Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Women’s National Team forward Tiffeny Milbrett.
Center Circle: You won back-to-back Chevy Female Athlete of the Year honors in 2000 and 2001, and as a result received a pair of brand new vehicles. Is it true that you upgraded from the Chevy Blazer to the Tahoe? You must look tiny in that.
Tiffeny Milbrett: “I still have it. It’s awesome. I love it. It’s in New York, and love driving it around there because I’m bigger than everyone else and it makes me feel safe.”
CC: Say you have another outstanding year for the U.S. Women's National Team and the Power in 2003--is there even enough room in the Milbrett garage for another Chevy ride or would that go to a friend or relative?
TM: “I’d have to give it to Mom, no question.”
CC: You were the WUSA MVP in 2001 with 16 goals and three assists and the Power made the playoffs. But then in 2002, the team only won three games all year. What happened?
TM: “I just think from the first year to the second year, we had a lot of changes in faces. I think the first year, teams weren’t as organized (on the field) as they should be, and we definitely won games that we shouldn’t have in that first year. I think you can only go so long before your weaknesses get revealed, especially when other teams are getting better. Our team pretty much stayed the same in quality (from 2001 to 2002), we maybe even dipped a bit. We really got exposed when the other teams got better and more organized and we stayed the same.”
CC: You have a new coach with Tom Sermanni and another scorer playing alongside you in Christie Welsh. Realistically, how do you think 2003 will play out?
TM: “It’s a totally different team. The things that comes to mind for me for us this year is that we’re like a rookie team—a team of rookies. We’re having to get a lot of faces together on the same page, but we have a lot of talent. We’re up against teams that have been together for going on two plus years. We’re a good team that just needs time to come together, and we’re doing that.”
CC: Pop quiz: How tall is Christie Welsh?
TM: “I would say Christie Welsh is 5’9½”.”
CC: Not a bad guess. She’s actually listed at 5’10”.
CC: What's it like to play with someone who's so physically opposite of you?
TM: “I think it’s great. I haven’t even been able to see what she can do yet with all her potential. She’s coming in from being with a team for four years, being very comfortable, knowing what she can do and what she needs to do. Now she’s coming to a whole new team, a new league, with better players. But I’m excited. I see great things in her. She has such good speed and talent. Her ability to score goals is something that I see in practice every day that really amazes me.”
CC: You said last year that you were suffering from exhaustion. How did that come about?
TM: “I think what was important (cause to the exhaustion last year) was that we never had to do a National Team life and then turn around and have the league in the same year. It was completely surprising how exhausting the league was. It seems so silly, but if you had never experienced it before, you never knew what it was going to do to you. I think that’s what happened. It totally blindsided me, with the demands of the league, training for six months, being away from your home for six months. With the National Team, you’re away for a little bit, then you get to go right back home after that. What was key to my exhaustion was that I didn’t know how to deal with my increasing load. I was just business as usual and went full tilt, even when I had down time, because that’s what you do, that’s all I knew to do. It crept up on me.”
CC: Over the last Women's World Cup cycle, we've seen Michelle Akers and Carla Overbeck retire from international soccer, with rumors abound that Brandi, Joy, Julie (and maybe even Mia and Lill) are set to retire after China 2003. With you turning 30 right after that tournament, how long do you think you'll be playing internationally?
TM: “The key is knowing how much to do and when. I see myself playing internationally... well, I hope as long as those guys have. I think my heart’s still there and I have the ability to be dangerous out there. But that’s now and we’ll see. As long as my heart’s still in it and I can still do the things that I can do now, I really would love to play. I don’t see myself quitting after 2004 (Olympics in Athens), for sure. Hopefully, another World Cup and Olympics after that.”
CC: As long as you have your coffee, we think you can play for another 10 years. Speaking of which, how long before your agent gets you some kind of Starbucks sponsorship so that you can get a lifetime supply?
TM: “I think at one point, who were trying to do something. Starbucks was doing a thing like, for every home run Mark McGwire hit, a certain amount of money was donated to charity. We wanted to do something like that. But that was a while ago, before this team was pretty big. Maybe we should try again.”
