CARSON, Calif. – Zarek Valentin is eager to prove that he’s ready for a busy rookie season.
Already penciled in to be a fixture on the Chivas USA back line, the 20-year-old former Akron defender was selected to the US Under-20 squad that will head to Guatemala for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship (March 29-April 10) with a berth in late July’s U-20 World Cup in Colombia on the line.
Valentin has made 28 appearances for the US U-20s, a group that has been labeled as one of the best young squads in US soccer history.
“A lot of our college guys have gone pro this year and I think that’s good for our team,” Valentin said. “We’ve got a good group with experience both at the college level and at the pro level, it’ll be good for us to get real games under our belt as we prepare.”
[inline_node:326202]Valentin’s selection allows him to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Julian, a former LA Galaxy player who was also a member of the 2007 U-20 World Cup team that reached the quarterfinals in Canada.
“It’s something that I’ve really looking forward to especially because Julian went through the whole process and got to go to Panama [in 2007],” said Valentin. “He was able to play Panama, in Panama, to go through [to the World Cup] and in our bracket, we may face Guatemala, in Guatemala, to go through, which would be quite the experience.”
Following Saturday’s match against Sporting Kansas City – in which he will likely make his first professional start – Valentin will travel to Dallas for a week long of training with Thomas Rongen’s U-20s side before traveling to Guatemala. During the tournament, the US will face Suriname on March 29 and Panama on April 2 in the group stages.
The US will then need a victory in the quarterfinals to earn a trip to Colombia.
For Valentin, the added fixture congestion is sure to limit his appearances with the Rojiblancos during the spring and late summer. With the constant travel and numerous matches, the spritely defender is aware that he must not overwork himself so that he can be an important contributor for both club and country.
“I’ll have to take care of my body to prepare because I need to be prepared throughout the whole season and hopefully chosen for the World Cup once we qualify,” Valentin said. "But they called me the energizer bunny in college, so I think my body can take it as long as I do the right things on and off the field.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano