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“Center Circle” - April 2003

“Center Circle”
April 25, 2003
Volume III, Issue 4

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Looking Back at June 17, 2002)
In Threes (w/ WNT goalkeeper Siri Mullinix)
Music by Mastroeni (w/ MNT midfielder Pablo Mastroeni)
Queries and Anecdotes (w/ WNT forward Tiffeny Milbrett)
Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Mexico – May 8)
Superstar!!! (w/ U-23 MNT forward Edson Buddle)
FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win 2003 WUSA MVP?)
"You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (USA-Mexico Trivia)

1) ARMCHAIR MIDFIELDER (Looking Back at June 17, 2002)

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.

With the U.S. Men’s National Team set to face Mexico in two weeks for the first soccer match at Houston’s Reliant Stadium and the first match between the two sides since the USA’s 2-0 win in Korea, the Armchair Midfielder can’t help but look back and smile in remembering that oh-so-wonderful day.

It was 10 months ago, but it seems like just yesterday. The U.S. Men’s National Team had somehow found its way out of a difficult opening round at the 2002 World Cup. Their Round of 16 opponent? Only the team’s most revered rival, its arch nemesis, its not-so-friendly neighbor. The match-up on June 17, 2002 in Jeonju, Korea would be the most important match in the 70 years of competition between the next-door nations.

While both teams seemed pleased about their second round opponent in public and in the press due to familiarity alone, questions were abound about how the next meeting in a long, long history of border battles would shake out. Mexican players were wondering if they could break their recent stretch of bad luck in the series (read: four losses in the last five meetings) and return to the days when they dominated the U.S. On the other hand, U.S. players wondered if they could defeat Mexico when it counts, rather than just the recent string of friendlies and World Cup qualifiers.

Finally, the big day came...

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A section that will let you get to know the real personalities of your favorite Men's, Women's and Youth National Team players through various funny and unique first-person accounts. In this issue, you'll find:

2) IN THREES (w/ WNT goalkeeper Siri Mullinix)
What's it going to be? Door number one, door number two, or door number THREE?!? Okay, so this new section has less to do with "Let's Make A Deal" and more to do with the Multiple Choice section of an SAT test. Normally, "In Threes" peeks inside the personality of a select National Team player as they pick one of three choices for 25 questions about personal tastes and pop culture.

This month, we give the rapid fire treatment to U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, who recently entered the 2003 WUSA season with two major goals in mind: 1) helping the Freedom get back to the Founders Cup final and more importantly and 2) proving by her play with the Freedom that she belongs between the nets for the USA when the Women’s World Cup rolls around this fall. After a disappointing silver medal finish as the starter at the 2000 Olympics and a sub-par inaugural WUSA season, the Greensboro, N.C., native bounced back big in 2002 and helped the Freedom go from next-to-worst to next-to-first. With a solid Siri in the nets, the Freedom are back on the path to the WUSA final in 2003, having already posted a 3-0 record out of the gate.

Best big city in the U.S.: Chicago, L.A. or NYC?
"Los Angeles. It's big, it's fun and there's so much to do."

Best city in North Carolina: Greensboro, Chapel Hill or Raleigh?
"Chapel Hill. It's small, cute and a great place to relax. And there are a ton of good restaurants."

Best date activity: movie, theatre, or comedy club?
"If it's a bad date, they are all good choices because you can avoid talking to the guy. If it's a good date, then dinner is always nice."

Favorite on-the-road-with-the-team leisure activity: grab a movie, hit the mall or lay out?

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3) "MUSIC BY MASTROENI" (w/ MNT midfielder Pablo Mastroeni)
So you’re a U.S. National Team player and you’re stuck on a long international flight? What are your options? Sure, sleep is good. And cards are always fun, but you can only play “Hearts” so many times before you revert back to sleeping. DVD players? A luxury, but too high maintenance. For 26-year-old midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, the inner peace on the road comes from jotting down lyrics to original songs.

Perhaps no U.S. Men’s National Team player is as musically-inclined as the dread-locked, Argentine-born midfielder, who brings his geetar (sic) on just about every National Team trip, including the World Cup last summer. Although he’s a long way from matching the likes of Bob Dylan, he can out-strum veteran defender and fellow acoustic ace Jeff Agoos any day. Below are lyrics of one of the many songs he’s written in his spare time.

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4) "QUERIES AND ANECDOTES" (w/ WNT forward Tiffeny Milbrett)

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?

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5) "MARK THAT CALENDAR" (MNT vs. Mexico – Thu., May 8 – 7 p.m. CT – ESPN2 & Telemundo)
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.

