Volume IV, Issue 5
1) ARMCHAIR MIDFIELDER [Ramblings, Rants & Random Thoughts]
A monthly column about the State of U.S. Soccer that takes a hard look at everything from the performance of the U.S. National Teams to pro soccer in the good â€˜ole U-S-of-A . If youâ€™re looking for a viewpoint that you wonâ€™t see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, youâ€™ve come to the right place.
Itâ€™s been a while, some would say not long enough, since the Armchair Midfielder dropped some long-winded Larry King-style ramblings on the gen-pub (my new made-up phrase for the general public), but heâ€™s back to rattle off some rants and random thoughts about everything from Freddy to hit shows on the BBC.
OLYMPIC REDUX?: Watching Conor Casey cause trouble for opposing defenders in the last two Menâ€™s National Team wins, witnessing Eddie Gaven make a major mark on the MetroStars, and then seeing Edson Buddle healthy and effective again, I canâ€™t help but recall the pain and disappointment of the U.S. U-23s failing to qualify for Athens. Simply put, itâ€™s just a big, big bummer. Thinking that we wouldâ€™ve had the trio of Landon, Beaz and Bobby in the middle PLUS Conor and Edson PLUS defensive forces like Ricardo Clark, Oguchi Onyewu and Zak Whitbread (for the entire tournament) PLUS three â€œoveragedâ€ players all on the same roster quickly makes the team look better on paper than the 2000 version that almost took bronze. Who knows what that team couldâ€™ve done in an Olympic field that is missing all three medal winners (Cameroon, Brazil and Spain) from the last go-round. As for critics of Mooch, they had it all wrong. He got everything he could out of the hand he was dealt. It just so happened that he had three Jacks and was beaten by a Full House. [more]
2) IN 3â€™s (w/ MNT defender Steve Cherundolo)
Whatâ€™s it going to be? Door number one, door number two, or door number THREE?!? Okay, so this section has less to do with â€œLetâ€™s Make A Dealâ€ and more to do with the Multiple Choice section of an SAT test. â€œIn 3â€™sâ€ peeks inside the head of a select National Team player as they pick one of three choices for 25 questions about personal tastes and pop culture.
Best city: LA, NYC or Chicago?
â€œChicago. I'm a Cubs fan, and my family lives there. I was born not too far from there, so you could say I was a Midwest boy, but I claim SoCal heritage.â€
Best beach in San Diego: Pacific, Mission or Black's?
"For sure Black's. It's got the best waves in San Diego, and used to be a nude beach. Unfortunately, it's not so much anymore."
Most macho vehicle: sports car, SUV or big ol' truck?
â€œBig ol' truck. You can compare it to a defender as opposed to a forward. It's not flashy, it just gets the job done.â€ [more]
3) GEAR GALORE (2004 MNT and YNT Yearbooks)
In a new piece for 2004, we engage in some shameless self-promotion by spotlighting a different U.S. Soccer product each month, from the newest, state-of-the-art Nike apparel to all kinds of other exclusive U.S. Menâ€™s & Womenâ€™s merch.
With the home schedule heating up for both the U.S. Menâ€™s and Womenâ€™s National Teams, two of the hot items at the souvenir stands in the stadiums are the MNT and WNT Yearbooks.
Both yearbooks are new and improved for 2004, increased to 9x12 in size with higher quality paper and color throughout the book. But aside from the snappy new look and other aesthetics, the content has grown by leaps and bounds.
Instead of the boring old bios that were uniform in appearance and filled with all facts and no fun, the new bios have been expanded and reshaped to include funny and unique excerpts from past â€œCenter Circleâ€ issues to complement a list of each playerâ€™s career highlights.
The MNT Yearbook is now the only place where you can find out what five TV shows are regularly TiVoed by Bruce Arena, while the WNT Yearbook is perhaps the only place you can find out what Aprilâ€™s five favorite books are.
Both yearbooks also feature a special two-page timeline poster. For the women, it documents the 20-year history of the program, illustrating both the triumphs and questionable hairstyles of the team you know and love, from Michelleâ€™s first goal in U.S. history in 1985 to Miaâ€™s mullet (circa 1987) to the teamâ€™s dynasty in the 90s. For the men, it specifically looks at the Arena Era, from his coaching debut where he began the careers of Clint Mathis and Chris Armas, to the incredible quarterfinal finish at Korea/Japan 2002, to Bruceâ€™s first win in Europe earlier this year.
Also new for 2004 is a back page where you can remember a specific match by writing in the U.S. starting lineup and recording the goal scorers and final resultâ€”sort of a baseball scorecard for soccer, but fun and less labor-intensive. And last but not least, there are at least two pie charts in each yearbook. Who doesnâ€™t love them some pie charts?
To pick up the Menâ€™s National Team Yearbook, click here: http://www.ussoccerstore.com/us70555552.html
For the WNT book, click here: http://www.ussoccerstore.com/us70555553.html
4) â€œQUERIES & ANECDOTESâ€ (w/ MNT forward Jovan Kirovski)
Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Menâ€™s National Team forward Jovan Kirovski.
Like a number of American players that have spent almost their entire pro career overseas, Kirovski is still somewhat of an unknown commodity in the U.S., with crowds having only seen him in small doses over the last four years. But now that heâ€™s back in SoCal in MLS, fans and opponents alike are starting to find out what the one-time Manchester United prodigy has been doing since he left California at the age of 16. We sat down with him and talked about his long-awaited homecoming.
Center Circle: We'll start with the simple ones. You've been all over the place in your professional career, from England to Germany to Portugal and back to England. What were some of the best things about your extensive experience overseas?
