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White Keeping Tabs on Hometown Union

AMSTERDAM – If you somehow happened to run into new Belchatow attacker Jeremiah White on any given day, he'd probably be all smiles with his family in the park. Pretty soon, he hopes, you can also commonly find him in the Polish title contenders' starting lineup.

Things are going quite well these days for the Washington-born 28-year-old. He's exploring another new country, settling into the league groove and suiting up for a club one point off the top six games into the Ekstraklasa season.

Three weeks after signing, he made a sub's debut in Saturday's road loss at Gornik Zabrze and then got his first starting nod in Tuesday's Polish Cup win at Piotrkow Trybunalski.

Not the only new face in town, his plot for invading manager Zbigniew Karbownik's 11 and aiding the attack is unfolding rather well.

"I was actually pretty fit [when I arrived], just a slight injury that threw me off for a couple of days," White told over the phone. "We have three new guys in the system, so now it's just a matter of cohesion.

"This next game, I'm hoping to get 45 to 60 minutes, and then the following game, I hope to be starting. It's about getting the rhythm. You learn how they play and they learn how you play. It just takes a little time."

With Belchatow, White is lined up to work familiar stations on left and right wing, but says their system asks the three attacking playmakers to change things up on the improv.

"We play a lone striker up top, with like a No. 10 and a pair of attacking wingers," he said. "And sometimes, I'll be in the middle. We rotate a lot. I like it."

And what of adapting to the style of play in Poland's Ekstraklasa, a league not blessed with a Yank since Jimmy Conrad's Lech Poznan cup of coffee in 2000? Well, White likes that as well.

"It's quite physical," he reports. "I think it's good for me because it adds that last dimension that I kinda need a little bit more of – it gives you a hardness."

The country also has a bit of a hard image, but White says everyone at home is settling in nicely.

"Poland's pretty nice, actually," he says, as if you'd be more surprised than he was. "We have a nice place, nice parks and open fields. The kids love the parks and fields. They have all the stores you'd have in France or other parts of Western Europe."

Another happy aspect of latching on with Belchatow is one that's relatively foreign to White: a bona fide title chase and the chance to work a European match for the first time.

"Whether it's the European Champions League or the Asian Champions League, it's nice to have something extra to play for," he stated. "For me, it's all a fantastic ride. I've been able to accomplish and see a few things."

"I've accomplished a lot of my goals. And now, I've put myself in a position to accomplish those last few goals. I think I'll do it."

Though not a man prone to regrets, he does believe last year, his final season with Aarhus GF, was a big disappointment. Playing alongside fellow American Benny Feilhaber, White watched the team he helped climb to the Danish top flight sink from it.

"I swear we had a team that could have finished in the top three," he insists. "Unfortunately, we had some really big problems with the coaching, which resulted in a relegation.

"We had a lot of talent in that squad. We had a shot there. And now, here, I have that shot."

White had hoped to join adopted hometown club Philadelphia Union for their first season, but his discovery rights were held by Chicago and the expansion outfit moved on to other players. The Fire could not agree terms to bring him to MLS for the first time after bringing him to Chicago for a trial in June.

He keeps regular tabs on the Union and says, from his view, they are well on their way to success.

"Every week, I follow Philadelphia's results," said White. "I think I could have really helped them. When I was home, I watched all their games.

"They have a good team. They are just missing one or two pieces. They have good bones, ya know? A good framework."

Playing there remains on his to-do list, but he is already booked for this season with an option for another at Belchatow.

"I'd love to do that, but I haven't had any contact with [Philly] since it didn't pan out in the beginning," offered White. "Hopefully, they'll contact me at some point. For right now, I'm just focused on what I need to do here."

Kept busy with a happy job and a happy home life, White is living his version of the European soccer dream. For him, it's not all about the money or the biggest clubs. It's about the quality of life, which means White is winning his favorite game of all.

"I enjoy this," he declared. "Some people, they get tired of what they do. I train two hours or three hours every day, then I come home and spend the rest of my time with the family. Living in different countries and all that, that's something I won't get to do when I'm 40.

"This is the best job in the world, as far as I'm concerned."