A member of the 2001 MLS Best XI, Pablo Mastroeni has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top. The only member of the U.S. World Cup Team who did not play in a World Cup qualifier, Mastroeni debuted for the U.S. on June 9, 2001, against Ecuador. A key member of the 2002 Gold Cup-winning side, he started in six of the USA's first 11 matches in 2002. The U.S. recorded a shutout in all six matches. After a brilliant year with the Miami Fusion in 2001, Mastroeni was the first player selected in the 2002 MLS Allocation Draft. We sat down to talk with Pablo about the World Cup, the new changes in his life and more...
ussoccer.com: What was it like waking up this morning and seeing a Pablo Mastroeni feature on page 2 of the USA Today sports section?
Pablo Mastroeni: "It was definitely a surprise, considering the company that I'm in here in training camp. We have some great players on this team, and just to be included amongst them is quite an honor. I'm learning new things here every day, and loving the experience."
ussoccer.com: When did it seem like you had a very real opportunity to make the World Cup Team?
PM: "I really never thought about my chances of making the World Cup team, even after the Gold Cup win. I just kind of went with the flow and enjoyed every minute that I had on the international scene. Playing against Honduras and then again against Mexico, I just felt that with every game I grew more and more confident, and it was actually just a privilege to be a part of every game that I was invited to. In retrospect it wasn’t so much about my chances to make the World Cup team, as opposed to just being given the opportunity and playing as well as I did and making the most of it."
ussoccer.com: You experienced a similar training camp environment prior to the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup in January. How is this camp different?
PM: "I think the biggest difference between the two training camps is the attention to details. For me in particular, it's having goalkeepers like Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller shouting out instructions behind me - paying close attention to the little things. The Claremont camp was much broader based; now this group is very refined. This is great preparation for the World Cup. The difference between winning and losing games could be a single mental lapse, so focusing on being attentive for the 90 minutes of training each day is extremely important."
ussoccer.com: What is it like coming back to North Carolina for this camp, a place where you played at N.C. State?
PM: "Coming back to North Carolina for training camp is great for me. It is a great opportunity to see old friends and train at a place that I’ve been for four years and played pretty well. And I love coming back to the good ol’ Southern cooking that I have missed over the years. North Carolina as far as a sports area has been phenomenal. They are very proud of their athletes and the reception that we have received from the North Carolinians here has been great. It is s joy to be back and see old buddies and play in a place that I remember some of the greatest years of my life."
ussoccer.com: You've experienced some significant life changes in the last year - from the folding of the Miami Fusion, moving to Colorado, getting married, and now your involvement with the National Team. It must be quite a challenge...
PM: "It's been almost a surreal experience. I very rarely sit back and think about what's happened in the last year. All the changes that have happened have been completely positive. It's forced me to have to adapt to new situations, which is something that is happening now with the National Team. My environment in the past few years has defined my roles, as will this World Cup."
ussoccer.com: You probably have the most unique roommate on this team. What's it like living with Clint Mathis?
PM: "We asked to be together, starting with training last November. Rooming with Clint has been a great experience in that we balance each other out. He's the more wild, get-up-and-go guy, while I'm the chill-in-the-room and play-the-guitar-guy. When we do spend time together, it's a good time, and we have a lot to talk about. We both enjoy a similar sense of humor, and we have known each other for years. He's a very hip, adventurous kind of guy. We know how to deal with each other. We very seldom get on each other's nerves. We always compete on the pitch; him being and attacker and my goal being to stop him."
ussoccer.com: Have you set any personal goals for what you would like to accomplish by the end of this World Cup experience?
PM: "I just live for the day. That's my whole theory in life. Live for the day, but always be prepared to step in and make a difference. Right now I'm focused on today; we'll deal with tomorrow when it comes."