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w/ MNT defender Gregg Berhalter


Gregg Berhalter has been connected to U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Men’s National Team throughout his playing career. From dominating high school soccer alongside U.S. captain Claudio Reyna at St. Benedict’s, to teaming with U.S. defender Eddie Pope at UNC, to at one point wearing the captain’s armband for the U.S. Under-20 and Under-23 teams, the native of Tenafly, N.J., has loads of history with regard to soccer in the States. This year, the 29-year-old defender worked his way on to the U.S. World Cup Team and came on for an injured Jeff Agoos to help the U.S. post two of their best results in Korea. But since he left college after his junior season, the East Coast kid has been a mainstay in Europe, spending his early years in the Dutch Honor Division. Berhalter recently moved from English First Division club Crystal Palace to Energie Cottbus of the German Bundesliga, adding another stamp to his passport and another country to his soccer travels.

Center Circle: Seeing how you've been playing overseas for virtually the entirety of your professional career, what was it like for you to be able to get your name and face out there to an American audience during the World Cup and during the media tour that followed?
Gregg Berhalter: “I think it was great just to see the excitement that we generated for the World Cup. It’s amazing to come back to America and be recognized on the street and have people come up to you and say ‘Good job’ and everything like that. It was really incredible.”

CC: Did the parents and everyone see you in your starring role on the rooftop on “Letterman”?
GB: “Yep, they saw it. Well, actually, they were in Korea at the time, but my other family members saw it. They liked it; they were laughing.”

CC: If I remember correctly, didn’t that shot kinda hit the post rather than splitting the middle? Didn’t it take your good buddy Claudio to score one through the water towers?
GB: “Oh, that one? I think it hit the post and went through. I thought it was a goal anyway.”

CC: Speaking of Claudio, you two played on the same high school team in Newark, where St. Benedict's won back-to-back state championship and went undefeated in '89 and '90. Just how good was that team?
GB: “Well, for high school soccer, we were really good. I think one year we scored something like 105 goals and gave up one or two or something ridiculous like that. We were a good team, a really good team, and it was good to be playing at a good, serious level like that in high school.”

CC: Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you and Claudio would be walking out of the stadium tunnel with USA jerseys to play in a World Cup together?
GB: “You don’t think of that at the time, but you try to reach the highest level you can get to. We’ve been playing together all of our lives, so it was just normal for us to walk out together that day (the 2-0 win over Mexico in the Round of 16, in which he made his first career World Cup start).”

CC: What was your experience like in the Dutch Honor Division early on in your career? How often do you compare stories with John O'Brien or Earnie Stewart about your time there?
GB: “We talk about it all the time. Basically, I consider myself part of the Dutch cycle a bit, because that was the first six years of my professional career. I know a lot of people there, and I still talk to a lot of people there, so we always talk – me, Johnnie and Earnie – about that (style of) soccer and the teams and players and all that.”

CC: Speaking of the free-thinking folks from the Netherlands, what do you think of marijuana being legalized in the United States?
GB: “That’s not a decision for me to make, but I think in America, it wouldn’t work because there are so many people. It’s harder to control kids and everything like that. Holland’s a smaller society and it’s a bit easier for them. I’m not sure on that one.”

CC: You had a great college career across the three years you played at UNC. If MLS was around while you were there, would you have still left school early to play domestically? Say, for the MetroStars?
GB: “I don’t know. That’s a difficult question, because it’s a hypothetical one and MLS was not around. So I have no idea. At the time, I was glad to go to Europe and take that step because I thought it would help my career a lot. I came to a point where college soccer wasn’t helping that much any more. If I reached that point again, and MLS was around as well as (opportunities in) Europe, I’d consider both of them.”

CC: So I hear that your grandmother was born in Ireland and you've got a dual passport from there. Honestly, is there a "luck of the Irish"?
GB: “I think there is. I think that if you believe in luck, you get it. The Irish definitely have that connection with luck, because they always seem to pull things out. So yeah, I think there is a luck of the Irish.”

CC: Better overall Red Sox player: Carl Yastrzemski or Ted Williams?
GB:  “That’s a tough one. I’m going to give the edge to Yaz because he’s my cousin and godfather. So yeah, I’ll give it to Yaz.”

CC: What was the last concert you went to or the last CD you bought?
GB: “The last concert might’ve been … wow, I don’t even know. The last album I bought was ‘By the Way’, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

CC: You spent the last two years playing in England, so I must ask you: Posh Spice, Ginger Spice or Scary Spice? Or are you more the Madonna type?
GB: “I don’t like any of them to be honest. I don’t have a favorite. I’ll take Madonna.”

CC: Be honest--who wears the pants in your family? You or your wife Rosalind?
GB: “I think I’ve been dragging her around a bit to different places, but I don’t know. I think we have a pretty open relationship. We share responsibilities and share decisions.”

CC: Who's the wildest guy on the U.S. Men's National Team? Cobi? Clint? Pablo?
GB: “I would say Clint. Just because he loves that. He loves the lifestyle that he lives. He’s perfect for New York and New York is perfect for him. I would definitely say Clint.”

Table of Contents
1)
Armchair Midfielder (The Triple-Edged Sword: Class of 1991 vs. Class of 2002)
2) Word Association (w/ MNT defender Eddie Pope)
3) At the Movies (w/ WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT defender Gregg Berhalter)
5) Big Woman on Campus (w/ U-19 WNT defender Keeley Dowling)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT forward Mia Hamm)
7) Mark That Calendar (2002 Nike U.S. Women’s Cup)
8) Point/Counterpoint (What Do YOU Know?!?)
9) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. Open Cup trivia) 

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf)

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