YA BEST XI: GREG DALBY
Gregory Mathijs/Le Soir
Dalby in action for Charleroi
Halfway through his first season as a professional, former Under-20 captain Greg Dalby checked in from Belgium before returning to California for the holidays.
I)What is Belgium like and have you had anyone help you assimilate over there?
- Matt Patterson, Elkhart, Indiana
Belgium is different than most countries in Europe. For one, there are two totally different languages spoken here: Flemish and French. It all depends where you live; I live in the southern part of Belgium, where they speak French and very little English. But just 30 minutes north of me everyone speaks Flemish and very good English.
Brussels is the head quarters of Europe for a lot of international business and for the European Union so its full of foreigners, it's a bit of a melting pot. The city is a lot of fun, there's always a lot going on.
It hasn't been the easiest thing in the world getting settled here, everything takes more time because of the language barrier. But I've met a lot of great people already that have helped out a ton. There's a US and NATO base not too far from me where I've met some great people. And I've also met a lot of families from the church I go to in Brussels that have been a huge help and are great friends.
II) Do you think that the US Men's National team can compete with the best teams in Europe, without committing fully to a roster dominated by players on European clubs?
- Tony Moramarco, Temecula, California
Our national team roster will probably never fully be made up of players playing in Europe, just because there will be players who will prefer to play at home. I think that is a real positive thing for US Soccer and MLS because it means we're doing something right in producing great players in our own system.
I think the US has and always will be able to compete with the best teams in Europe. I think seeing the US play the World Champions to a 1-1 draw in the last World Cup is a testament to that. But I think there is a difference between competing with these countries and being a World Cup contender like these countries.
I think it goes without being said that we're not at the same level as an England, Germany, Italy, France, or Spain but on a given day I think we can certainly compete with these countries with our best eleven.
III) What did you learn on your trip through Europe on trials at various clubs in different countries before arriving at Charleroi?
- Brooks Turner, Statesboro, Georgia
What I've learned is beyond what I can put in writing. I knew the opportunity to trial and play abroad would challenge and stretch me; I definitely got what I bargained for.
I fared well with some very good teams I trialed with so that was real encouraging for me as a player. It was altogether reassuring and motivating to know where I want to be and where I can be.
However, I'd be lying if I said my whole journey was rosy and peachy everyday. Going on trial isn't the easiest thing in the world, it can be real challenging and uncomfortable.
But as I said, I've grown tremendously from my experiences and looking back on the whole journey I feel extremely blessed to have gone through it.
IV) I was wondering what other sporting activities do you enjoy besides soccer in Belgium and, if you do surf, have you had the chance to get any sessions in on the Western European Coast?
- Todd Rowatt, Bakersfield, California
There isn't much time to play a ton of other sports out here. I'm a huge fan of baseball, football, and basketball. I follow the Padres and Chargers religiously online and whenever I can, on TV. I do get out every once in awhile and shoot hoops with another American I met out here.
I never got to surf as much as I wanted to in San Diego. I was really into soccer and other sports as a kid so most of my time was spent doing that. All of my best friends in high school surfed a lot and were way better than me. It was so much fun surfing with my buddies at home, it's one of my best memories from San Diego.
I always make it a point to get back to the beach when I'm home. I love the ocean and the culture around it. I don't know when I would have time to venture out to the west coast of Europe for some waves, but I'd love to.
V) Do you anticipate your stint in Belgium being a stepping stone to a larger league in Europe, or is that out of the question without National Team appearances? Any chance of you participating on the Olympic team? Have you had any contact from Coach Nowak about this?
- Joe Howe, Wilson, North Carolina
It's really tough to say. Obviously every player has his own ideas and dreams of where he wants to go and play. I think this league is quick to sell players, so I think I'm in a good position to move on if that's the case.
National Team caps would also be a big help in getting your name out to bigger clubs, but for now I'm really just focused on doing well in training and in games to improve myself.
I know the Under-23's just finished up a training camp in Los Angeles and then in China, hopefully I'll be able to compete for a spot in an upcoming camp.
VI) Why did you choose to play college soccer at Notre Dame?
- Nick Arcos, Seattle, Washington
I chose Notre Dame for a lot of reasons. Notre Dame is a Christian school, a great academic school, and has one of the best soccer programs in the country. I looked at a lot of schools from all over the country, but Notre Dame had everything I wanted.
It was real important for me to finish school, so between graduating high school a year early, and finishing college a semester early I feel fortunate to have my degree finished and be a year out of college at 22.
When I was choosing schools, the opportunities Notre Dame provided on the field were most important. They're in, I believe, one of the top conferences in college soccer.
They have great facilities, and they're coached by one of the most highly regarded coaches in college soccer. Playing for coach Clark and his assistants was a great opportunity and experience for me to learn a lot about the game.
VII) How did you feel when your work permit didn't go through for Preston? Do you see yourself playing in England someday?
- Jason Roberts, Brenham, Texas
The work permit that I tried to obtain was never actually applied for.
There was some confusion between myself, Preston, and a third party about the work permit. I, along with Preston, was told the permit was applied for but it never actually was. I was real disappointed to find this out and even more disappointed to have to leave Preston after having gone through preseason with them.
Even though it was very short lived (about a month), I really loved playing in England and thought it suited me well. I enjoyed my time at Preston and hope that in the future if I qualify for a work permit I can obtain one.
VIII) What was your initial impression after your very first training session with the team?
- Jason Frerichs, South Padre Island, Texas
I was real excited after my first training session. It was a professional environment with good players and good coaching. It's always a little overwhelming training with players who speak a different language.
Communication is a big piece of my position and I felt limited from communicating information and receiving information. But that changed with time and now it's pretty automatic.
IX) How do you feel about your chances of Bob Bradley calling you up soon?
- Charlies Rabin, Portland, Oregon
To be really honest, my focus right now has been on transitioning to the professional environment. I know that between MLS and players playing abroad there is a large player pool to choose from and most of the call ups are based on club performances, so my focus right now is how I play here.
Our national team is setting a great standard for itself and the competition will only get stronger for places, but hopefully I can play well enough to put myself in the mix.
X) Greg, after the lengthy search to land a gig with a European club, any regrets for not taking up the cause with the Rapids - particularly in light of Maurice Edu's fine season with Toronto and subsequent call up to the US senior team?
- Erik Purvis, Indianapolis, Indiana
Playing abroad is something I've always wanted to do for a lot of reasons, and so far I'm real pleased with my experience. I really admire MLS as a league and I know it's full of very good players and I would love to one day play in MLS. It's just a matter of when the right time is.
I think it can be a dangerous thing for a player to play the "what if" game where you compare yourself to other players and different situations. It can really do a number in your head and take you away from what you're doing. That being said, it's important to critically evaluate where you're at and see if it's best for you.
I've played with and against Mo since we were in middle school all the way through college. It's exciting to see guys you've played with and against do so well. At the same time though, you too want to keep pushing forward and making great progress.
XI) With the Belgian league being known as a very physical-hard tackling league, is there any adjustment that a player needs to make in order to be prepared for that style of play?
- Bob Hobbs, Weymouth, Massachussetts
I think the big adjustment players need to make here is the ability to feel pressure to avoid being put in a vulnerable position.
In what I've seen so far, I haven't found the Belgian league to be as hard and physical as the Championship or Premiership through a 90 minute game, but I would say the Belgian league is a very athletic and strong league.