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w/ YNT midfielder Eddie Gaven

4) "QUERIES & ANECDOTES" (w/ YNT midfielder Eddie Gaven)

Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team midfielder Eddie Gaven.

If you didn’t know the name of this talented 17-year-old a year ago, you are to be forgiven. But if you still don’t know about the precocious youngster in 2004, you’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 Men’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. Men’s national Team on July 11.

"Center Circle" 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 days…

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: "We haven’t actually talked too much this season. I’ve been in a couple Under-20 camps with him and that’s probably when we talk the most. It’s not like we’re really close friends, but we are friends."

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: "We talk about both. Obviously, we talk about all the stuff that is going on in the league, but at the same time we’ll talk about what the best song out is, who the best band is, which girls are hot…basically all that stuff."

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: "I 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 I’m sure in the next years we will be seeing more guys from that team coming into MLS."

CC: After not seeing a lot of time with the MetroStars in your rookie year in 2003, you've played in 15 of the team's 16 games and are tied for eight in the league in scoring. Did you think you would have this much success in MLS this early?
EG: "I guess I really didn’t think about it too much. Last year, I didn’t play too much and was mainly coming off the bench, but I think everything about last year has helped me for this year. I played in some pretty big games last year like the U.S. Open Cup final and a playoff game, and I just think that everything about last year just helped me to be more confident this year. This year I’m just going out and playing. I’ve had the chance to play in almost every game and everything has gone pretty well so far, so I’m just trying to keep it going."

CC: What do you think has been the biggest factor for your success this year, compared to last year?
EG: "I’m not really thinking too much of making the wrong choice on a play or thinking about if I take a guy on and it doesn’t work, everyone is going to think I suck or something. Now, it’s basically just going out and playing, and I definitely have more confidence out there to take guys on and take shots."

CC: How excited are you to play in your first MLS All-Star Game?
EG: "It will definitely be very exciting. It will be very cool. These are the best players in the league and it is such an honor to be mentioned with them and to be on the same field with them. I’m definitely looking forward to it and it should be a lot of fun. Hopefully, I’ll do well and show people that I deserve to be there."

CC: Have you realized that you might be going up against someone over twice your age in Galaxy midfielder Andreas Herzog?
EG: "(Laughing) No, I didn’t realize that. I think we played against them this year though and he played. I hadn’t really thought about it."

CC: With the Olympics starting in less than a month, it’s hard to forget that the U.S. Men didn't qualify this time around. Does it cross your mind, or do you just look ahead to qualifying down the road in 2008?
EG: "Obviously, that was tough to lose 4-0 down there in Mexico, but I’m not really thinking about it too much. It’s actually great for me because I have another chance, but most of those guys on the team over there don’t have another chance, so I’m sure it’s tough for them. But for me it is great because we’re going to have one more chance to represent our country in the Olympics, and I’m looking forward to when the next round of qualifying starts."

CC: What was it like having four different coaches while you played for three of the top four U.S. Men's National Teams (U-17, U-23 and full MNT) and your club team across the last 14 months?
EG: "It’s all cool. Every single coach is very good and they all should be where they are. Each coach probably has a little bit different coaching style, but I don’t think it is anything that is totally different or anything. They all pretty much play the same way, and it is actually pretty easy to go from one team to another and fit in and do well."

CC: What's the best story or lesson that former Scotland international and MetroStars assistant coach Mo Johnston has ever told you? Careful, this is a respectable publication.
EG: "He always tells me how he scored like 330 goals or something in his career, and how he scored in the World Cup. But, he also tells me things to help me out. At the start of the season when I wasn’t scoring too much, he was telling me he went through the same thing when he was playing in England and the English press would totally just rip on him for that. He told me that the goals were going to come and he was right because they have started to come."

CC: Did you ever think you'd be earning your first cap by the age of 17?
EG: "It definitely crossed my mind because I had seen some guys like Landon (Donovan), (DaMarcus) Beasley, and Bobby Convey, who had gotten their first cap when they were young, too, and (Donovan and Beasley) ended up going to the World Cup when they were teenagers. [Editor’s Note: Actually, they had bot recently turned 20 years of age, but close enough.] It wasn’t my goal to get a cap right now; it’s not like I was thinking about it much. I was just focusing on the season and doing well with the Metros, but I guess everything just worked out. It is definitely good to get my first cap so young and hopefully I’ll just get more and more."

CC: You're getting to be a pretty big kid for your age. Are you still growing or do you think you’ll be stunted soon?
EG: "I think it is going to stop pretty soon. I’m still trying to get a little bigger width-wise and get stronger. I don’t think I’m going to grow anymore in height, but maybe if I can put on a little more in muscle it will help me."

CC: As an avid Mets fan, it has to make you smile that the day you were born was the day that the Mets were gifted a win from Billy Buckner on Oct. 25, 1986.
EG: "My dad has told me the story that he was watching the game when my mom was going into labor. He’s talked about the game where the ball has gone through the guy’s legs. That’s pretty much it. That’s all I know about that story."

CC: It's too bad that you were in the cradle during the Mets' glory days in the mid-80s w/ Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry and, of course, the great Wally Backman. How tough was it wearing a Mets hat around last year, when they had the fourth worst record in all of baseball?
EG: "I didn’t know they were the fourth worst in baseball, so I don’t know how to answer that one."

CC: How much do you hate Steinbrenner and the Yankees?
EG: "I definitely don’t like the Yankees. I don’t like how they go out and buy all their players. I guess it is kind of unfair if you’re always so good."

CC: Okay, lets turn the tables. What if Steinbrenner was an owner in the MLS and threw a bunch a money at you to come to his team?
EG: (Laughing) "That’s true. (Laughing) I never really thought about it like that. I don’t think I would leave the team I was on just because of a lot of money. I don’t know. I don’t think I’m ever going to be in that type of situation, so I don’t have to worry about it."

CC: Do you ever make it over to Manhattan for any other reason than passing through to Shea?
EG: "No, the only time I go to New York City is when I go to NikeTown."

CC: Did you finally get a set of wheels, or is mom still running you to and from practice?
EG: "Yeah, I got a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am. It runs very well, very smooth. It is a fine automobile."
CC: You haven’t gotten it over 65 yet, right?
EG: "Ahhhh… (Laughing) Yeah, I have."

CC: And finally, let's talk about the haircut, or lack thereof. Are you going for the sheepdog look? (see above headshot)
EG: "I’m probably just going to let it grow. I cut it halfway through the season just because everyone was teasing me about it and it was starting to get in my eyes a little bit, too, which isn’t cool. Right now, I’ll let it grow and I’ll probably cut it again when it starts getting in my eyes."

EG: "Hey…can you hold on like two or three minutes?"
CC: Sure.
EG: "I’m actually driving right now and there is a cop behind me and you’re not allowed to talk on your cell phone….so, I’m going to hang up right now…or, I’ll just try and make a right turn here real quick. Can you stay on the line?"
CC: Yeah, sure.EG: "I’m stopped at a red light right now. The cop is staring into my window."
CC: We don’t want to get you a ticket.
(Silence for a good 20 seconds)
EG: "Alright, I’m good. I just pulled into a little shopping center."
CC: Very nice. Okay, one last question and then you can get off the phone and concentrate on driving. We know you like to read, so what are you reading right now?
EG: "I’m reading a Stephen King series called Dark Towers. It’s the fifth book in the series and it’s called Wolves of the Calla. I read the first four books and I think it is a seven book series."