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Archive - January 2004

“Center Circle”
January 23, 2004
Volume IV, Issue 1

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder [The U-23 Class of 2000: Then and Now]
2) In Threes [w/ MNT midfielder Chris Klein]
3) Making it in the Show [w/ U-23 MNT midfielder David Testo]
4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ U-23 MNT forward Conor Casey]
5) Mark that Calendar [U-23 MNT vs. Group A – 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying / Live on MatchTracker]
6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Heather Mitts]
7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will be the Breakout Players for U.S. Soccer in 2004?]
8) You Don't Know Jack (Marshall) [General U-23/Men’s Olympic Trivia]

1) Armchair Midfielder [The U-23 Class of 2000: Then and Now]
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 ‘ole U-S-of-A . If you’re looking for a viewpoint that you won’t see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, you’ve come to the right place. This month the 2000 U.S. Under-23 Team is under the microscope.

Coaches always hate when "media types" make comparisons between world championship teams every two or four years. And I don’t blame them, because there are just too many factors that can affect a team’s success (i.e., major injuries, order of opponents, location, on and on and on) that are out of everyone’s control. So instead of comparing the current U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team that is headed down to Mexico to try to qualify to the 2000 class of U-23s, the Armchair Midfielder simply takes a look at what the last four years have held in store for the 18 players on the team that finished second in Hershey, Penn., back in April 2000. Below, we look at each player in terms of their career then in 2000 and now in 2004, broken down by position and listed in alphabetical order:


Then: Was the #1 choice in goal for the U-23s entering qualifying, where he helped the team win the all-important opener and the crucial semi-final game; Was also the starting ‘keeper for the Colorado Rapids as a rookie before nagging injuries doomed his chances with the U-23s in Australia, opening the door for MNT "overaged" goalkeeper Brad Friedel to grab the starting spot.

Now: The starting goalkeeper for the New England Revolution, he led the team to the MLS Cup in 2002 and is one of the most experienced goalkeepers in the league’s young history.

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2) In Threes [w/ MNT midfielder Chris Klein]
What’s it going to be? Door number one, door number two, or door number THREE?!? Okay, so this section has less to do with "Let’s Make A Deal" and more to do with the Multiple Choice section of an SAT test. "In 3’s" peeks inside the head of U.S. midfield
Chris Klein as he picks one of three choices for 25 questions about personal tastes and pop culture.

He says it himself below, "I’m a Midwest kinda guy." That response can be traced to his roots of growing up in St. Louis, Mo., going to college at Indiana University, and beginning his professional soccer career in 1998 with the Kansas City Wizards. In St. Louis, he was the city’s Player of the Year, as well as an All-State and Parade All-American selection as a senior in 1993. At Indiana, he helped lead the Hoosiers to a 23-0 record and the NCAA Final Four before falling to eventual champion UCLA as a senior in 1997. Since then, he’s been across his home state in K.C., where he’s been a steady contributor for the Wizards with a total of 28 goals and 28 assists across the last five seasons. That steady production has raised the eyebrows of U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bruce Arena, and Klein has earned eight caps across the past couple years, including an appearance in the team’s opening 1-1 draw with Denmark on Jan. 18 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Best U.S. city: L.A., N.Y.C. or Chicago?
"Chicago. I'm a Midwest kinda guy."

Best Midwest city: Bloomington, Ind., Kansas City, or St. Louis?
"What are you trying to do to me? Bloomington is the best college town. St. Louis is the best place to grow up. Kansas City Wizards."

Best weekend hangout spot in K.C.: Westport, the Country Club Plaza or downtown?
"The Plaza. They have the best restaurants. I'm not much for the bar scene."

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3) Making it in the Show [w/ U-23 MNT midfielder David Testo]
Every so often, we ask a U.S. Youth National Team player who has established themselves in the pro ranks to look back on their first year and tell us about their experiences, good and bad. This time, the 750-word essay assignment was given to U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team forward David Testo. The Arden, N.C., looks back on his first year as a pro, in which he went undrafted out of UNC but landed with the A-League’s Richmond Kickers.

Testo made the best of his less-than-ideal situation, producing six goals and two assists in 28 matches to earn 2003 Rookie of the Year honors of the Division II league. Testo’s tireless performance while toughing it out in the minors endeared him to the U-23 coaching staff, resulting in several call-ups over the last two years. Once again, he made the best of his opportunity, leading the team in scoring with four goals and two assists in just 390 minutes (read: just over four full games) of action. With an exhausting CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament that could mean five games in 10 days, Testo might be counted on to produce those kinds of numbers off the bench on a more intense stage in order for the USA to advance to Athens 2004.

