What were you doing during that memorable Sweet 16 landmark year of life? Entering your junior year of high school? Learning to drive Dad's stick-shift? Going on that first big date? Well, U.S. Under-20 forward Santino Quaranta was living in training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. A few months after his birthday, he was getting drafted by his hometown professional soccer team, D.C. United. Five months later, he was playing in the 2001 MLS All-Star Game as the youngest player in league history to do so. He also remains the youngest player in MLS history to appear and start in a match, score a goal, and earn Player of the Week honors. By the end of the year, the supremely talented teenager had rung up 17 goals and 11 assists in 32 overall games as a standout on the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team and had competed in a World Championship in Tobago. And you were flipping burgers and going to house parties.
This week, Santino and the Under-20 troops are down in Charleston, S.C., trying to earn a U.S. record fourth consecutive berth to the FIFA Youth World Championship. Although still not fully recovered from an injury that kept him out about half of his sophomore MLS season, the Baltimore, Md., native has already shown his value for the USA, scoring in the team's 2-0 opening win over Haiti on Wednesday. But before all the action began down at Blackbaud, we had him look back on his first two years as a teenage professional in MLS.
"I always wanted to play professionally. Ever since I was a young kid, I always wanted to play. College was always an option, but it was my dream and my goal to play professionally. I had worked hard for so long, spent time down in Florida in the residency program, and I had a chance to reap the reward. I was down there training hard and I wanted to continue to push myself and get better. The best way to do that was to turn pro.
"I never thought I would get drafted by D.C. The night before the draft they held a third-round pick. And then they made a bunch of trades and got like three of the first ten picks. Then I knew that something crazy would happen. And when I got drafted by them it was great. I was excited--my whole family was there. It was just great.
"You know what you want to do, and you know what you're capable of, but I never thought my rookie year would work out like it did. We had some great forwards when I got there. You hardly ever see a break like that, trying to break into a great line like we had up front with Jaime (Moreno) and Chris Albright and all those guys we had up there. I never thought it would happen like that--no way. All-Star team? No way. It was out of the picture. Who would have thought about that? When it happened I was happy though.
"We had high expectations for this year (2002), and obviously it didn't go as well as I hoped. We started out well, and I was doing ok. But I didn't play for four months, and I missed all those games with an injury, it is hard on your confidence. But you rebound eventually, and now I am really starting to come around again. It took me a little bit, but I'm almost there.
"But seeing our team this year and knowing you can't help was the worst part. You see how you could help, but you just can't do anything. I supported them 100% the whole time I was out, but it just didn't work for us this year. It was tough sitting through it, but I had to stand by and hope that they would do the job. I still feel that we have the best organization in all of MLS, the best people and the best staff.
"The 2003 season will hopefully be a little better than last. Benny (Olsen) is back, Bobby (Convey) is playing real well and we have a lot of young talent. Our defense will hopefully be the same as it was this year with Eddie and those guys, and our veterans will hopefully be able to stay healthy this year.
"I think we showed flashes this year that we were the best team in the league, and we also showed flashes that we were the worst team in the league. I think Ray (Hudson, head coach of D.C. United) will get it together this year, but you never know. I never expected the first two years to go like they did."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (The U.S. Women: Ready for China 2003?)
2) In Threes (w/ MNT defender Carlos Bocanegra)
3) Making it in the Show (w/ U-20 MNT forward Santino Quaranta)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ WNT goalkeeper Briana Scurry)
5) Mark That Calendar (Nov. 17 - MNT vs. El Salvador)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
7) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Biggest Surpise on the U.S. MNT Roster)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (2002 MNT trivia x2)
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