US SoccerUS Soccer

w/ Angela Hucles

U.S. midfielder Angela Hucles was part of the gold medal-winning team at the 2004 Olympics. She played in seven of the nine matches that the U.S. team played in 2005, but did not get a game in 2006 until August 27, when she came on at the end of the match against China in Bridgeview, Ill. She was with the U.S. team during the first block of 2006 Residency Training Camp in Carson, Calif., but did not return again until early August, and since then has earned spots on two rosters. After the U.S. team got settled into Rochester, N.Y. to prepare for their match against Mexico on Wednesday, Hucles sat down with’s Center Circle to discuss her comeback to the team, her improved fitness and why she just might do something crazy if she scores a goal in Women’s World Cup qualifying.

CC: “You were away from the team from for three months during the summer. What did you do to keep yourself physically and mentally prepared to play if you got a call-back?”

Angela Hucles: “I was in camp in April (2006) with the team and after that I went back home to Boston to work on a few things in my game, in particular my fitness and a mental focus so that if I got another chance, I could come back and try to earn a spot on the team. I played with the Boston Renegades in the W-League, so I was able to get in a lot of playing and I also worked out with a personal training group to enhance my fitness. Greg told me that fitness was one of the things I needed to work on, and when I left that meeting, it was a personal decision I had to make. Did I want to take all the necessary steps to put me in the position to help this team? For me, it wasn’t a hard decision because after I thought about it, I knew this was something I wanted. I wanted to do everything I could to keep myself here and earn a regular spot for this team.”

CC: “You definitely came into camp with a renewed energy and buzz on the field. What kinds of things specifically did you do to improve your fitness?

AH: “I talked with Greg and Mike Shannon, our USOC sports physiologist, to try to come up with a good plan for me. One thing was definitely being able to play as much as I could and I was able to play 90-minute games during the summer. I also focused on long runs, 60-minutes runs to build my endurance base, which is critical for midfielders. I really honed in on my anaerobic fitness. I also worked at CATZ, a physical training group in Needham, Mass., and they helped me work on both my anaerobic and aerobic fitness. It helped me stay focused on building my base and improving my overall fitness. We did aerobic, anaerobic, cardiovascular and plyometric work.”

CC: “You were a part of the Olympic gold medal team in 2004. There are a lot of key players on this team that weren’t there. In what ways can lend your experience to this team?”

AH: “Being a part of the ’04 Olympic Team, I was able to take a lot of good lessons and experience from the veterans on that team, in particular the strength of unity and the importance of every single player to push through even in times when we are getting dominated by a team like Brazil. I think sometimes if you aren’t there to see it yourself, or you haven’t had that experience, you are not going to understand that situation. Even though I wasn’t on the field for the final game, or a lot of games at the Olympics, just being there I was able to take a lot of lessons. I hope I can take that experience and my leadership and help this team. In the past, there were a lot of leaders and faces on this team. But now, my role on this team needs to change a bit if I want to continue to contribute positively.”

CC: “After being away for three months, were you nervous coming back into the team?”

AH: “It’s always funny, because at this level, even though it’s always competitive, you’d think by now you wouldn’t get nervous about certain situations. But I had a lot riding on this call-back in August and it was a situation where I trained really hard away from the team and it would have been upsetting to have it end in August. I was definitely nervous and excited, but still feel I have more to prove to my teammates and coaches. I am just excited to get out there and play every day and grow as a player.”

CC: “In the past, you played in the midfield with Kristine Lilly but now she is playing forward. How do you see that transition?”

AH: “I actually had some experience playing in the midfield behind her when she played forward for the Boston Breakers (in the WUSA). The wonderful thing about Kristine Lilly, and one of the reasons why we call her “the legend” is that she can be a factor anywhere on the field. With her work rate, if the midfield has chemistry in getting her balls, she is going to create chances to score herself. It’s just a fun game when you can play with Kristine Lilly.”

CC: “You are known as one of the most technologically-savvy players on the team. What are your most recent toys?

AH: “My most recent gadget is my Sidekick III, which just happens to be sitting in my lap right now. But to be honest, I feel younger kids these days are surpassing me in terms of technology. It’s hard to keep up with the Jones’ in this world and on this team, but I am always excited to discover the new, hot thing. I think Aly Wagner is trying to compete with me as she just got her new portable Nintendo DS. I think she already has some converts as Cat (Whitehill), Carli (Lloyd) and Hope (Solo) already have them, too.”

CC: “The U.S. team has not lost a match in regulation under Greg Ryan. What has Greg brought to the National Team?”

AH: “Greg has brought a new hardness to this team. Obviously, fitness is a big thing for Greg and being the fittest team in the world has become a priority. We have technical players, smart players and goal scorers, but I think there is even a bigger tactical element that Greg is bringing to the team. Becoming even better students of the game is something we are working on even more.”

CC: “Talk about your experience with the Renegades this summer. It was your second year with the club.”

AH: “We had a really fun season. The chemistry was really good on the team. The players seemed even more committed, which made it a better playing environment this season. For me, playing with the Renegades helped develop a better sense of leadership because I was the player with the most experience on the team. Developing those skills will hopefully translate into my playing with the National Team.”

CC: “Now that you have attained a higher level of fitness, what other parts of your game are you looking to improve?”

AH: “Basically, everything. But in particular, my defensive work and learning how to be tougher in the midfield as far as tackling, winning balls and one-v-one defending. I was able to learn a lot from Shannon Boxx by just watching her play. I’ve always admired how she puts herself in position to win balls, but something even more is the timing of the tackles. (Assistant coach) Brett Hall has been able to work with me away from the normal practice setting and that allows me to make mistakes as I learn how to defend correctly.”

CC: “You have a unique middle name, Khalia. How did your parents come up with that?

AH: “I believe the story goes this way…my first name was actually going to be Khalila, and I think they were inspired by one of Mohammed’s wive’s name, and shortened it to Khalia, even though we are Episcopalian, not Muslim, but then they thought it would make a better middle name, and I agree. My dad is actually an SOB; Son of a Bishop. My grandfather was a Bishop at an Episcopal Church. Abby Wambach’s dad found out that my dad was a SOB during the Olympics and he still calls him that.”

CC: “The USA is entering Women’s World Cup qualifying in November. During the last WWC qualifying tournament, you scored your first-ever goal, and celebrated with a enthusiastic spilt-jump, fist pump. Do you have any other celebrations planned if you bag a goal this November?

AH: “Not that I have concentrated on working on my goal celebrations, but let’s just say that with time, many things improve and I hope my goal celebrations are one of those things.”