Welcome everyone to today's edition of Jamie's Journal coming to you live from sunny California. We arrived on Monday afternoon just in time for a training session that afternoon and a night of getting adjusted to the time difference. I know you're probably thinking, "Jamie, Salt Lake is only one time zone away and there shouldn't be a need for adjustment." Well in the last week I went from Portuguese time to Eastern Time for one night to Central Time for four days, to Pacific Time in exactly seven days. That being said, I think I'm getting my best sleep in the daytime, and I am wide-awake at night. OK, enough complaining, and on to today's edition filled with practice reports, You Call the Shots, and all the inside info you could ever want. Without further ado, (insert Freddy Adu joke here) let's get started.
You Call the Shots/Feature Players of the Day
Last week I pretended I was famed poker champion Chris Moneymaker and bluffed all of you out there with no feature player of the week. I'm sure I disappointed a few people, so I thought I would come back strong by giving you not one but two Feature Players of the Day.
Now, here's the second part of the comeback: More than half of the emails I have received from you guys have said you want me to interview the players and ask some very pressing questions that cut right to the core of just who these guys really are. So the gloves come off, and the truth comes out in today's interview-style You Call the Shots/Feature Players of the Day. First let's introduce the guys that we will be getting to know better today.
First we have Evan Whitfield, who has been in the league since 1999 and played his entire career with the Chicago Fire up until this past offseason when he was traded to Real Salt Lake. Evan plays out wide and has proven he has what it takes to be an impact player in the MLS.
We also have Nelson Akwari coming to you from Houston. Nelly is one of the most feared defenders in the league and has a vertical leap of almost 8 feet. He is an absolute monster in the air and can dominate any forward in this league night in and night out. Let's give Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Akwari a big round of applause for being here. OK, enough with the small talk and onto the questions.
How did you first get involved with soccer?
Evan Whitfield: I played in the AYSO and I played for the Wildcats with all my buddies.
Nelson Akwari: Through youth soccer growing up in Houston
If you weren't a professional soccer player, what would you be doing?
EW: I probably would be a field researcher in primatology (study of apes).
NA: A Minister
Describe yourself in one word.
Who is your favorite American soccer player, and who is your favorite non-American soccer player?
EW: Pablo Masteroni; Ronaldinho
NA: Tab Ramos; Kanu
What is something most people don't know about you?
EW: I'm extremely sensitive.
NA: Went to an all boys high school.
Best MLS memory
EW: 2000 US Open Cup win versus child teammate Pablo Masteroni
NA: First start with the Metrostars when we played LA in the Rose Bowl
Favorite author and book
EW: Herman Hesse/Sidhartah
NA: Tons of favorite authors/The Bible
Best player you have ever played against:
What was the last song played on your iPod?
EW: Salisbury Hill by Peter Gabriel
NA: Black Gloves by Young Buck
Fast food joint
EW: Jack in the Box
EW: Toyota Prius
Monte Gordo, Portugal
EW: Freezing rain
EW: Innovative and exciting
NA: (laughs) funny
MLS Cup Champion '05
EW: Salt Lake baby
NA: Real Salt Lake, of course
Taco Bell or Wendy's
Vanilla or chocolate
Kobe or Shaq
N*SYNC or Backstreet Boys
NA: Backstreet Boys
Jessica Simpson or Beyonce
Pele or Maradona
EW: Pele, please
Congrats boys, you survived the fans' questions! There you have it folks, your questions answered by the players themselves. We now know these guys a little better and know just how deep their love for Backstreet Boys really is. Keep the questions coming and we'll keep the players on their toes with them.
Our practice Monday afternoon was one of the most fun days during this preseason. It was a very competitive practice, but there were moments where it was impossible not to bust out laughing. We started off with our trainer Jake Joachim who helped us stretch out and got the stiffness out of our legs. After that we moved on to some technical work with Assistant Coach Brian Johnson.
After some good work there, we moved on to the possession and small-sided games with Coach John Ellinger. The teams had been split into forwards and attacking players, midfielders, and defenders. I don't think the defenders got the memo that said they were supposed to be defenders because Nelson Akwari, Rusty Pierce, and Matt Behncke could have been mistaken for natural goal scorers. These three were having one of those days where any kind of shot they took went in. It got to be comical with the kinds of goals these guys were scoring. Anyway, it all culminated when Nelson took a bouncing ball on the sideline, didn't even look at the goal, tried to cross it, miss-hit it and chipped the goalkeeper. He tried claiming he meant to do it while attempting to keep a straight face. This was just their day and as long as they do it during the season, I don't think any of us will complain about how the ball goes in.
There you have it, today's edition of Jamie's Journal. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Evan Whitfield and Nelson Akwari and got caught up on how training has been going so far. Check back in next time for a full match report on the game against Club Deportivo Chivas USA.
P.S. Feel free to add www.realsaltlake.com to the favorites on your web browser so you can check out more journal entries to come while we are here in "Cali." Take care everyone.