CC: What's the most coffee you’ve consumed in one day? Be honest.
TM: “Well, I go by espresso shots. I’ve probably had four espresso shots in a day. An iced double tall latte in the morning, and then a double shot of La Breva Latte at night or something.”
CC: Okay, back to soccer. You and your U.S. teammates beat China 2-0 in your last meeting, but were overmatched on their home soil back in January in front of a huge crowd. Do you think you can get the best of them in their own backyard if and when the time comes in October?
TM: “We’re totally underdogs. Absolutely. I think we can beat them, but you’ve got to be honest. The team we saw at the Algarve Cup was a completely different team than the one we saw in January. The January team was more World Cup-like, but that’s great, because we know we weren’t playing our best. What it comes down to is that you want to have a final that is worthy of being a final. If that means China-USA, we’ll take that challenge. This team is able to withstand anything, and I don’t think there would be anything nicer than getting a result against China in China for the World Cup.”
CC: Obviously that would be the biggest challenge the team could face in October...
TM: “Absolutely. But that’s great. We don’t care. I think that’s what feeds us. Everything else is just a warm-up match. Of course you’ve got to win, and go through friendlies and go through qualifying, but... they are our toughest opponent.”
CC: In 1999, there was so much pressure on the team. You pretty much HAD to win the World Cup. Do you really feel like you’re the underdogs going into the tournament, even as defending world champs?
TM: “We don’t have anything to lose. They’re going to have all the pressure. Like you said, being reminded that back then we HAD to win and thinking back to that kind of pressure, I don’t know how we dealt with it. I don’t know how we survived through all of it. That’s the kind of pressure China’s going to have. It could work for them and it could work against them.”
CC: What were the best and worst things about playing in Japan back in the mid-90s, either on or off the field?
TM: “The best thing was that it gave me a different opportunity. It gave me a look at a professional life. I’d wake up, I’d have practice, I’d come back from practice—that was my life. It was when the National Team wasn’t really in session, and I went over there and earned a living, so it gave me a really good look at playing professional soccer. The worst thing was just the long days. Living in Japan was neat, but where I was, it was kind of out in the middle of farmland. There wasn’t anything exciting around there. It made for really boring days sometimes. For a while, it was great. I didn’t have to do anything. But after a while, you’re just ready to bang your head against the wall.”
CC: How fulfilling was it for you personally to see Clive Charles and your alma mater (Portland) finally get that first NCAA women's championship back in December?
TM: “It hit me so hard. It was just so amazing. For me, it’s one of the best moments I’ve ever been a part of. And that includes any moment that I’ve been on the field for—World Cup, Olympics. He’s an amazing person, and the things that he’s done for me, and that program, he deserved it. It was a long time coming. I was as happy as I could’ve ever been for any soccer for me on the field.”
CC: Over the last four years, we've seen everyone from Brandi to Mia to Landon Donovan and Clint Mathis on the cover of major sports magazines. Now that you joined that club by appearing (along with Serena Williams and two other top female athletes) on the cover of the 5th Anniversary Issue of "ESPN The Magazine," how does it feel to be a big-time cover girl?
TM: “Very surreal. I have to be honest--it was very surreal. When they first called me, I was like ‘Are you sure you don’t want Brandi. Are you sure you don’t want Mia? Are you sure you know who you’re talking to?’ So it was kind of a new situation for me, but it was something that I was very thankful for. It means a lot when you get the respect that you’ve tried to earn your whole life. So it was a really rewarding experience and something I’m really proud of.”
CC: So no modeling career down the road when you’re done playing?
TM: “Not even one second of a thought. No interest whatsoever. I’m an athlete (laughs).”
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Looking Back at June 17, 2002)
2) In Threes (w/ WNT goalkeeper Siri Mullinix)
3) Music by Mastroeni (w/ MNT midfielder Pablo Mastroeni)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ WNT forward Tiffeny Milbrett)
5) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Mexico – May 8)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ U-23 MNT forward Edson Buddle)
7) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win 2003 WUSA MVP?)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (USA-Mexico Trivia)
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