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Q & A with U.S. MNT Midfielder Chris Armas

Q&A with Chris Armas
June 29, 2005

U.S. midfielder Chris Armas has dealt with his share of adversity. In 2001 and 2002, you didn’t need a pencil to write his name on the starter’s sheet; you could use a pen. Then an ACL injury ten days before the team left for Korea ended his World Cup hopes, and sent him on a road to recovery that would last several years. Always the fierce competitor, he hopes to use his first national team camp of 2005 to return to the form that made him a mainstay in the U.S. midfield and helped him earn honors as U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2000. sat down with Armas in Portland to discuss his return to the MNT fold, what his time away from the national team has taught him, and what a trip to Germany would truly mean to him … It’s your first time back in a long time, and on day one things get interesting right off the bat. Tell us what happened …
Chris Armas: “We we’re playing a keep-away game, and I was closing down John O’Brien. To hold me off, he had his hands up and got his fingernail into my eye a bit. I couldn’t see for about a minute and I was a bit nervous. It turned out to be no big deal. After I could see again, that is.” How does it feel to get back around the group?

CA: “It feels good. It’s exciting. It feels right. It feels like the timing was right.” You’ve been out of the team for quite some time, mostly due to lengthy injuries. Has it been frustrating for you to watch?

CA: “It’s frustrating when you know camps are going on and the team is playing games and you’re not there, but when you are realistic with yourself it’s not frustrating because you know you’re not up to the level yet. For the last few months, I feel like I’ve built myself back to a good level.” Is that one of the lessons of dealing with injuries, that you have to learn to be realistic?

CA: “I’ve always been honest and realistic with myself. It hasn’t take injuries for me to see that. Maybe the injuries make you realize things are more precious, and your time here is a bit more valuable.” Had you stayed in contact with Bruce Arena, and how did this call up come about?

CA: “We have not kept in touch directly. I think he watches all the games, and he speaks with [Fire Head Coach] Dave Sarachan regularly, so that’s how he has kept up on me. I saw him for the first time in D.C. a few months back, and he told me he was looking to get me back in. When we scrimmaged the national team in Chicago last month, I talked to him before and after the game. He understood my goals in wanting to get back in, and I understood that he keeps having to field a team and how competitive things are.” What do you think are his expectations in terms of your role with the team?

CA: “Play the position I know how to play. I need to do what I’ve always done with this team, which is play in the center of the midfield, bring my something special to the table. The fact that I’m back in camp means that he’s seen that I’m reliable and healthy.” How different is the Chris Armas of June 2005 than the Chris Armas who used to be a regular with the national team?

CA: “I’m a different person and player I was a year ago. I’m very comfortable in the middle of the field, and I feel I can still bring that to the team. Certain parts of my game are better these days. I think the passing is better, and from a leadership standpoint, I have another year under my belt in that role. With the amount of young guys in here, I feel like I can be somewhat of a leader. I certainly still feel like I belong. The day I think I’m losing it as a player, or I can’t do what I’ve been capable of, I won’t play anymore. I’d say no to a call-up. I wouldn’t cheat everyone that way. Right now, I feel really good the way things are going.” There’s a tremendous amount of competition in your spot, with guys like Pablo Mastroeni, Kerry Zavagnin, John O’Brien all in the mix. Is the challenge of competing for a spot something you look forward to?

CA: “I love competition. I’m a competitor. I love to win. But I don’t think you’re competing directly with those guys. Bruce can go with any one of us, and the team can do well. Like any national team, he has to figure which guy he wants in there. Which guy gets the nod? The one who the coach feels fits in best, or gels with the team. I don’t allow myself to get caught up with that. I feel like I compete with those guys when we play Colorado or Kansas City. Here it doesn’t feel like that. Sure you are trying to do well for yourself, but I think you just go out and enjoy yourself. For me, maybe I have to reassure Bruce that I belong here. When I’m with the Chicago Fire, I feel like I have to prove to the guys every day that I want to be a leader. I want to produce every day. I think that’s important. Some people say you don’t need to do that, but for me I have to. Here it’s no different. I would like to impress the players and coaches every day. That’s how I view things.” Coming into the Gold Cup, have you set any personal goals?

CA: “I want to play some games, and play well. Honestly, when I think about the tournament, I expect the team to be playing in the final. We are playing on our home fields in our country, and I think we should dominate the tournament and go straight through it. In my mind that’s what I say. Obviously it’s going to be harder than that. My goal is to be a part of this team and win the tournament. I don’t have any individual goals other than that.” You’re over 30 years old now and the World Cup is about a year away. Having gone for such long stretches not being with the national team, does it ever creep into your mind that these may be the last chances you get to prove yourself?

CA: “I’m going to be 33 this year. I’m thinking the World Cup is coming up, and I’d love to be part of it. I don’t get caught up in the future too much, and believe me, I don’t harp on the past. These days, I think game to game. It’s even tough for my wife, who likes to plan months ahead. I rarely know in the league who we will play two weeks ahead. I’m not interested. I look at this as precious time. It’s an important time to get back in the team. In the end, hopefully I do enough to say that I’m someone who can be counted on and someone who is valuable. I want to play and be a part of it. Ever since I’ve been part of this national team, that’s what I’ve been. That’s my goal.” You’ve missed out on two major events in your career – the 2000 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup – through injury. You’ve used the word ‘precious’ a couple times. How precious would it be for you to play in Germany in 2006?

CA: “As a player, you play for certain reasons and you have goals. I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals at the MLS level. I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals at the national team level. Being here 60 plus times is a great accomplishment to me. Obviously the World Cup is a big one for me. It would mean a lot to go to a World Cup. Anyone who has a chance at the opportunity, that’s the carrot that’s dangling in front of you. Maybe especially for me, because I was right there ten days away from going [prior to the 2002 World Cup]. My tickets were booked, and my family’s tickets were booked for Korea. The timing for that injury was bad, but I feel like I have an edge for that reason over a lot of guys. I have this desire and hunger to get back to that stage. That’s the way I look at it. You use certain things for motivation, and going to a World Cup is certainly one of them.”

Click here to read about the U.S. MNT's training in Portland, Ore.