Zarek Gets U-23 Call
CARSON, Calif. (Thursday, November 3, 2011) - When he heard he was called up to next week’s U-23 U.S. National Team Camp, Zarek Valentin’s first reaction was not to celebrate, but to keep working. He got a few weeks notice, and he has spent them working hard to make sure he’s ready. The camp, which runs from November 7-16th in Duisburg Germany, is an exciting opportunity for the Chivas USA rookie defender.
“Obviously it’s an honor,” said Valentin. “You work really hard, both in MLS and for me with the U-20s, to potentially get a look. Being one of the younger guys in the age group, you just want to get a shot. And now that I got that shot, I have to take it the best I can. I think I have a pretty good chance.”
The camp is the first opportunity for players to get evaluated as a group, trying to make an impression on the coaching staff in advance of next spring’s Olympic qualifying, and potentially, the 2012 Olympic Games in London next August.
The twenty-year old Valentin has a total of 29 caps with the U.S. U-20 National Team, and has spent time with the players from the older age group, but this will be his first time officially with the U-23’s.
“I’m familiar with the guys and a couple of them are good friends,” said Valentin. “I’ll be comfortable”
Beyond the opportunity on the field, the trip is also a chance for Valentin to see a new part of the world.
“Germany, France and Italy are three European countries I really want to go to, so I’m checking one off the list,” he said. “I think we’ll have maybe a day or two off. We’ll definitely go see what’s around us a little bit. It’ll be good to go check out [the cities] and soak up the atmosphere.”When his former University of Akron coach Caleb Porter was named head coach of the U-23’s last month, Valentin was very excited.
“He’ll be great for it,” said Valentin. “Obviously it doesn’t guarantee anything by any means for me- just because I’ve played for him before - but it gives me a certain comfort factor. I’m excited, and more than anything I think he’s excited to get a new challenge and really excel. He’s a great coach and I’m expecting great things for the age group in general.”
If everything goes according to plan, one of those great things could be the 2012 Olympics.
“It would be an absolute dream come true,” said Valentin of qualifying for the Olympics. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do as long as I’ve been a soccer player. I know some of the coaching staff who were at the last Olympics in Beijing, and to hear the stories they talk about, and the emotions they felt, it’s something I want to have. My brother [Julian] has talked a lot about what it means to play in World Cups too, he played in two youth World Cups, and I haven’t been able to do anything like that. I’ll do whatever it takes just so I can get there, it would be a once in a lifetime thing.”
When reminded that next summer’s Olympics are in England, with the soccer events being held in such venues as Wembley Stadium, St. James’ Park and Old Trafford, Valentin was almost lost for words. Of course, the journey is just beginning next week in Germany. Valentin knows there’s much to be done, both by himself and for the team, before the Olympics become a reality, but you can’t blame the twenty-year old for taking a quick moment to dream.
“It would be perfect, it would be unreal,” he said. “I would be playing with a complete smile on my face- if I even played! I want to keep everything in perspective, this is just the first camp now, but it would be an incredible journey.”