and it’s been good. I can hopefully bring that to my game and you can learn from all goalkeepers, bring a little of what they have to offer into your game and make yourself a more complete goalkeeper”

ASN Philly: You had been looking to get out of Salt Lake for some time before the trade to Philly. What was your initial reaction to the fact that the Union wanted to sign you?

“When Peter gave me a call and when Salt Lake brought me in and let me know the trade had gone down, I was obviously very excited. I left the team right after a Championship but, at the same time, it was important. Important for me to progress in my career, to find a new club to try and seek more playing time. It’s very important for me to get playing time, not just training. I was eager to find somewhere that I could hopefully go to and battle and play more games. When Peter gave me a call and said they had made a move for me, it felt good. But at the same time, it’s time to get down to training and earn a spot on this team just like anyone else. I’m excited for the opportunity”

ASN Philly:  Had there been any other contact with other clubs before Coach Nowak made the trade?

“It has been three years of being in this league and three years of not playing so there’s obviously been some clubs interested in trying to get me. I’m not going to say any names or anything like that cause obviously nothing ever came through. They could never finalize a deal and Salt Lake was happy with me and at some points, I was definitely happy to be in Salt Lake”

ASN Philly: There will be over 40 Sons of Ben and Union supporters present at the preseason match tonight vs. UNC, what does it mean to you to have this support (and this is just a tease of what’s to come) and how does it differ to the support you received in Salt Lake?

“It’s fantastic. I think all the guys are excited to hear that there are traveling fans to come to a preseason game in North Carolina. We obviously appreciate it and now we need to focus on giving them a good show, get down to work, and taking care of business on the field. We’re all very excited that they’d make the trip down. We never really had that sort of following with Salt Lake, it’s obviously a smaller community and environment but the Sons of Ben are a fantastic supporters group. We’re excited that they’re making the trip down”

ASN Philly: What are realistic expectations for the team this season? Expectations for yourself?

“I want to put the team first. I think what we want to do is come out and start off right. Obviously, we have quite a few road games in the beginning but we want to get off to the right start. It all starts here in preseason and we want to worry about getting the work in now because if we get the work in now and we play well now and we learn each other’s abilities and we learn each other’s movement then when the season comes it becomes a lot easier for us. So I think everyone of us is just worrying about putting the work in now and learning from each other and translating that to on the field”

Seitz on the left and rookie Toni Stahl, Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

ASN Philly Reader Questions

@equusdraco said…What do you all do with your down time?

“I think a lot of guys are getting their feet up. Watching TV shows, playing cards, something that’s relaxing around the hotel. No one’s really getting out and traveling around because we have a lot training and a lot of work ahead of us so we’re really just staying in the hotel and hanging out. A lot of guys either play cards in their room, down in the lobby,or hang out and play the guitar. Quite a few guys play the guitar. So it’s a little bit of everything”

@Bryan_SoB asked…Who is the cardshark in the locker room?”

“Cardshark? It goes around. We haven’t been playing poker that much. we’ve been playing a lot more of 22 and different card games. So it varies. But definitely the veterans”

@equusdraco asked…Who controls the iPod in the locker room?

“Well, we’ve made a couple – at least my car has made a mixtape or two for the car rides to and from training. I was actually in charge of the first one but there’s been quite a bit of training so they might be looking for a second mixtape. We’ll probably give that job to someone else”

@equusdraco asked…What match are you looking forward to the most?

“The first match. Obviously, it’s a long ways away. That’s what all preseason is for, to get ready for that first match. So I think we’re all really excited take it our way. We’re all looking forward to Seattle, the first game, away”

@SoccerTwit…How does a goalkeeper’s approach change playing behind 3 in the back vs. 4?

“Keepers approach. With four in the back, it’s a more traditional line-up obviously. There’s more people in front of you so you’re more worried about getting everyone more organized and facing the ball. With three in the back, it’s more positional, more zonal, and you’ve got to worry about making sure everybody is in the right area and covering the right space. So that’s just one little thing. There’s obviously a lot that goes into a formation and a lot that a goalkeeper has to think about when formations change and so forth”

@MLisinPA…Who is the team comedian?

“I’d have to go with Sebastian [Le Toux]. He’s definitely very outgoing and very funny. He likes to sing and he likes to give a dance or two so we all enjoy it and he’s a really good guy. So it has been fun”

ASN Philly: Chris, thank you for the time and good luck today and with the rest of preseason. The Union will take on UNC-Chapel Hill today at 7PM.

If you like this, check out Breton’s other interviews and Q&As with Shea Salinas, Amobi Okugo, Brian Perk and Nick Zimmerman

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Union Spotlight: Meet Brian Perk

Posted on 22 January 2010 by Breton Bonnette

It was draft day and Brian Perk stepped out of his hotel to meet up with his father, nerves most likely fluttering as he prepared himself for the day that would decided his professional future in the U.S. Waiting for the rendezvous, Perk was blindsided by a cohort of chanting Philadelphia Union supporters, over 200 strong. Little did he know, he’d be shaking hands with those same supporters that night as he toured the city of Philadelphia as a new member of the Union. 

Even after that omen, Perk says landing in Philadelphia didn’t even cross his mind. As the first round concluded, then the second, then the third, the keeper simply wanted a home. A place to play what he loves. He knew he wanted a city, a place to explore, but “I had no clue. Philly is probably one of the last places I thought I’d end up because of the two guys they already had”. So at the start of the last round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the 22-year old was blindsided yet again when Commisioner Don Garber announced, “And with the 49th pick of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the Philadelphia Union selects from UCLA, goalkeeper Brian Perk”.  Initially, he didn’t know what to think. It was a tough situation in Philadelphia. Chris Seitz, who Perk backed up at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, is the heavy favorite for the starting position. Brad Knighton was taken from the New England Revolution  in the expansion draft and looks set to be his back up. But simply put by the well-spoken 20-year old and starting goalkeeper for the US U-20s at the 2009 U-20s World Cup,  “when it gets to the fourth round, you just want to get drafted”. 

Perk understands the situation now and is genuinely happy to be heading to Philadelphia. He’s already looking at places to stay with fellow UCLA teammate, Kyle Nakazawa in and around Center City. He has time as his first few weeks with the club will be spent in a hotel and in Greensboro, NC for the start of preseason. He will also be joined in preseason by other Bruins, #6 pick Amobi Okugo as well as league veteran Jordan Harvey. To add to the three new Bruins, however, there are three other SuperDraftees in McInerney, Mwanga, and Stahl, all vying for a spot in the squad’s inaugural roster. “It’s very nice to come in with those guys. It’ll make the transition a lot easier. There will be a hierarchy obviously – we’re the rookies, so it won’t be too different. I feel like it’ll be a little bit different because we’re coming into a new situation and basically everybody is, people don’t know each other. I feel like we’ll all be a little closer because everyone is in the same boat”.

How strange is this goalkeeping situation though? The Union have made it clear that they’re focusing on youth but three guys all under the age of 26 vying for a starting position in which the general saying is ‘the older, the better’? “It’s unique. It’s something I’ve never really heard of. It’s either the old goalkeeper or the young one. That’s usually how most teams are structured but if you look at it, we’re all very similar personality-wise in the way we like to do things. Although, I might not get the number one job. The training is going to be very, very good and high. It’s only going to push us all of us I think”. The training he’s talking about, of course, will be supplied by well-regarded former Maryland goalkeeping coach Rob Vartughian. The training of the trio will inevitably foster some healty, interpositional competition. Two guys, Perk and Seitz, come into preseason with youth national team and major international experience while Brad had the only real run of Major League Soccer experience last season when he filled in for an injured Matt Reis. None of this fazes Perk. “It’s going to be a battle. I’m not naïve, I know that Chris [Seitz] is, as of right now, the clear favorite right to get the job. I’m not just going to put up the white flag and give up. That’s not the way I work.  I’m just going to come in, work hard, and see where things lead”.

