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Q & A with U.S. Under-20 and UCLA Defender Marvell Wynne

During November of last year, Marvell Wynne was worrying about a starting spot for UCLA. Seven months later, Wynne is starting at right back for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team during the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Holland. The Poway, Calif., native is fast, strong, athletic and tough (his nickname is Man Child for a reason). A mild-mannered, fun-loving guy off the field, meeting Wynne on the left flank is equivalent to finding yourself in a dark alley with Mike Tyson. Marvell isn’t going to snack on your ear, but he will eat you up and spit you out before you even think about putting in a cross. Man Child sat down with and talked about his journey to the national team, how the team is doing in Holland and just how he got his nickname. Did you ever think you’d be on the national team?
Marvell Wynne: “Never. Back in October I was hoping to get a starting position with UCLA. The national team wasn’t even in my mind. Truthfully, I didn’t think I had a chance. I thought there were players out there who were far ahead of me, but I just tried my best, got seen and here I am.” How did you react when you got called in for the first time last November?
MW: “When I found out Sigi first called me in I was speechless. My college coach told me that Sigi might be looking at me and might invite me into a camp or two. I was like, ‘Yeah, sure coach. I guess I’ll try harder in games.” I thought that’s what he wanted, and he was just trying to motivate me. But when Sigi finally called me I called my mom and dad right away.”  How did your first camp go?
MW: “I had Brandon Owens, who I play with at UCLA, so that made things a bit more comfortable. He’s gone through the national program as he’d been in with the U-17s and U-20s before. I went out there on the field the first day and I was really nervous, but all the drills we did were pretty similar and all the guys were really awesome, so I felt comfortable right away.” What was your first start for the U-20s like?
MW: “Getting my first cap against Honduras was something that was really special for me. Going out there and starting was nerve-racking. I was playing with the best players in my country and I wanted to do well. I just wanted to go out there, play really simple and do the basics. During the game, Honduras came at us and their left midfielder was pretty active and quick. He made a lot of runs, and I was running around quite a bit. I thought I played pretty decent that game and we won 2-0. Getting a little taste of the national team was pretty awesome.” What was your feeling after the game?
MW: “It was everything I expected it to be. It was harder, tougher, quicker, rougher. Everything has to be so sharp and at that next level. After that first game, I was like, ‘This is the national level. I can do this, I can do this.’ Now, I’ve become adapted to it. I’m moving quicker as well. I’m starting to think quicker and shape up my moves. I’ve seen myself progress along with this team.” What are your strengths?
MW: “My strengths would have to be speed, my all around athleticism and I don’t get knocked off the ball often. I’m able to run back and muscle players off the ball.” What are your weaknesses?
MW: “First is using my left foot. I can see the field pretty well, but I need to work on my finishing touch on the ball and getting it where it needs to go. I also need to work on my first touch and crossing the ball into the box better.” Your dad played professional baseball. Did you ever play?
MW: “Baseball is boring. I did not like baseball. This is how it started. I played T-ball and I did well. I hit it and I ran. Then it went to the minor little leagues and the balls were pitched slowly. I hit it. I ran. The major little league came along and they have this thing called a curve ball where it looks like it is going to hit you right in the face and then it goes for a strike. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to play baseball anymore. It was really hard to hit the ball and it was boring. I was in centerfield and just sat there while we got three outs and then sat back in the dugout. It was way too boring. I needed something more and I’ve been playing soccer since I was three. I started baseball when I was six, so soccer had a jump. Soccer was just so much more fun and I had more friends in soccer.” How did you get your nickname?
MW: “Man Child I first heard from (U.S. U-20 assistant coach) Peter Vermes. I don’t even know when he coined it. I think it might have been the last camp before we came to Holland. After one of the games he was like, ‘Hey, Man Child,’ and I didn’t know who he was talking to. He goes, ‘I’m talking to you.’ I didn’t know where it came about, I guess from how I play, but it is getting around too. So, I’m Man Child.” What are your future plans?
MW: “Basically, at this point I’m just waiting to see what happens. I’m open for just about anything. Like anyone, I’d like to go pro at some point, possibly even next year if I could, but if that’s not in the cards I think I’m in a win-win situation. I can either go pro and fulfill my dream or stay in school and get a good education.” You guys are in a good position after the first two games?
MW: “Yeah, I think the last two games went pretty well. Beating Argentina was not expected, but we went out, fought hard and came out with a win. We surprised most of the world. Against Germany we did well for the first hour or so, but the last 20 minutes we kind of lost our positioning. Overall, I think we’ve done what we’ve needed to do by getting two shutouts. Four points puts us in a good position in our group after two games.” What did you think of Argentina and Germany?
MW: “Argentina was very, very skilled. I noticed that when they were on the ball they are very confident. They do what they want to with the ball and are crafty. Germany was real physical and pressured us late in the game, which showed me they had a lot more stamina than I thought.”  Talk about your game-winning assist against Argentina?
MW: “Hunter Freeman got the ball to Chad (Barrett) who had a nice touch to get the ball to Greg Dalby in the center and he was able to get it out wide to me. I took a touch and looked up to see Eddie (Gaven) running near post. I tried to kick it to him, but it got deflected and went over Eddie and right onto Chad’s head.”  What do you try to do offensively?
MW: “Defensively, I’m pretty secure and I know what I need to do. On the offense, I try to get wide outside and hopefully hit a cross in to get an assist or two. If I’m going to be in the attack at all, that’s probably where I’m going to be.” What do you think your chances are of winning the group?
MW: “It’s in our hands. We are playing against Egypt, who right now are pretty much out of it with zero points, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try. They are going to try and make a statement. We have to go out there and play hard and get those three points. If we get those three points then we are guaranteed to go through and finish no less than second place. That’s what we’re gunning for, to win the ‘Group of Death.’” Have any teams here at the World Youth Championship impressed you?
MW: “One of the teams that impressed me was the Netherlands for sure. They seem like a pretty strong side. Spain has also been impressive and China has surprised some people. The Netherlands are someone to look for.” Any specific players?
MW: “Number seven on the Netherlands (Quincy Owusu Abeyie) is pretty good. He’s a skilled left midfielder who dribbles a lot, is really quick and is comfortable on the ball. He plays for Arsenal, so he’s got to be pretty good.” If the U.S. and the Netherlands meet in the second round, you’d go head-to-head with Owusu Abeyie. What would that match-up be like?
MW: “It will be just like any other match-up. I don’t even care. I’m not scared. If he’s good then it gives me the chance to show that I can guard him. If you play pro, and I’m not a pro player, that’s fine. I’ll just have to stuff a pro player. Just because he’s a pro player I can’t let him get by me. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are, what your background is, you’re just another player.”

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