Former LA Galaxy defender and Tampa Bay Rowdies captain Julian Valentin enjoyed a three year career as a professional soccer player before retiring in 2011. Before that, he led Wake Forest to to their first NCAA National Championship title in 2007. He managed to play for various youth US National Teams, including the U-20 team that competed in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, but never received a call up for the senior national team. Valentin answered some questions regarding his past as a professional soccer player, his best memories and regrets, and about the possibility of playing for Puerto Rico.
What is the most important aspect a young aspiring soccer player should do?
Julian Valentin: For a young aspiring soccer player to maximize his or her ability, they must make a serious commitment to work hard every single day. There are many talented players around the world, but at the highest level it is hard work, advanced technical ability, tactical awareness, and the ability to process the game quickly that separates players. All of those things can be improved over time, through hard work and dedication. Be the first one on the field and the last one to leave. Watch games and study the best players in the world. Eat right and prepare your body in between sessions. These things are all forms of hard work and commitment, and players can always improve.
What is the most memorable memory you have as a former player?
JV: I was very blessed to have played the game at a high level and I have so many great memories of my time as a soccer player. I had the opportunity to travel the world and see places I never could have dreamed of without having soccer carry me there. Representing the U.S. in the U-20 World Cup in Canada is something I will always remember fondly. In that tournament I had the opportunity to play against some of the best players in the world (Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Erwin Hoffer, Jo, David Luiz, Pato, etc.). We made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament and lost a tough game to Austria, knocking us out of the tournament. Big crowds and great competition. I remember playing in front of huge, loud crowds in Busan, South Korea, against Javier Pastore and Gonzalo Higuain. As a member of the LA Galaxy, I played in Auckland, New Zealand alongside David Beckham and Landon Donovan in front of 60,000 fans against Edgar Davids. And I remember winning a National Championship in college. I have so many great memories of my time in the game, all of which are very special with teammates who were, and still are, great friends.