Perk realizes that no matter where he goes, as a young keeper, it’s going to be a dogfight. He looked abroad, finding options in Spain and Belgium but with the lack of an EU Passport, interest stayed pretty thin and options limited. Major League Soccer swept in with a “pretty good” deal which he was excited to accept. That kept his eyes purely on the SuperDraft. Upon recollection of his first thoughts after the Union selected him, Perk stated, “I was certainly not as enthused as I am now. The closer we get to preseason starting the more excited I am”. He flies out on Sunday morning to join his teammates for physicals and meetings on Monday, set to start a new chapter with new goals. “I think it’s good to set your goals high. I would like to compete for the starting job. To get a few games and, you know, get a chance. And in order to do that for me, I have to train well. And again, it’s a tough situation but the only real thing I can do is work hard. That’s generally how I’ve always approached things. I feel like, you know, if I do that I’ll get a shot. I want to do well, win as many games as I can, get to the playoffs. We’ve got quality. We’re young, but the guys that I know that are on the team and everyone I’ve talked to are very excited. None of us are burn out on the team and that happens in some places”.

Adaptation is the key as a rookie in Major League Soccer and it’s clear Perk will embrace that. Coach Nowak seems to have found guys willing to do just that – identify the challenge and fight for what they want and what their new team wants. Dealing with the whirlwind of emotion and detail that comes post-Draft and preseason, Perk has finally realized…

“I’m happy Philly is the place I wound up”

If you like this, check out Breton’s other interviews and Q&As with Shea Salinas, Amobi Okugo, and Nick Zimmerman

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Meet the Class of 2010: Amobi Okugo, looking to make his mark

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Breton Bonnette

With things starting to get hectic for the Union’s inaugural SuperDraftees, ASN Philly had to settle for an introductory Q&A this time with Amobi Okugo, the #6 pick and 18-year old defensive midfielder out of UCLA. We promise a full on interview in next month or so. While #1 pick Danny Mwanga is in Portland tying up loose ends, Amobi and Jack McInerney are in Mexico with the US U-20s participating in the Copa Chivas Tournament. The jam-packed schedule doesn’t take away from his anxiety to get to Philadelphia and begin training camp on January 25th.

Okugo, in his only collegiate season, won Pac-10’s Player of the Year award while helping to lead – along with fellow Bruins Brian Perk and Kyle Nakazawa – UCLA to back to back Pac 10 Championships and a good showing at the NCAA Tournament. The other two most recent Freshman of the Year award winners in UCLA history were Sal Zizzo, now with Hannover 96, and Chad Barrett. They might ring a bell. That alone establishes huge expectations for the 18-year old heading into his first professional season. Even though he didn’t spend much time at UCLA, Okugo is most definitely not an unknown quantity on the soccer front, growing his game through the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton. Back then, only a couple years ago that is, the Program was run by none other than Coach Hackworth, the Union’s current assistant coach. Under Coach Hackworth’s tutelage, he became a mainstay in the youth national teams. Now with the 2011  US U-20s cycle in full swing, Okugo should become a everyday player in Coach Thomas Rongen’s set-up along with fellow Union teammate Jack McInerney. Extremely athletic, vocal, and tough- tackling, Okugo could translate that international success to a prosperous professional club career. At least that’s what Union fans are banking on.  

You spent only one year in Los Angeles, how do you feel your season with UCLA went?

The UCLA season went really well. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way but UCLA plays wonderful soccer and the coaches give us the freedom to play that good soccer, so my season went really well.

You will have two other fellow Bruins in Philadelphia come pre-season, what does that do for your comfort level and confidence heading into training camp?

Knowing Kyle [Nakazawa] and [Brian] Perk will be very good going into pre-season just because of my comfort level with them. Adjusting to a new team, it’ll be good knowing them and it will be easy heading into preseason.

How surprised were you to be taken by the Union? Had you spoken to Coach Nowak before the SuperDraft?

I was more surprised when I found out they [the Union] had the #6 and #7 picks in the first round. By then, my agent told me that they had some interest so I was just crossing my fingers. I had not spoken with Coach Nowak prior to the SuperDraft.

You played under Coach Hackworth heading into the Residency Program in 2007, what do you think about Coach Hackworth and reuniting with him as a player?

I have nothing but good things to say about Coach Hack. Him bringing me into residency was one of the most integral parts into me developing as a player I’m really excited to work with him again

How do you feel about heading into an expansion atmosphere in Philadelphia?

