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Archive - July 2003

"Center Circle"
July 24, 2003
Volume III, Issue 7

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2003 WWC Final Draw)
2) In Threes (w/ WNT forward Abby Wambach)
3) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavison)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller)
5) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup?)
6) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. Gold Cup Trivia)

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf).


1) ARMCHAIR MIDFIELDER [Dissecting the 2003 WWC Final Draw]

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.

At long last, the hand has been dealt. The cards have been laid. The road lies ahead. There’s no going back now. And the cliches have just begun...

The Armchair Midfielder sits down with the results of the recent Final Draw and makes early picks as to which eight teams will advance to the all-important second round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003. [Editor’s Note: This is the official name of the tournament. Anyone referring to it as the 2003 Women’s World Cup, 2003 WWC or any other variation will be subject to a firing squad by Shannon MacMillan at the next U.S. WNT training session.]

Group A – USA (A1), Sweden (A2), Nigeria (A3), North Korea (A4):

Wow. “Golden Girls” (Mia and Brandi, not Rue McLanahan and Estelle Getty), you’ve got your work cut out for you. While the group and order of teams that the U.S. must face looks eerily similar to that of Group A in ’99, save Sweden taking the place of Denmark, there’s one big difference: they’re a lot better than four years ago!!! Then again, so are we. Let’s look back, shall we?

Continue: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_39906.html


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 forward Abby Wambach)

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 Threes" peeks inside the head of a select National Team player as they pick one of three choices for 25 questions about personal tastes and pop culture.

Abby Wambach has been all over the place in her many years playing amateur, college, pro and international soccer. The youngest of seven children, the 23-year-old started making a name in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., where she was a standout at the high school level and captain of the Rochester Spirit club team. Then it was off to Gainesville, Fla., where she went on to post all-time school records in goals (96), assists (49), game-winning goals (24) and hat tricks (10). So it was no surprise when she was made the second overall pick in the 2002 WUSA by the Washington Freedom, where she promptly won Rookie of the Year honors and was a key part of the team’s improbable run to the league final.

Last year was also a big year for Abby at the international level. After helping the USA to a Nordic Cup championship as an Under-21 in 2001, the 5’10” forward burst onto the scene for the full Women’s National Team with five goals and four assists in just 357 minutes of action in 2003. With a pair of serious injuries to two U.S. attackers earlier in the year, Abby now has an even better chance to make a big impact on the team’s success at the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003 just two months from now. For now, she answers our rapid-fire questions about some of her favorites in life.

Personal taste/style:

Favorite place that you've lived: Rochester, N.Y., Gainesville, Fla., or D.C.?
"Gainesville, Fla., because it's where I met some of my best friends in the world."

Best area in D.C. to paint the town red: Adams Morgan, Georgetown or The Hill?
"I'd say Adams Morgan, because it's pretty diverse. You can have college kids or young professionals. People from many different walks of life end up there."

Favorite D.C. tourist attraction: Washington monument, The Smithsonian or The White House?

Continue: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_39907.html

3) "MARK THAT CALENDAR" [MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavision]

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.

While it would have been nice to pick up a rare win over Brazil in the semi’s and face Mexico at Azteca for the CONCACAF crown, there’s still enough drama surrounding the Third Place Match to make it a doozy of a game. That’s right, it’s Bruce Arena vs. Steve Sampson. Present vs. past. Hero vs. goat. The moment that soccer fans around the country – and many parts of the continent – have been waiting for has come early, considering the two teams might not have met in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying until the final round in 2005.

Sure, our rivalry with Costa Rica isn’t anywhere close to the level of USA-Mexico (colones/coin-throwing fans at Saprissa Stadium might disagree), but that all changed in the seconds it took the ’98 U.S. World Cup chief to put ink to paper. With the California native becoming the first American coach in recent history to be tapped to lead another country – not to mention one of our toughest CONCACAF foes – to the big event, the stakes immediately rose for the impending battles across the next three years.

With this being the first of those important matches, there’s no doubt that both team managers will be looking to get the psychological upper hand with a win. Of course, both coaches will tell the media that they could care less about it, but deep down there must be a touch of nerves heading into this match. Unfortunately, this initial meeting comes after each team has played four tough games across 12 days and is missing players to both cautions and injuries, which means that “Just Win, Baby!” (Rest in peace, Al Davis. Wait, is he dead?) will likely be the rallying cry of the day. For the red white & blue, there’s added pressure, considering that only once have we failed to finish in the top three in the region in six previous Gold Cups.

