Thursday, July 12, 2012

Extra Time: Kellen Gulley

For Part Three of my S365 Home Grown series I spoke with Chicago Fire academy star and former U.S. Under-17 forward Kellen Gulley earlier this summer as well as some people that know him best. 

I'm trying something new with this Extra Time edition though. I found a lot of the same topics coming up in the conversations I had with these sources, so I've grouped some of the quotes accordingly. In addition to comments on the content, let me know what you think about the format.

Here's your key:
Kellen Gulley, 18. The topic of the article.
Victor Pineda, 19. U.S. U-20 attacking midfielder, Gulley's Fire academy teammate and best friend.
James Gulley, 20. Kellen's brother and former youth teammate. A midfielder for the Nashville Metros as well as Western Illinois University, where he's transferred from Tulsa.
Marcus Epps, 17. Recently seen wreaking havoc in USSDA playoffs for the Fire's U-16s. Former ODP teammate of Kellen's.

On Kellen's adjustment to life in Chicago and life off the field:
“I think he’s adjusted well. He’s by himself kind of, but I think two of his friends are playing for the academy up there so he talks to them and then I know that they have friends and that he kind of interacts with them a lot so that's how he kind of gets to people. And then his teammates are really nice so they help him and stuff.”

“Pretty chill person. He just goes home and trains with the academy. Not much going on. He’s living with his mom and I think his dad moved up here recently, to Chicago. So, I mean, he seems pretty comfortable up here.”

On the state of the game back home (Mississippi):
“It was good. I mean, we kind of started with ODP, we started, we were one of the first groups to, like the 91s, 92s, 93s, 94s were like the group to start making the region team and start making region pools and travelling with our region. And so it kind of opened other coaches' eyes for other kids in Mississippi.”

And how that's changed:
"I mean, a lot of coaches that we had aren’t there anymore so the training isn’t as good as it was I don’t think. And then, but, other than that, I think that’s it. Just the tranining’s not as good so you can’t – you don’t develop as much and people don’t work as hard."

"We all get messages from the players that are still there that tell us its slower. Everyone in our generation left or went to other academies."

"When I go back home it doesn’t seem like soccer is driving anymore."

On his trial with the Fire as a 15-year-old:
"I mean I went back home after 'cause I don’t know what it was. I guess they said they would tell me later. They didn’t tell me right after trying out."

-In other words the Fire tracked him for almost two and a half years before finally signing him to a Home Grown deal last August.

On the importance of the youth coaching they got in Mississippi:
"I have had a long history of great coaches from international places like Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, and some from just here in the states."

"They would just – they weren’t all about fitness. And they were all about touching the ball and getting better technically. I think that’s what makes soccer players better. It’s not – you can gain fitness from touching the ball and that’s what they were about. Not as much running and more touching the ball, passing, getting better technique.”

On growing up playing together:
“It was fun. I was always with him. We played good together, really good together all the time. We won a lot. It was good for our relationship just 'cause now we don’t get to see each other as much, but we’re still really close.”

-They were teammates, mostly as midfielders from the time Kellen was 3 until around the time he hit U-14s.

On if an MLS team could succeed in the Deep South, particularly Atlanta:
“I think it could; there are a lot of players down there that have talent and want to play. Right now I think Atlanta would be the best spot because of the numbers and potential there.” 

"That’d probably be the best place. I cannot see it anywhere else."

-James said he thought a team could succeed, mostly citing the growth of the local player pool and their potential as fans.

Other stuff:

-Apparently the Gulleys and a lot of people they grew up with were LA fans before the Fire came in.  

-Logan Pause was the first guy to greet him during the trial and he had a locker next to Patrick Nyarko.

-Ronaldinho is his favorite all-time player. Van Persie and Neymar are tied for his current favorites. He really looked up to McBride when the legend was with the Fire. I won't act like I wasn't a little surprised and a lot stoked when he told me as much.


Michael F said...

do you get the sense that gulley and pineda are close to first team minutes? or not that close?

Unknown said...

I'd say Pineda's probably a little closer, but still on the fringe. Gulley said he needed academy ball just to get minutes.

Some things to keep in mind though, the national academy playoffs just ended and the Fire play four games in the next two weeks. One of those is the Villa friendly.

I hope this answers your question.