To play for a new and upcoming team in such a fanatical sports city like Philadelphia is such a dream come true. In America, soccer isn’t that popular but in Philly, you would never know that. I am really excited for our team to make an immediate impact in Major League Soccer.

You had thoughts of testing your skills overseas. Where would you have gone for trials? Do you still see Europe in your future some day?

I had some offers in Europe especially Portugal, Sweden, and Germany, but my family and I felt it was better to start in Major League Soccer and get a feel for what the professional life was really like. A lot of people go to Europe prematurely and come back because they are homesick and I didn’t want to be one of those people. I definitely want to see myself play in Europe at one point in my career, however.

ASN: What teams had interest in Okugo are unknown at this point.

In your rookie year, what do you hope to accomplish?

As a rookie, I want to help the team in anyway I can. I am hoping to establish myself as a consistent starter and hopefully, for our team we can make the playoffs at the minimum.

Who on the Union roster are you really looking forward to playing with?

Alejandro Moreno.

ASN: Moreno seems to be the consensus pick amongst all the draftees – expansion and SuperDraft.

What do you think of the Philadelphia fans? You certainly had a great introduction on draft day.

Crazy! But in a good way. We need more fans like Philly’s in America.

Have you watched and followed Major League Soccer much?

I’ve started watching MLS more recently but before I was watching strictly European soccer.

Your favorite career moment so far?

Being drafted by Philly.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Five years? I don’t know yet, I am trying to take it one day at a time.

Patrolling the midfield for the Bruins...

Quick Hits

Who is your favorite player? Best player in the world at your position?

My favorite player is Michael Essien but right now the best player at my position [defensive midfielder] is probably Real Madrid’s Lass Diarra.

As a player, your strengths? Your weaknesses?

Strengths: keeping it simple and ball winning; weaknesses: long-distance shooting.

What do you know about the city of Philadelphia that makes you excited to get here?

I don’t know that much about Philly.

ASN: Anyone have any suggestions for Amobi?

Favorite international club?

Chelsea

Who do you think will win the World Cup this summer? How do you think the USMNT will fare?

I have no idea who will win. I think Germany might have their breakthrough, if they get a few breaks. I can see the USMNT going to the quarterfinals this time around. They have a good nucleus of players

Being of Nigerian descent, who is your favorite Nigerian player?

[Nwankwo] Kanu. He is a legend.

ASN: For those who may not be aware, Kanu is the most decorated African footballer in history. After an amazing start to a young career at Ajax Amsterdam, Inter Milan wanted Kanu. Upon arrival for a medical at Inter, a career-threatening defect was found in his heart. Only weeks later, he had an aortic valve replaced. His time at Inter was short but he soon moved on to have amazing five seasons with Arsenal scoring over 30 goals and making a statement about overcoming odds. He currently plays for Portsmouth.  

The best advice anyone ever gave you?

“All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough”

ASN: Amobi, thanks for taking the time while in Mexico. We wish you nothing but the best in the upcoming season and hope to catch up with you again soon!

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MLS Combine: Villanova’s Michael Seamon

Posted on 06 January 2010 by Breton Bonnette

The City of Philadelphia seems to rub off on people in a positive way if given the proper chance. Most people I know will have one bad experience with a city and then spend the rest of their life bad-mouthing it. Those that spend their college years here get that four years, however, and warm up to the place. Mike Seamon, Villanova Wildcat attacker and 2010 MLS Combine participant, is an example of just that. A North Jersey high school soccer standout who traveled to the Main Line to play for the Wildcats, enjoyed the city enough to test his New York Red Bulls loyalty while forging an opportunity to play in the professional ranks. Voted 1st team Big East this season in a tough conference, Seamon’s five goals and seven assists led the Wildcats. It was the fourth time in his career that he has led the team in scoring, a testament to his value in the Villanova squad. He will play on Team Predator X.

ASN Philly caught up with Mike quickly before he was off to Fort Lauderdale to make his case known at the 2010 MLS Combine. 

You’re North Jersey born but you’ve spent the last four years leading Villanova of the Main Line. So where do your loyalties lie? Red Bulls or Union?

