Volume IV, Issue 7
Table of Contents
1) ARMCHAIR MIDFIELDER [A Look Back: MLS All-Star Games]
A monthly column about the State of U.S. Soccer that takes a hard look at everything from the performance of the U.S. National Teams to pro soccer in the good â€˜ole U-S-of-A . If youâ€™re looking for a viewpoint that you wonâ€™t see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, youâ€™ve come to the right place.With the 2004 MLS All-Star Game coming up this Saturday (July 31) from RFK Stadium (at 2 p.m. ET live on ABC), we look back at the highs and lows, the silly and the sublime, of past incarnations of the leagueâ€™s nine-year old mid-summer showcase, starting with the first of its kind in â€™96.
Format / Result: East 3, West 2
Site: Giants Stadium; East Rutherford, N.J.
Remember?: The inaugural event was about three things--the crowd, the crowd andâ€¦the crowd. A record crowd of more than 78,000 people (then the largest ever for a sporting event at the Meadowlands) came out for the dayâ€™s doubleheader, with a unique match between Brazil and a group of FIFA World Stars bringing people to Giants Stadium, and a well-played MLS All-Star Game keeping them entertained prior to the marquee match. The leagueâ€™s plan worked like a charm, with the East vs. West contest serving as an outstanding advertisement for the league, both for those in the stands and those watching the national broadcast. On the field, things went well, too. Hometown boy Tab Ramos scored the gameâ€™s first goal, then two players who would go on to be MLS legends (Preki and Jason Kreis) struck back to give the West the lead, only to have MetroStars forward Giovanni Savarese (who was celebrating his 25th birthday) provide the equalizer on a rebound of his own shot. Needless to say, the soccer gods were smiling on MLS that day, if not the entire first season.
Are You Sure?: Yes, it was slow-moving Scottish defender Steve Pittman that provided the game-winner for the East in the 88th minute, but El Pibe was the one that made the goal happen, as he would do for years to come as perhaps the leagueâ€™s all-time best playmaker.[Read More]
2) IN 3â€™s (w/ MNT defender Chris Albright)
Whatâ€™s it going to be? Door number one, door number two, or door number THREE?!? Okay, so this section has less to do with â€œLetâ€™s Make A Dealâ€ and more to do with the Multiple Choice section of an SAT test. â€œIn 3â€™sâ€ peeks inside the head of a select National Team player as they pick one of three choices for 25 questions about personal tastes and pop culture.
Chris Albright has played just about every position on the field in his young soccer career, starting out as a standout forward at the University of Virginia and for both the U.S. Under-20 and Under-23 Menâ€™s National Teams, then eventually moving back to a midfield role as a pro for D.C. United and the L.A. Galaxy, before Bruce tried him out with the U.S. Menâ€™s National Team earlier this year at right back, where heâ€™s flourished and become an MLS All-Star at his newly-adopted adopted position.
Best big city: L.A., N.Y.C. or Chicago?
"I have to say N.Y.C. I dig Chicago and L.A., but there's just so much that goes on in that city."
Best place you've lived: Philadelphia, D.C. or L.A.?
"Philly. It's still home, but I'm starting to like L.A. better."
Best California beach hangout: Manhattan, Redondo or Hermosa?
"Hermosa. It's a little younger and it's a little more my style." [Read more]
3) GEAR GALORE (U.S. Soccer Lounge Chair)
In a new piece for 2004, we engage in some shameless self-promotion by spotlighting a different U.S. Soccer product each month, from the newest, state-of-the-art Nike apparel to all kinds of other exclusive U.S. Menâ€™s & Womenâ€™s merch.
These days, everyoneâ€™s a tailgating expert. From soccer fans in parking lots of MLS stadiums to the seasoned veterans that surround Lambeau Field or Arrowhead Stadium, to be a pro is to have all the right tailgating tools.
Portable Weber grill? Check. Cooler full of Bud and soda. Duh. Flag attached to your ride to show support for your team and let your buddies know where you are? Of course.
Now the only thing you need to complete the pre-game picture is the new U.S. Soccer Lounge Chair. This comfortable fold-up chair is not only quick and convenient, but itâ€™s emblazoned with the official U.S. Soccer crest and comes with its own matching carrying bag. And unlike one you might find at your local sports store, the durable fabric and the weather resistant frame of this particular model allows it to hold up well as outdoor furniture on your deck.
