For Julius James, 2010 has been a rewarding and taxing year all at the same time. United's physical central defender enjoyed personal success amid the Black-and-Red's collective struggles, while advancing his career with the Trinidad and Tobago National Team.
In regards to the latter, James recently finished up a three-match stint in the 2010 Digicel Cup - a Caribbean competition that allows its victor to advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Much like his D.C. United career, James' role with his National Team has increased over time, and now he is a trusted starter for the Soca Warriors.
Unfortunately Trinidad and Tobago fell at the final hurdle, losing two of its last three matches to Cuba and Grenada. On November 26, James' side went down 2-0 to the Cubans, and two days later Grenada triumphed 1-0. Trinidad and Tobago did manage to salvage a 1-0 win over Martinique on November 30, but it was too little too late, as Jamaica ultimately went on to claim the Gold Cup entry.
Prior to leaving Washington for National Team duty, James had this to say about Trinidad and Tobago's progress in 2010, "Yeah, things have been going pretty well with the National Team. We have been playing well, progressing in the tournament, and the coaching has been good. Our coach was happy with the way we have been playing, but he's not satisfied because we haven't done as well as we expect [in the tournament]. The country is not happy about it, the fans are not happy, there is a lot of pressure about it from the government to do better."
That pressure will have surely increased following the nation's exit from the Digicel tourney, a competition that Trinidad and Tobago has won eight times. Still, James' season with United was strong, and he recognizes that he is only emerging as a National Team regular.
"The fact that I got called into the National Team for the [Digicel] tournament, this being my first year with the team, my first time getting called in, it has been a huge honor."
In 2010 James played in 22 games for the Black-and-Red, starting 16 of those contests and solidifying his position in central defense alongside Dejan Jakovic in the second half of the season. He even scored the match-winning goal at BMO Field against his old club Toronto FC on September 11. According to James, his National Team experience is only going to improve his MLS performances in 2011 after he gets a brief respite.
"You get the recognition and experience on an international stage, and it only helps you when you come back to the club season. I am going to take two weeks to do nothing, my body is feeling [the effects of] this year. I have to take a bit of break to get my body right to be able to start back up in January, but I know we are all looking forward to it."