Of course I feel strongly towards the Red Bulls and would love to get the chance to play for them but Villanova has been great to me and I have enjoyed my time here so much that playing in Philadelphia would really make me feel at home just as much as it would to play for Red Bull.

You have earned second and third team All-Big East honors the past couple years but you really stepped things up in your senior year. What did you do differently? Where did you improve?

The thing that improved mostly was my work ethic in practice. Because of the work ethic that myself and many of my teammates had throughout preseason and the regular season really prepared me better for the games.

How do you feel the season ended up?

The season ended on a low for us. We got knocked out of the Big East tournament after having the lead the whole game against Providence. After some time off and to think about how we did, the fact that we finished 4th on our side of the bracket and potentially could have finished higher was a big deal for our program. Every year I have been here we have been getting better and I’m sure that will continue.

What are your expectations heading into the Combine?

I don’t really have to many expectations going in to the combine. My main goal is to go in there and just try to play my game and hope some of the scouts like the way I play.

What are your biggest strengths, qualities that MLS coaches should pay attention to?

My biggest strength would have to be my versatility and ability to play different positions effectively.

NOTE: Since Mike’s modest – to quote college soccer guru and Pro Player Pipeline blogger Joe Mauceri, “The best player on Villanova is senior forward Mike Seamon.  He has professional potential.  His dribbling, vision, passing is outstanding.  The problem is that he doesn’t have enough support.  For example, in the 70th minute, he flipped a pass to junior midfielder Sean Mergenthal behind the defense in the box. Mergenthal’s volley was off target”

What are your plans from now until the Combine?

My plans are to try to just stay in the best possible shape I can. The worst case scenario would be that I am tired 10 minutes into the first game. Once your tired, every aspect of your game gets worse.

If things don’t go as planned at the Combine, what will you do next? Any thoughts of abroad?

Abroad would definitely be an afterthought. I don’t really want to think about it to much unless things really don’t work out in the MLS.

Have you been following the development of the Union? What’s your take on it all?

The Union look like they have made some good moves. It seems like the staff they have implemented knows exactly what they are doing and have taken the proper steps to create a winning environment.

Quickfire:

Toughest defender you have ever gone up against?

Julius James (UCONN) [NOTE: the same Julius James that plays for DC United down the road]

Best place to go in Philly?

Main Line Bars like Maloney’s and Kelly’s. I also enjoy PJ Henry’s in Ardmore.

Best player in the world at your position?

Cristiano Ronaldo

Teammate to watch out for? Which one will be in your shoes one day?

Chris Christian [soon to be senior defender from North Jersey, “strong and steady”], Kevin Garcia [a versatile defender, soon to be junior who contributed a lot in 2009]

Best memory as a Wildcat?

Upsetting #1 Duke.

3v3 game, pick your two ideal teammates…

Nick Whipple (Wesleyan’s tri-captain this season, leading them to their highest finish ever in the NCAA tournament) and Sergio Munoz (Farleigh Dickinson, creative midfielder from Linden, NJ). Both played club soccer with me for Ironbound Warriors.

We’ll keep an eye out for how Seamon does on the 8th. Mike, thanks for taking the time and we look forward to catching up with you in the future.

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MLS Combine: Penn State’s Yeisley set to continue making a difference

Posted on 21 December 2009 by Breton Bonnette

ASN Philly is going to be at the MLS SuperDraft in mid-January so we figured we’d begin our coverage with several informal “sit-downs” with local MLS combine participants.

Jason Yeisley is probably one of the most under the radar players taking part in the Combine having struggled with injuries during his years at Penn State in Happy Valley. He stayed the course and excelled in his last season, however, winning the honor of Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year as well as a nod as candidate for Soccer America’s Player of the Year award. His injury, however, helped open other doors to help complement his soccer career. In 2005, he met a person that would make him realize that his status as a national caliber soccer player was more than just goals and assists. Adam Recke, 9-years old from Allentown, PA (Jason’s hometown), was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick disease, a terminal and extremely rare disease that affects metabolism, and Jason met him shortly thereafter. And so began their alliance, one in which both Jason and Adam became very close and the Allentown native was able to use his position as an elite NCAA Division I athlete for the benefit of the newly-formed Race for Adam Foundation. On the field, his 2009 season wound up his best yet and Yeisley was recognized for his commitment on every front when he was honored with the Lowes Senior CLASS Award. Now, all that’s left to close out a topsy-turvy but incredibly brilliant college career, is a good showing at the MLS Combine and a chance to stand at that podium on January 14th to accept his welcoming into Major League Soccer. Former Reading Rage player here (with the Union expected to make Reading its’ PDL affiliate today), could the Union take notice?