When youâ€™re not grilling out at a U.S. Soccer game or on the patio, the chair is a perfect throne for sitting on the sideline screaming encouragement to your children during Saturday morning soccer or reclining at the beach to take in some people-watching. [Read more]
To buy the new U.S. Soccer Lounge Chair, click below:
4) â€œQUERIES & ANECDOTESâ€ (w/ YNT midfielder Eddie Gaven)
Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Under-20 Menâ€™s National Team midfielder Eddie Gaven.
If you didnâ€™t know the name of this talented 17-year-old a year ago, you are to be forgiven. But if you still donâ€™t know about the precocious youngster in 2004, youâ€™re just not up on current soccer events. The Hamilton, N.J. native has come a long, long way across the last 14 months, from helping the U-17 Menâ€™s National Team finish fifth at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland in May 2003, to scoring his first professional goal as a rookie for the MetroStars, to being a part of the Under-23 team trying to qualify for the Olympics down in Mexico in January 2004, to a stellar second season in MLS and an All-Star selection, to earning his first cap with the full U.S. Menâ€™s national Team on July 11.
â€œCenter Circleâ€ rang up the ultra-shy but quickly maturing man-child and drew him out of his shell long enough to answer 20 questions about his whirlwind year--that is, until he almost got pulled over in his new car for driving while talking on a cell phone. Kids these daysâ€¦
CC: First of all, what's it like to know Freddy Adu? No, we're kidding. But we hear that you guys are good friends, right?
EG: â€œWe havenâ€™t actually talked too much this season. Iâ€™ve been in a couple Under-20 camps with him and thatâ€™s probably when we talk the most. Itâ€™s not like weâ€™re really close friends, but we are friends.â€
CC: When you guys do talk, is it about the MLS season and life as a pro soccer player or normal teenager stuff like girls and movies and music?
EG: â€œWe talk about both. Obviously, we talk about all the stuff that is going on in the league, but at the same time weâ€™ll talk about what the best song out is, who the best band is, which girls are hotâ€¦basically all that stuff.â€
CC: With Danny Szetela's recent signing, there will be five players in MLS from the U-17 team that finished fifth place at Finland '03. Who else from that team should be playing in MLS?
EG: â€œI think all the guys on that team can definitely play in MLS and if they work hard they probably will be playing in MLS. I think it was the right move for certain guys to go to college first and get that whole experience, but Iâ€™m sure in the next years we will be seeing more guys from that team coming into MLS.â€
5) â€œMARK THAT CALENDARâ€
WNT vs. China â€“ Sunday, August 1 @ 3 p.m. ET
[LIVE on ESPN2 and ussoccer.comâ€™s MatchTracker]
A stern reminder about an upcoming U.S. Soccer-related event, whether you plan to check it out live and in person, on the â€œtellyâ€ or that wacky world wide web.
After experimenting with an unusual lineup to only mixed results in the first half of a 3-1 win over Australia, it will be interesting to see which 11 players U.S. WNT head coach April Heinrichs puts out at Rentschler Field on August 1 in the teamâ€™s last exhibition before leaving for Greece.
Not that the U.S. looked bad with Brandi at defensive midfield or Lilly up top in a 4-3-3 with Parlow and Tarpley, but itâ€™s safe to say that they didnâ€™t look like the well-oiled machine weâ€™re used to with Shannon Boxx winning every ball in site and the tandem of Mia and Abby wreaking havoc all over the final third of the field.
Considering the send-off match is against such a big rival like China, expect Sundayâ€™s starters to be the real deal in what could quickly turn from a fairly innocent friendly to an all-out battle. With this match representing the last pre-test before it all begins on Aug. 11, neither team will want to head into the Olympics with a loss (or even a draw), so expect a spirited match in a stifling Hartford sun that could very well mimic the conditions in Athens.
And with Connecticut being the home state of Kristine Lilly, expect to see the entire population of Wilton, her hometown, to be in the stands cheering on the U.S. â€œIron Womanâ€ as she racks up her 347,567th cap.
Fans can follow the match live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. ET or on ussoccer.comâ€™s MatchTracker, presented by PHILIPS Electronics.
6) â€œALY AT THE MOVIESâ€ (w/ WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
As the consummate movie critic of the U.S. Women's National Team midfielder Aly Wagner can almost always be counted on for insightful, witty and honest reviews. Unfortunately, due to the packed schedule of the 2004 Olympic Residency Camp this summer, Wagner just didn't get to the local 36-plex all that often. Therefore, in this month's edition of â€œCenter Circle,â€ she shares with us the movies that she really, really wants to see, if only she could get some time between training for the Olympics, traveling for games, hangin' with her boyfriend and learning how to become a big wave surfer.
