Like former Olympic and current Men’s National teammate John O’Brien, Josh Wolff’s promising young career for both club and country has repeatedly been held back due to injuries. This year, he’s hoping for his first injury-free MLS campaign in four seasons as a key contributor for the Kansas City Wizards.
Feb. 26, 2004
Center Circle: You've had what seems like enough injuries for a 15-year pro career. When's the last time you had a year free from a major injury?
Josh Wolff: “That's a tough one. I'd say the year I came back from my first ACL, which was 2000. From there through April 2001 was when I had my last good run being injury free. That was about the time I got into the National Team mix, and was a good run of soccer for me. Injuries happen, and you just have to deal with it and try to stay positive.”
CC: What's been the hardest injury to come back from?
JW: “I think my foot injury in 2001, whatever that was. No one really knew what the injury was, and it took 7-8 months before I was playing again. Certainly, all of the injuries have been difficult in their own way. None of them have been minor. You just have to grit your teeth, rehab through them and know that there are better days ahead.”
CC: Do you think you have a 15 or 20-goal season in you this year if you can stay healthy?
JW: “I always say that would be a good year to have 15-plus goals. It's going to be difficult the first half of the year without Preki. I'm excited that I'm going into this season fit, healthy and strong. It's been a long time since I've had that part of things squared away. If I can get 10, 12, 15 goals, that would be great, but I'm just looking to help my team win however I can.”
CC: What's the biggest difference from playing in Chicago to playing in Kansas City?
JW: “Chicago is a free-wheeling attack. You've got a bunch of guys who can get forward, and a stable line of defense that allows them to do it. In K.C., you have a more defensive-minded team, but one that counters really well. The biggest difference is where the pace of attack comes from. K.C. is almost always a quick-hit strike. It works for us. Preki is a big part of that, so with him being out we will have to find some new ways to score.”
CC: What about the biggest change off the field, besides K.C. being a much smaller city?
JW: “The biggest change off the field was having a baby boy. It's a fun change. While I was hurt last year, I got to spend time with my family, which took my mind off the injuries.”
CC: How's married life? Enjoying suburb life?
JW: “It is nice. For Angela and me, we were fortunate to go to an area that is fairly new. There are a few other players that live out there. The biggest thing is that it's new and very family oriented.”
CC: What's better: Chicago pizza or K.C. barbecue? And do you have favorite spots for each?
JW: “I like KC BBQ. I never got into Chicago pizza thing. It's too thick and too heavy. I'm a thin-slice kind of guy. The place I like for KC BBQ is (Fiorella’s) Jack Stack.”
CC: Okay, back to soccer. How shocked were you when the Under-23s recently failed to qualify for the Olympics after your fourth place finish in 2000?
JW: “That's a little bit of a setback for U.S. Soccer, especially after our recent success. Our last outing in the Olympics was a very strong showing, and we would have liked to improve on that. In 2000, our qualifying was a little bit easier since we played in the U.S. It's always difficult to beat Mexico in Mexico. Still, it was a little difficult to take, especially getting a 4-0 beating with the type of players we have.”
CC: You made quite a name for yourself internationally based on your performance (2 goals and 2 assists in 6 matches) in Australia. What is your best memory from that tournament?
JW: “The best memory is probably the Japan game. We were outplayed but able to hang in there and hold on. We got a goal late, and were able to outlast them in PK's. Getting into the medal round was something special, even though we didn't do as well as we wanted.”
CC: Thanks to your performance and camera-friendly looks, you became the U.S. Soccer poster boy for that tournament and a common post-game interview choice. Any endorsement deals come out of Sydney?
CC: How does your World Cup 2002 experience compare, as a role player on a team that advanced to the quarterfinals?
JW: “It's certainly different when you're a central part of it, but at the World Cup it was great to be a part of something special for a lot of people. We surpassed everyone's expectations again. We were able to pull off some great things there as well. Two different tournaments but equally enjoyable.”
CC: With a goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico in your debut in 2000, a big game-winning goal in the 2-0 WCQ win over Mexico in 2001, and a huge assist in the 2-0 WC win in the Round of 16 in 2002, you've had significant success against our biggest rival. Is that coincidence, or do you just raise your level of play for big games like that?
JW: “I don’t know. I'm one who enjoys playing games that carry a lot of weight. Playing Mexico is an emotional game no matter when you play. Those successes certainly give me a little more confidence going into games like that, and allows me to be a little more aggressive in those situations. That comes from being pushed in the right way by the right coaches.”
CC: What are the qualities that a striker needs to have in order to make the jump from the league to the international level?
JW: “Well, the first difference is the amount of pressure and importance on every game. Every game is a battle and a struggle. As a forward, you get less and less opportunities, so you have to be a clean finisher and take your chances well. At the league level, some times more chances will come your way, especially if you work hard. But at the international level, you have to be precise. You have to be consistent.”
CC: You got valuable game experience playing for the Nike Project-40 (U.S. Pro-40 Select) team against A-League and international competition back in '98. Would your game have developed as well without that experience?
JW: “Certainly it was a very good situation for me. The fact that you're young and not playing games doesn't do enough for you to develop. The Nike Project-40 team did me a lot of good. It gave me confidence, and it gave my coaches a chance to see what I was capable of. I don't know if they can go back and do it that way, but it was good for me and for a lot of guys.”
CC: When is your Georgia buddy Clint Mathis going to get tired of experimenting with his facial hair and coif?
JW: “I don't think he'll ever get tired of it. That's Clint. Now he's going Euro with it. As long as he's scoring goals, I don't think anyone will complain too much.”
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