Can you tell us what it has been like the past few injury-riddled seasons? And how did the 2009 season feel after all that time off?

It was tough to deal without playing the past few seasons. I had never experienced a serious injury until my sophomore year of college so I was not familiar with the rehab involved or how hard it would be to stay mentally focused. I found ways to stay involved with the team, most of which involved mentoring the younger players and helping them adapt to the college game, but it was still hard to feel part of the team when I was not contributing on the field. This past season was very rewarding coming back from a significant amount of time off.  Luckily I had great trainers and doctors at Penn State that helped me recover to full strength. When I was playing this season, I felt no different than I did before I was injured and I could just focus on playing.  

How do you feel your chances are heading into the combine? Your expectations?

I am looking forward to going to the combine.  Since the season has ended, I have been working out and preparing for it.  

With such a rigorous schedule at Penn State and plans to go to dental school post-graduation, where does possibly playing pro soccer fit in?

I am hoping to continue my soccer career for as long as possible and continue on with dental school afterwards. 

Congratulations on the Lowe’s senior award! What has kept you so grounded?

The Lowes’ award is a nice honor and I am humbled just be mentioned in the list of players who were up for the award. I have always taken academics very seriously and I try to stay active in the community.  Spending time with Adam and his family have helped me realize the important things in life.  

How do you feel the season ended up?

Well we came up short in the last minutes of the Big Ten tournament, but in any case, I felt this season was very successful.  For the first time since 2005, we returned to the Big Ten finals and the NCAA tournament.  In my opinion, this is something our program should achieve every year and I feel this is a good precedent and building block for the upcoming seasons.  

Please tell us a bit about the Race for Adam Foundation and your role it in all.

I met Adam shortly after he was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick disease in September of 2005.  Since then Adam has been our honorary captain 3 or 4 times and we see each other when I return home to Allentown during breaks.  The goal of the Race For Adam Foundation is to raise money in search for a cure and to promote awareness of the disease.  Niemann-Pick is very rare with only 500 diagnosed cases worldwide; so creating awareness of the disease is a very important step in reaching potential donors.  Through my connection with Penn State soccer, I have tried to help spread awareness of the disease and the Race For Adam Foundation.  We have also contributed Penn State items gathered from various Penn State teams to be used in fundraiser raffles at their events.  Our relationship has grown significantly over my time at Penn State and they are like family to me. They are an amazing family and we will always be close. 

Jason and Adam

So what happens between now and when you head to Florida for the combine?

Lots of training and working out. I have been keeping my fitness up from the season and continuously working on getting better everyday so I can have my best showing at the combine.  

Have you paid attention to the development of the Philadelphia Union franchise? Initial thoughts?

Yes, I have.  I am from Allentown and I always wanted to have an MLS team nearby in Philadelphia. I think the fan support of soccer in Philadelphia is incredible and it will be one of the best atmospheres to play in.  

Quickfire:

Best player in the world at your position?

Ruud van Nistelrooy, he might be coming off of injury now but he’ll be back

Favorite club team?

Tottenham Spurs

Next Penn State soccer star?

Corey Hertzog [leading scorer this year for PSU, 11 goals as a sophomore]

Favorite thing about Philadelphia that doesn’t rhyme with ‘squeezemakes’? 

What is better than a Philly cheesesteak? 

Favorite PSU memory?

Winning the Big Ten my freshman year.

World Cup favorites? And where do you think the USMNT will end up?

I have faith in the USMNT, they can go get the job done like they showed against Spain in the Confederations Cup.

There’s a good chance Jason will be providing us with his Combine experiences sometime in January. We’ll check in with him soon. Thanks for the time and enjoy the Holidays!

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