"It was my senior year at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and we had lost in the second round on of the NCAA playoffs to Penn. It was this point in my life when I became most aware of the ‘real world.’ In January, I was chosen to play in the MLS Combine, but there was a conflict with the U-23 National Team where they wanted me with them in Portugal. The next thing I know it was Draft day, a.k.a "D-Day" to all of us. Basically the entire team in Portugal was entered in the draft, so we all decided to ....

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4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ U-23 MNT forward Conor Casey]
Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team forward Conor Casey.

What’s Conor Casey been up to since the last time he was in the U-23? Well, when we last saw him in Sydney in the bronze medal match, he was a hot-tempered, shaved-headed teen with a bruising style of play. Three years later, he strolled into the team’s first camp of 2004 with the same solid build, but with a shaggy hairstyle and a calmer, gentler demeanor about him. For more on the native of suburban Denver, Colo., and powerful scorer for the Portland Pilots, see the Armchair Midfielder’s "Where Are They Now?" feature above, OR you can find out what’s been going on with Conor from the man himself through the 15 questions we hit him with about time spent in Germany:

Center Circle (CC1): The last time we saw you was in Sydney back in 2000 before you went off to play for Hannover 96 in Germany. How do you think your game has improved since then?
Conor Casey (CC2): "I think just overall I’ve improved. I’m three years older, and I have three years of playing with very good players in Europe, so I think that in terms of physically and the mental part of my game, (my game) has improved."

CC1: How exciting is the prospect of playing in your second Olympic Games?
CC2: "Of course, it’s exciting. The Olympics are ....

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5) Mark that Calendar [U-23 MNT vs. Group A – 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying / Live on MatchTracker]
--U-23 MNT vs. Panama – Tuesday, Feb. 3 – 8 p.m. CT
--U-23 MNT vs. Canada – Thursday, Feb. 5 – 8 p.m. CT
--U-23 MNT vs. Honduras – Saturday, Feb. 7 – 8 p.m. CT

A stern reminder about an upcoming U.S. Soccer-related event, whether you plan to check it out live and in person, on the "telly" or that wacky world wide web.

After finishing second on home soil to qualify for the 2000 Olympics, the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team has a much more difficult task ahead to book a ticket to Athens. Instead of relaxing and popping bite size chocolate bars with friends and family in the lobby of the low-key Hershey Lodge, this group of young pros has to travel south and struggle with the altitude and smog of Guadalajara over what could be as many as five matches in 10 days.

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6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Heather Mitts]
A monthly feature about a U.S. Men’s, Women’s or Youth National Team player whose performance demands that bright, shining spotlight. This month, the spotlight is once again on Heather Mitts. By now, she’s getting used to it, having been through a few gigs on live TV and several photo shoots in guy mags like FHM and Maxim. But she’s temporarily left it all behind for a shot at the 2004 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team.

Heather Nova

Heather Mitts is nothing if not versatile. She possesses qualities that someday may make her a top international defender: she’s feisty, fast, skillful, fearless and loves to get forward from the back.

But after she finishes her soccer career, she also possesses qualities that may make her a star in a different arena: Television. Mitts is well-spoken, funny, attractive, driven and creative. All qualities that served her well during her stint as a co-host of "The 10 Show," a fun ...

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7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will be the Breakout Players for U.S. Soccer in 2004?]
In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more talking heads giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, we’ve opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.

This will be a busy next 12 month s, presenting great challenges and opportunities for U.S. Soccer and its National Teams. With CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying for the U.S. U-23s, the beginning of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the U.S. Men, and the 2004 Olympics for the U.S. Women, the stage is set for someone on both the Men’s and Women’s side to really put their stamp on 2004. So last month, we asked you: Who will be the breakout players for U.S. Soccer in 2004?

Not surprisingly, the rapid rise of Tim Howard and Bobby Convey with both club and country did not go unnoticed on 2003, and most believe that those two are on track to keep that success going in 2004. On the women’s side, you picked WWC rookies like Shannon Boxx and Kylie Bivens and UNC upstart Heather O’Reilly to lead the team back to Olympic gold ...

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8) You Don't Know Jack (Marshall) [General U-23/Men’s Olympic Trivia]
Think you know your soccer trivia? We’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).

The focus only really falls on the U-23s once every four years, so with Athens six months away, it’s time to catch up on this "tweener" age group and its recent Olympic history with a quartet of questions.

Q1: Which player was the only collegian on the 2000 Olympic Team?
Q2: Which former U-23 standout played for Bruce Arena

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