BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, April 15, 2013
After two seasons in MLS, Zarek Valentin is looking forward to starting his European career in a Norwegian promotional battle with Bodo/Glimt.
After a successful two year collegiate career at the University of Akron, Valentin began his professional career in 2011 when he was drafted by Chivas USA with the fourth overall pick in that year's SuperDraft.
After his rookie season with Chivas where he made 25 appearances, Valentin was traded to Montreal where he played in 15 games in the 2012 season. Last week, however, Montreal sent him on a season long loan to Norway with Bodo/Glimt.
"The weather has made it tough since it's snowed about every day," Valentin told YA of his move to Norway. "The team has been amazing though. Everyone in the organization is very friendly and my teammates are very accepting as well. They respect how I try to speak a little Norwegian and they speak English."
Bodo/Glimt currently plays in Norway's second tier, the 1.Division, but are widely expected to be a strong contender for promotion this season. In 2012, the club nearly secured a spot in the top flight but lost in the final round of a promotional playoff.
In the club's opening game against Ullensaker, Valentin played a full 90 for Bodo/Glimt in a convincing 3-1 win. Afterward the Norwegian media was very complementary of Valentin for his effort in the victory.
This season is very young but the team has one primary goal this year and that is to earn a spot in the Tippeligaen in 2014.
"At this point we are top of the league, after one game," Valentin joked. "But expectations are very high. We hope to be promoted and anything less than that will be a huge disappointment to us and the entire city. After preseason and first game there is growing hype about our team. Personally I want to get experience and grow as a player. Being someone who could potentially play a lot of minutes is a good feeling so I want to use that to improve but I know nothing ever is promised."
The deal that brought Valentin to Bodo/Glimt was a surprise for the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native. Contrary to media reports, Valentin did not ask to leave Montreal. Rather Montreal's Sporting Director Nick De Santis and Director of Soccer Operations Matt Jordan approached him about the possibility of the loan.
In fact to Valentin's surprise, Bodo/Glimt's interest in him dates back several years to when he was at Akron. Head coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen had continued to monitor Valentin's progress during his first few years in MLS and decided that now was the time to make a move to acquire him on loan.
"The media in Montreal made it seem like I forced my way out and stuff which is absurd," Valentin said. "Obviously I wasn't happy not playing but I was still playing hard every day and I was approached by Nick [De Santis] and Matt [Jordan] about the opportunity. I didn't think twice about it once I realized it was a realistic option. I later had found out Jan scouted me out of college and had slowly kept an eye on me because he knew I was behind some veterans and wasn't playing. He thought it would be good for both parties and Montreal and I agreed."
Valentin's loan to Bodo/Glimt is for 2013 and it also happens to be the final year of his contract. He doesn't know what lies beyond this year but he is open to the idea of staying in Norway; especially if the club earns promotion to the Tippeligaen next year.
"I think it's everyone's ambition to play in Europe and play at the highest level possible," Valentin concluded. "If this team gets promoted and starts doing well, Bodo has the potential to play and get into some of biggest competitions and that is everyone's dream. But I'm taking it step by step
and hopefully once we get promoted, we will see."