And so the day comes. “Ravancha en la Cancha.” May 8, 2003. Reliant Stadium. Houston, Texas. Reduced to tears by their 2-0 shutout loss to the Americans last summer in that there tournament over in Korea and Japan, an entire country is waiting for their beloved Tri-colores to exact sweet revenge on who they feel is a lesser soccer nation.

The thing is, that match was not so much a one-time surprise result than it was an accurate embodiment of the history between the two teams across the last four years. While the U.S. holds a meager 10-28-9 all-time record against Mexico, half of those wins have come in the last three years, coinciding conspicuously with the tenure of Mr. Arena. In fact, those five wins have come in the last six matches, all by shutout, with an average score of 2-0. Sound familiar?

Whether Mexican fans will admit it or not, the fact remains that in this day and age of our storied history, we’ve got their number. Perhaps it was that psychological edge that gave the U.S. confidence and propelled them to the last win in the series over in Jeonju, Korea.

But our recent run of favorable results might not be enough to squeeze out a win this time around. Consider that this next match, while played at “home,” could have us playing in front of a large pro-Mexican crowd in a venue that could very well become the north-of-the-border Azteca.

That, and the fact that Mexican league players are in top form compared to an all-MLS U.S. squad that is not even a month into its season, could mean trouble (see recent CONCACAF Champions Cup results for evidence of this unavoidable disparity). And then there’s that revenge thing.

But hey, let’s not make excuses before the match is even played. It’s all talk until the teams step out on the field for what will surely be a rough-and-tumble affair filled with hard tackles, huge momentum shifts and an enormous, energetic crowd.

For easily the most anticipated U.S. Men’s National Team match of the year, and possibly one of the most anticipated international matches in the world this year, fans will have a chance to choose their language for the live broadcast on Thursday, May 8 at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT. For English, Press One (ESPN2). For Spanish, Press Two (Telemundo). If you’re dialing from a rotary phone (read: you’re stuck in your cube at work), Press Three (you can follow along live on’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics).

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6) SUPERSTAR!!! (w/ U-23 MNT forward Edson Buddle)

A monthly feature about a U.S. Men’s, Women’s or Youth National Team player who demands that bright, shining spotlight.

Buddle in Full Bloom

As a soccer player, being named after the sport’s most legendary figure could be seen as a bit of a burden or perhaps unnecessary pressure. But for Edson Buddle, who was named after three-time World Cup champion Pele (full name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento), it was simply an honor bestowed upon him from his father, Winston, who played professionally in Belgium, Cyprus and Greece and the U.S.

“I never really questioned him about it, ya know? I just kinda put two and two together,” said Buddle, who couldn’t help but notice all of his dad’s Pele videos around the house as a child and slowly started to figure it out. “I’m proud to be named after the great one, the king of soccer.”

In actuality, even the most educated soccer fans don’t make the first-name connection, which is fine with him. It’s saved him years of unfair comparisons and unoriginal nicknames. It helps that Buddle doesn’t resemble Pele physically, and the 22-year-old plays a much different style, preferring to dominate in the air rather than carving through the midfield on the dribble.

“Pele’s 5’7” and Brazilian. I’m 6’2” and American, so we’re pretty different,” said Buddle, using the tale of the tape to distance himself from his namesake. “I only get asked about the name from reporters or hard-core fans. The average person knows Pele as Pele, not as Edson.”

While he may not yet evoke thoughts of the Brazilian legend, the forward from Port Chester, N.Y., has come a long way in the last four years.

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7) "POINT/COUNTERPOINT" (Who Will Be the 2003 WUSA MVP?)
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.

For the April issue, we asked you: Who will be the 2003 WUSA MVP (and why)?

Unlike those who blindly weighed in on March’s question with their 2003 MLS MVP predictions, this month everyone had the luxury of using the first two weeks of the WUSA season as a sneak peek before making their choice. But with all the U.S. Women’s National Team players out there, and a glut of foreign stars returning after impressive 2002 campaigns, the majority of choices narrowed down to just three players: Mia, Mac and Maribel:

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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.

This month, we give you trivia based on the 70-year history of meetings between the Men’s National Teams of the United States and Mexico.

Q1 (1 of 4)Which team has won five of the last six meetings?
Q2 (2 of 4): Who became just the third player since 1990 to score in his first full U.S. Men’s National Team appearance when he scored in a 2-0 victory over Mexico in Los Angeles on October 25, 2000?
Q3 (3 of 4): Which U.S. goalkeeper has the most all-time caps versus Mexico?
Q4 (4 of 4): Who has the most career goals against Mexico in U.S. Men’s National Team history?

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