Good news for Chivas USA. Defender Zarek Valentin, who just completed his first season as a professional athlete, was selected to the upcoming United States Men's National Team Under 23 camp, to be held in Germany beginning next week. New U23 coach Caleb Porter selected 31 players for the roster, where they will be evaluated for future opportunities to play with the U23, and perhaps play in the 2012 Olympics (assuming the U.S. qualifies, of course), taking place in London. No players who are currently playing with the senior national team who are under 23 were called in, so this is seen as a chance to develop the pool of players and hope some of them will be able to make the leap to the senior pool, either later in this World Cup cycle or more likely into the next.
Several players that are likely familiar to MLS fans are on the roster besides Valentin, including Chicago Fire starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, San Jose Earthquakes backup David Bingham, DC United defenders Perry Kitchen and Ethan White, Columbus Crew midfielder Dilly Duka, and Vancouver Whitecaps forward Omar Salgado. The Galaxy have one player selected, Academy player Jose Villarreal, who must be pretty damn good as he's the only player who hasn't played for a professional side.For those of you who follow Americans abroad in a bit more detail, Mikkel Diskerud, who was called up for a couple of B senior team internationals last year, got the call. So did Josh Gatt, from Detroit but playing in Norway, like Diskerud, and making a name for himself by scoring some dazzling goals. You may have heard of defender Gale Agbossoumonde, who is a promising talent but signed an arrangement with a third party to facilitate a move to Europe, and his career has languished for the past couple of years, although he's now on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt, in the 2nd division in Germany. Finally, some of you may have heard of Tijuana Xolos winger Joe Corona, who grew up in the San Diego area and has been playing well in his first season in the Mexican Primera. He was called up to the U23 squad of Mexico, but is not cap-tied on the senior level, so it looks like the country that offers him a full call-up first will get the nod. Still, he's a good player, and he may make a fast impact on the U.S. setup.
For Valentin, the invitation is a big opportunity for him to learn among good talent and develop his game. I think he is a promising defender, and for all the times when Chivas' fans had every right to be upset at his mistakes, I think they were the kinds of mistakes all young defenders make. If he's still making those mistakes on a consistent basis in a couple of seasons, then it's a big problem. In particular, I will be curious to see if Valentin can develop an attacking component to his game, as he stayed at home last season in order to minimize risk (and because it often looked like he didn't know how to provide good service to the strikers). It would be great if Chivas could have both fullbacks pressing up the field on attacks next season, in order to not only increase possession but also to provide better scoring chances when Chivas are in the final third. Also, Valentin needs to improve his physical strength. He's only 20, so he has some time before he will fully physically mature, but he better hit the gym hard this season and add some bulk on his frame, so that he won't get pushed off his mark so easily by opponents.
Congrats to Valentin! He's made the jump from the U20s to the U23 camp. This is a promising sign in a young career.
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