Jovan Kirovski: â€œBeing a part of the Dortmund team that won the Champions League was very special. That's not something many people get to do. I had a great experience growing up through the Manchester United Academy, and being a part of the organization when they won the league for the first time in something like 30 years. It was the start of their domination in the 90s.â€
CC: And the worst things (beside the food in England)?
JK: â€œThe weather was pretty bad. It could be windy, cold, sleeting, snowing, and sunny - all in one day!â€ [more]
5) â€œMARK THAT CALENDARâ€
U-19 WNT vs. Dominican Republic â€“ Fri., May 28 â€“ 7 p.m. ET
U-19 WNT vs. T&T â€“ Sun., May 30 â€“ 6 p.m. ET
U-19 WNT vs. Costa Rica â€“ Tue., June 1 â€“ 7 p.m. ET
[Live on PHILIPS MatchTracker]
A stern reminder about an upcoming U.S. Soccer-related event, whether you plan to check it out live and in person, on the â€œtellyâ€ or that wacky world wide web.
Itâ€™s time to make some more history for the U.S. Under-19 Womenâ€™s National Team.
Four of the very players that delivered that first U-19 title â€“ goalkeeper and surfer girl Ashlyn Harris, defender Rachel Buehler, and forwards Kerri Hanks and Angie Woznuk â€“ are primed and ready to lead the team back to Canada for the U-19 CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament, which will take place in Ottawa and Montreal from May 28-June 6.
While theyâ€™ll be expected to dominate their opening round opponents, theyâ€™ll still have to get by either Mexico or Canada in the semiâ€™s to secure a spot in the U-19 World Championship set for Nov. 10-27, 2004, in Thailand.
Considering how Mexico surprised Canada at the full WNT level back in March, robbing them of a spot in the Olympics, itâ€™s clear that nothing can be taken for granted against either of those regional rivals if they meet on June 4. The Final and Third Place Match are set for June 6, the day the U.S. Women take on Japan in Louisville (live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. ET).
To follow the U-19s through qualifying, check out the competitions section of ussoccer.com:
6) SUPERSTAR!!! (w/ U-17 MNT Graduates)
A monthly feature about a U.S. Menâ€™s, Womenâ€™s or Youth National Team player whose performance or potential calls for that bright, shining spotlight. This month, it falls to the recent Under-17 Menâ€™s National Team graduating class heading from their Bradenton oasis out into the real world of soccer.
The endorsements with Nike and Sierra Mist. A spot in the chair and a stupid human trick on â€œThe Late Show.â€ The ridiculous hype that surrounds him in every city he goes.
Freddy Adu couldnâ€™t have seen this coming.
Just two years ago, the Ghanaian-born 12-year-old was taking his first steps onto the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, Fla., after his mother decided the best move for her eldest son was to allow him to enter U.S. Soccerâ€™s Residency Program. He was excited to train and play on a daily basis with the U.S. Under-17 Menâ€™s National Team, but wasnâ€™t really sure what to expect.
A hundred training sessions later, Adu can look back today and know one thing for sure.
â€œIâ€™m blessed,â€ said Adu, who had his final day in Bradenton in late March before moving up the East Coast to be with D.C. United. â€œTo have the opportunity to be in (Residency) has gotten me to where I am now.â€ [more]
7) â€œPOINT/COUNTERPOINTâ€ (Who will be the U.S. Forwards in Athens?)
In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more so-called experts giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, weâ€™ve opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.
In April, we asked you this: With a group of six forwards (Mia Hamm, Shannon MacMillan, Heather Oâ€™Reilly, Cindy Parlow, Abby Wambach and Christie Welsh) currently in Olympic Residency, who provides the best combo up top for the U.S. heading to Athens?
The obvious answer, of course, is Mia and Abby up top together. Over the last two years, theyâ€™ve shown both at the pro level and the international level that they cannot be stopped and their chemistry is undeniable. But a good deal of you must have watched Miaâ€™s three-assist performance against Brazil back on April 24, with the majority of responses recommending that Mia slide back to attacking midfield, where she can serve up pretty passes for Wambach and one of the other four forwards (Parlow, MacMillan, Oâ€™Reilly or Welsh). All we can say is that it will be interesting to see what April decides to do with her amazing forward corps. Thanks to all of those who made this perhaps the most popular question weâ€™ve posed in the last year. [more]
8) â€œYOU DONâ€™T KNOW JACK (MARSHALL)â€ (U-19 WNT Trivia)
Think you know your soccer trivia? Weâ€™ll be the judge of that. Pop quiz: who the heck is Jack Marshall? Even the trivia buffs in the U.S. Soccer Communications Department would be hard-pressed to tell you that one Jack Marshall received his one and only cap way back in 1926. Okay, that was pretty much impossible. They get easier. We give you four questions at varying difficulty levels, from 1 (easiest) to 4 (hardest).
With this being the second class of U-19 players to compete for a world championship at the age level, thereâ€™s not a lot of history to draw from, but the success that the first class of U.S. teenage title holders had in 2002 produced a remarkable group of players that have since found their way to the full WNT in 2004. Letâ€™s take a brisk walk down a very short memory lane.
Q1: Which four players in the current U-19 squad were members of the 2002 World Championship team (Hint: Go back and read â€œMark That Calendarâ€)?
Q2: Which U-19 player recently won the 2004 Parade Magazine Female High School Player of the Year award?
Q3: Which former U-19 midfielder just scored her first goal with the full U.S. Womenâ€™s National Team in a 3-0 win over Mexico on May 9 in Albuquerque?
Q4: Which former U-19 scoring sensation won the Chevy Young Female Athlete of the Year award in 2002?
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