Aly's List of Must-See Summer Movies
â€œThe Bourne Supremacyâ€: "Despite what you might think, I'm not such a huge fan of Matt Damon, but don't tell my teammate Kate Markgraf that, because her husband Chris could be his stunt double. But what I do love are movies that unveil a new wave of technological gadgets. I am about to buy a car, and unfortunately, it's not the Batmobile. I like when the hero has to constantly outsmart the bad guys, and I have high hopes that this movie isn't like a typically cheesy thriller that features a woman who screams a lot until she is saved by Jason Bourne."
â€œMean Girlsâ€: "I really want to see this because I have a sneaking suspicion that when I was in high school, I was a member of one of the distinct social groups portrayed in the movie -- you guess which one. And in all honestly, I love high school flicks."
7) CAN YOU HAIKU? (U.S. Womenâ€™s Olympic Soccer Team)
In this new piece for "Center Circle," we're asking fans to express their views about a given topic through some simple and beautiful haiku poetry. Need a quick refresher? So did we. The popular Japanese form is traditionally made up of three lines of separate thoughts that together tell about the same simple subject matter, with the number of syllables restricted to: 5 in the first line, 7 in the second line and 5 in the third line. [Editorâ€™s note: As one reader pointed out, â€œtraditionally, a haiku is a study of (or comparison to) nature, and a serenyu is a study (or comparison to) people.â€ Touche! You may be right. But weâ€™re still calling them haikus.]
Here was our example, albeit a poor one:
"Center Circle" mag
Stories of U.S. Soccer
Fans enjoy mucho?
Man, that was bad. We knew you could do better, so for this first edition, we asked you to write haiku's about the U.S. Women's National Team and their quest for gold at the 2004 Olympics.
The response was overwhelming, with over 200 submissions pouring in over the first 24 hours alone. Thanks to all who took the time to respond; I wish we could print a tenth of the excellent responses we received. Extra credit points for Chris Hass, who further schooled us in the fact that a haiku should â€œdescribe a single transcendent moment, usually accompanied by a single sound.â€ before reeling off a dozen haikus ranging in topics from Brandiâ€™s famous PK to how Chinese fans get their drums inside stadiums. Surprisingly, a vast majority of the responses came from girls under the age of 14. I mean, who knew what a haiku was at age 9? Itâ€™s good to see schools are teaching poetry other than Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. Hereâ€™s a bakerâ€™s dozen of the best of our informal amateur soccer poetry contest:
As the summer wanes
U.S. Women go for gold
Soccer era ends
Eighteen women go
Six nations fall before them
They return heroes
--Terri Hodel / 22 / Allentown, Penn. [Read more]
8) â€œYOU DONâ€™T KNOW JACK (MARSHALL)â€ (U.S. Womenâ€™s Olympic Trivia)
Think you know your soccer trivia? Weâ€™ll be the judge of that. Pop quiz: who the heck is Jack Marshall? Even the trivia buffs in the U.S. Soccer Communications Department would be hard-pressed to tell you that one Jack Marshall received his one and only cap way back in 1926. Okay, that was pretty much impossible. They get easier. We give you four questions at varying difficulty levels, from 1 (easiest) to 4 (hardest).
Olympic fever is here!!! Or at least, thatâ€™s what Bob Costas, Katie Couric and Jim Lampley are trying to make us believe. Man, I canâ€™t wait for two weeks of Dick Enberg features glamorizing the past struggles and heartache of the nationâ€™s elite athletes. But seriously, what we WILL be glued the tube for is to see if Mia and Julie and the rest of the â€œFab Fiveâ€ (along with Brandi, Joy and Lill) can recapture gold and go out as world champs. To get you further pumped up about the teamâ€™s â€œQuest for Summer Glory,â€ hereâ€™s some trivia looking back on the previous two tourneys:
Q1: Who scored the most goals for the U.S. at the 1996 Games?
Q2: Who leads the U.S. Women with five all-time goals in Olympic competition?
Q3: Who scored the first ever goal for the U.S. Women in Olympic competition?
Q4: Which six U.S. players appeared in all 10 matches in 1996 and 2000?
[Click here for answers]