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11 Questions with U-20 WNT Midfielder Tina DiMartino

She’s not big, but boy is she crafty. Blessed with a dribbling style that makes it very difficult to dispossess her, never mind catch her, silky smooth flank midfielder Tina DiMartino is trying to help the United States U-20 Women’s National Team qualify for the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship. She took time out from the USA’s preparations for the 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Final Qualifying Tournament in Mexico to talk about switching coasts for college, knock-down, drag-out soccer games with her sisters in the backyard and why it would be a dream-come-true to play in a FIFA World Championship. You played with the U.S. Under-16s and Under-17s. Now you are with the U-20s trying to qualify for a FIFA U-20 World Championship. What differences have you seen in the jump from the U-17s to U-20s?
Tina D: “Just the overall caliber of all the girls is better. The training level and what the coaches expect out of you is also much higher. You have to be more focused all the time and technically better because the speed of play is so much faster.” Having never been in a qualification tournament for a world championship, what are you expecting in Mexico?
Tina D: “Just that competition will be hard, because you are playing against the best girls from their country with a spot in a world championship on the line. For many of the girls we play against, this will be their only chance to play the top countries in our region so we know they will be coming at us hard.” You grew up on Long Island. What circumstances brought you 2,500 miles across the USA to attend college in sunny Southern California?
Tina D: “I really thought I would develop the most as a player going to UCLA because of the quality of players and because of the coach, Jill Ellis. Plus, I wanted to get away from New York for a while. I know I can always go back and live after college. My family knows I’m coming back to New York eventually. They are not scared of losing me to California for good.” Speaking of California...How has the lifestyle switch been for you from Massapequa Park on Long Island to Westwood?
Tina D: “It was hard at first to adjust to the Southern California culture. The people are more laid-back and peaceful and easy going. They are not rude or outspoken, which is what I’m used to. And I am also used to having four seasons. Here there are just two seasons…sunny and cloudy.” As a youth player for Albertson Express, you played pretty much attacking center midfielder. For UCLA you played flank midfield, both left and right, which is also where you are playing with the U-20s. What are the challenges of playing on the wing?
Tina D: “At outside mid, I had to get used to my role of being a two-way player. In college, you have to defend all over the field. On the youth level, I was pretty much relied on to get the ball and attack, but recently I’ve gotten used to a whole lot more running. I always loved Kristine Lilly, but I have even more respect for her now. She’s my favorite player and to be playing flank midfielder for 18 years on the national team is just incredible.” You are the oldest daughter in a very-talented soccer-playing family. Your younger sister Gina (17) played with U.S. U-17s, Victoria (15) recently was called into the U.S. U-15s training camp and Rosie, who is 10, also plays. It must get competitive around the Dimartino household?
Tina D: “Oh yeah, it does. We all want to be the best. We have respect for each other, but we always want to win. We’ve had tons of intense games in the backyard. I think Rosie is going to benefit the most and be the best of all of us. She’s a little “baller.” Why will little Rosie be the best of all the DiMartino sisters?
Tina D: “She has watched and learned from all her older sisters. She really looks up to us and is very competitive. She really hates to lose. When we beat her, she just gets really mad and wants to play again.” Your father Danny is a New York City Firefighter and your older brother Danny Jr. just became a Firefighter. Obviously, 9/11 must have impacted your family directly?
Tina D: “My dad was working at the time in Queens, so I knew that he wasn’t at the World Trade Center when it fell. But he was on 24 hours, off 24 hours, working at the site so it was a truly hard and tiring time. He lost a lot of friends and it was so sad, but I know from being around all those guys that their memories will always live on.” What does your dad think about having four girls, all talented players?
Tina D: “He loves it. He loves going to our games. He’s actually very quiet on the sidelines and modest, but you can tell he’s very proud. He’s very supportive of all of us and my mom and dad try to be at as many games as possible, but it’s tough with four girls playing all the time. He’s always says that girls ‘keep the family together” so I know he’s very happy to have so many daughters.” You have a unique dribbling style. In fact, some may say it’s more Brazilian than American. How did you develop it?
Tina D: “I think from always touching the ball and always trying new things, maybe on my sisters in the backyard. Ever since I was little I always wanted to try stuff and just do crazy things with the ball. I guess I wasn’t afraid to try moves and my style developed from that.” What would it mean to you if you got to play in a world championship for the United States?
Tina D: “It would be unbelievable. I know it would be such a proud moment to be able to play for my country in a world championship. I know it would be so rewarding because I’ve worked all my life to be the best I could, so to listen to my national anthem before a world championship I know would be emotional.”