After easily winning Group C and breezing through their first three games by a combined score of 9-0 (2-0 wins over El Salvador and Martinique in group action and a 5-0 rout of Cuba in the quarters), the U.S. stepped it up against Brazil, but gave up a confidence-killing goal in the second-to-last minute and then conceded a penalty kick in overtime for the 2-1 result. Costa Rica has taken a slightly different path, falling 1-0 to Canada in its opener before rebounding with a 3-0 shutout of Cuba to win a three-way tie on points in Group D (by virtue of a superior goal differential). But like the U.S., after dismantling their quarterfinal opponent (a 5-2 win over El Salvador 5-2), the Ticos couldn’t get through to the final, succumbing to the heat, smog, elevation, 100,000 fans and a rejuvenated Mexican attack in a 2-0 loss.

But no matter what the previous results, this game will be a battle to the end, and provide a perfect sneak preview of the intense intercontinental contests that lie ahead on the road to Germany 2006.

To watch the action live (don’t forget to look for any action on the sidelines), tune into Galavision at 8 p.m. ET or go online and follow the match via’s Match Tracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

Continue: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_39908.html


4) "QUERIES & ANECDOTES" (w/ MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller)

Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

Baseball has Casey at the Bat. But for U.S. Soccer, it’s Kasey in the Net. The dean of active U.S. goalkeepers at age 33, the native of the Pacific Northwest has criss-crossed Europe as one of the most successful Men’s National Team players overseas. But no matter where his pro career has planted him, it hasn’t stopped him from making it back to the States in time to help the U.S. to glory at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he has compiled an impressive record of 11-2-2 with 10 shutouts and a paltry 0.46 Goals Against Average in 15 career matches dating back to the 1996 tournament and including his performance in the team’s perfect 3-0 record this month in the 2003 edition.

In ’96, he helped the MNT finish third. In ’98, he took over for an injured Brad Friedel to help the U.S. finish second, single-handedly stoning Romario and a talented Brazil team to advance to the final. Finally in 2002, Keller got to raise the enormous trophy with his teammates as they rolled through the competition. The title, the team’s first since 1991, set the stage for the team’s overwhelming success at the 2002 World Cup, a tournament that Keller had to watch from the bench after a slight injury in the days leading up to the team’s first game likely cost him the starting spot. But now in 2003, with Korea a distant memory, he’s back in form to help the U.S. to another top three finish.

Center Circle: What is it about you and standout performances at the Gold Cup?
Kasey Keller: “I don't know. Preparation, I guess. It's always nice to perform in a tournament that means something.”

CC: What do you think your single greatest performance has been for the USA?
KK: “(Versus) Brazil in 1998. I was standing on my head that day. Honestly, at the time I wasn't feeling well. I had flown in the day before, and we didn't get to train because the weather was so bad. We even thought the game might get cancelled. I made a save early in the game, and things snowballed from there. Also, I was coming off a great run at Leicester. Luck, or whatever you want to call it, goes in streaks, and I was in the middle of a streak.”

CC: What's the most important trait a goalkeeper can possess? Decisiveness? Focus? Overall experience?

Continue: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_39909.html

5) FAN "POINT/COUNTERPOINT" (Who will win the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup?)

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.

It’s all about Home Field Advantage in soccer, according to you, the average soccer fan. Just a month after collectively – and correctly – selecting France to win the 2003 Confederations Cup in their backyard, a good number of you decided that Azteca Stadium and all of its modern amenities (obvious sarcasm) presented too skewed of a playing field for the U.S. to overcome Mexico. But to be fair, just as many readers agreed that the USA’s recent dominance of our border banditos will be enough of an edge to finally topple the Ticos at the mammoth venue. Here’s what you had to say about the state of CONCACAF and who will bring home the hardware...

Continue: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_39910.html


6) "YOU DON’T KNOW JACK (MARSHALL)" (U.S. Gold Cup 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).

For the most part, the CONCACAF Gold Cup has been pretty good to the U.S. Men’s National Team. In fact, only in 2000 did the U.S. fail to finish in the top three of the 12-team regional competition. We took the first official title of Region’s Best back in 1991, but had to wait until last year to hoist the hardware a second time. With the U.S. making a run at its third CONCACAF title, let’s look back on some of the team’s highlights from the last six tournaments via some Copa del Oro trivia.

Q1: Which player was the MVP of the 2002 Gold Cup?
Q2: Which U.S. forward scored at least one goal in each of the first five Gold Cups?
Q3: Prior to 2003, the last U.S. loss in the Gold Cup came in 1998. Who was the opponent and what was the final score?
Q4: Which U.S. defender scored the MNT's first-ever goal in the Gold Cup, a 2-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago in 1991?

Answers: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_39911.html


Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2003 WWC Final Draw)
2) In Threes (w/ WNT forward Abby Wambach)
3) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavison)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller)
5) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup?)
6) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. Gold Cup Trivia)

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf).

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