I made good friends with Giuseppe Gentile last season during his time with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Just a couple of days after players reported for preseason, Giussi and I drove up to Orlando for a day-long appearance at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom ahead of the club’s participation in Florida Cup. The drive, three hours one direction, gave us plenty of time to get acquainted with each other and the conversation revealed what a good dude Giussi is.

In the middle of the season, Giussi was traded to Ottawa. Not long after, I quit the Strikers. We kept in contact — like I try to with most of the players I’ve worked with — and in this recent tumultuous offseason, were in touch several times a week to check on the other’s situation.

When I told Giussi about The Soccer Tour, he was on board immediately and wanted to help however he could. Not only is he a patron of the tour, his family opened their home to me during my time in Charlotte, even with Giussi in Puerto Rico.

Can’t thank the Gentile family for their kindness and generosity. Giussi’s mom Patricia made sure I was well fed, even packing me a lunch before I left town. It was the most at home I’ve felt during so far during the tour.