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w/ U-23 MNT forward Conor Casey

Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team forward Conor Casey.

What’s Conor Casey been up to since the last time he was in the U-23? Well, when we last saw him in Sydney in the bronze medal match, he was a hot-tempered, shaved-headed teen with a bruising style of play. Three years later, he strolled into the team’s first camp of 2004 with the same solid build, but with a shaggy hairstyle and a calmer, gentler demeanor about him. For more on the native of suburban Denver, Colo., and powerful scorer for the Portland Pilots, see the Armchair Midfielder’s "Where Are They Now?" feature above, OR you can find out what’s been going on with Conor from the man himself through the 15 questions we hit him with about time spent in Germany:

Center Circle (CC1): The last time we saw you was in Sydney back in 2000 before you went off to play for Hannover 96 in Germany. How do you think your game has improved since then?
Conor Casey (CC2): "I think just overall I’ve improved. I’m three years older, and I have three years of playing with very good players in Europe, so I think that in terms of physically and the mental part of my game, (my game) has improved."

CC1: How exciting is the prospect of playing in your second Olympic Games?
CC2: "Of course, it’s exciting. The Olympics are the Olympics. It doesn’t matter how many times you play in them. I was 19 then and I definitely appreciated it, but I think maybe now that I’m a little bit older, I have a little bit more appreciation than then."

CC1: How much does the remarkable fourth-place finish in 2000 add to the pressure of qualifying and then perhaps getting to the medal round again?
CC2: "I don’t know if that necessarily puts pressure on us. I think that the direction that U.S. Soccer is going as a whole, we obviously want to be successful. I think that, more than anything, is what drives us to want to have a good showing."

CC1: How does this U-23 team compare to the 2000 team: Better? Deeper? More experienced?
CC2: "I’d have to say yes (on the question of being deeper), but I’m not really sure either. I think I was more unfamiliar with players when I was 19 because I was in college and wasn’t sure what players at the age level were playing in MLS; now I am (familiar). I think this team is definitely as talented as the last one, but we had a very good team in the last Olympics. I’d say this time around we’re maybe more experienced, with the younger players such as Landon (Donovan) and Beaz (DaMarcus Beasley) and Bobby (Convey) that have played with the Men’s National Team."

CC1: Last time the U-23s were down in Mexico, they tacked on a 92nd minute fluke goal to win 3-1 and walked out of the stadium to screams, racial epithets and flying beer bottles. Do you expect the same for the qualifying matches down there?
CC2: "Nothing different. I think the rivalry between us (and Mexico) is pretty well known. So playing in Mexico, that kind of thing is to be expected."

CC1: What are your short-term career ambitions? Would you like to stay in Germany?
CC2: "To be honest, I’m not quite sure right now. I’m just taking this season as it is, and we’re in a good position right now. We’re in seventh place with 25 points, and first place has 29, so if we win a game and pick up another point, we’re in a promotion spot, so I’m concentrating on the season and we’ll see what happens from there."

CC1: How do you think the German style of football has affected your game?
CC2: "I think the mentality and just the lifestyle that I’ve learned over there is just to do one thing, and that’s to play football: Day in, Day out, the training, everything. The level of play has definitely affected my game. You always have to be sharp and when you’re not, you know you’re not going to play, so it’s been a big change."

CC1: What are the best and worst off-the-field things about living in Germany?
CC2: "The best things is the slow pace of the culture. It’s not as goal-oriented, fast-paced, go go go as here (in the U.S.). I like that everyone is laid back and a little bit slower, which I enjoy.

CC1: And the bad things?
CC2: "It’s definitely the small things like no really good TV shows. That, and I don’t have my Chipotle like I do here."

CC1: What shining example of German auto engineering are you driving these days? Beamer? Benz? Porsche? (And why?)
CC2: "Actually, an Audi A4."

CC1: Why Audi?
CC2: "I don’t know. The team I’m with now has a contract with them and we get 20% off, so it was an easy choice (Laughs)."

CC1: What happened to the shaved look from your high school and college days?
CC2: "Yeah, I don’t know. I had a shaved head for like four or five years, and I just decided to give something new a shot."

CC1: Don’t they have SuperCuts in Germany?
CC2: "Yeah, I was kind of worried about getting my hair cut there, because I wasn’t quite sure what I’d get."

CC1: How’s your German? Are you pretty fluent by now?
CC2: "It’s pretty close. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent, but I definitely can communicate with people and feel comfortable in conversation.

CC1: How long did it take you to get to that point?
CC2: "It took me a year and a half to be able to understand things well, and two years to really be able to start talking to people. After three, I feel pretty comfortable starting conversations. I don’t really have many problems anymore."

CC1: If and when you have people come visit you in Karlsruhe (which the German Tourist Board describes as a "vivacious young metropolis" in southwestern Germany on the bank of the Rhine river), how and where do you entertain them?
CC2: "I’ve had a bunch of friends that have come. From Karlsruhe, Munich is about three hours away, Paris is four and Amsterdam is four, so those are the three hot spots that my friends who haven’t been to Europe before want to come for."

CC1: Okay, back to soccer. Seriously, how many goals should you have had in the opening game versus the Czech Republic at the 2000 Olympics?
CC2: "I would say the Cameroon game I should’ve had more than against the Czechs; probably about three."
CC1: I’m sorry, but the correct answer is four. The correct answer is four.

CC1: Do you stay in touch with any of the guys from the 2000 U.S. Under-23 Team, especially the European-based players like John O’Brien or Steve Cherundolo, or do you have an altogether different group of friends from your time in Germany?
CC2: "Yeah, I kind of have my own crew. Actually, I saw Johnny maybe two or three months ago when I was in Amsterdam with Steve. We were both in Holland, so we went to visit him. I see Steve a lot. It’s hard because with the second division and the first division, our game schedules kinda differ and so our days off are usually different, too. Usually we get the same day off maybe once a month."

CC1: I don’t know if you realized while in camp in Carson that legendary German striker Jurgen Klinsmann has been helping out with some of the full U.S. Men’s National Team training sessions. Have you had a chance to speak with him at all?
CC2: "Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. I was kinda hoping to."
CC1: Would you have struck up a conversation if you had the chance?
CC2: "Yeah, I definitely would have. I figured I had more time and I’d see him again. It’s too bad. It would’ve been nice."

CC1: How annoying is it when people still reverse your name and call you Casey Conor, or does that still happen now that you’re "big time"?
CC2: "Nah, I’ve gotten used to it. It doesn’t happen too much anymore."
CC1: Back in 2000, I don’t think anyone got it right, especially the foreign journalists.
CC2: "Yeah, that was brutal. But people know me now."

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf).

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder [The U-23 Class of 2000: Then and Now]
2) In Threes [w/ MNT midfielder Chris Klein]
3) Making it in the Show [w/ U-23 MNT midfielder David Testo]
4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ U-23 MNT forward Conor Casey]
5) Mark that Calendar [U-23 MNT vs. Group A – 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying / Live on MatchTracker]
6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Heather Mitts]
7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will be the Breakout Players for U.S. Soccer in 2004?]
8) You Don't Know Jack (Marshall) [General U-23/Men’s Olympic Trivia]

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