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.
Then: Was a close second choice in goal for the U-23s, having split time with Brown at the ’99 Pan Am Games and the 2000 qualifying tournament in Hershey. Was a third-year pro in 2000, but had made just two appearances in his first two seasons behind incumbent Tony Meola. After being stuck watching from the MetroStars bench in MLS, he was again relegated to the sidelines when Friedel signed on for Sydney.
Now: Talk about a success story… In just three years, Howard has gone from talented back-up with loads of potential but almost no experience to being the stellar starting ‘keeper for arguably the top club in world. Howard came alive following 2000, putting in two-and-a-half solid seasons as the Metros starter that were good enough for a call-up as a starter with the full U.S. Men’s National Team at the difficult 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup and later a marquee signing with Manchester United, where he’s been almost shockingly good in helping the team to the top of the EPL table.
Then: Califf had just been drafted by the Galaxy and landed on the Olympic Qualifying team after success at the U-20 level and with the U-23s at the ’99 Pan Am Games. After team captain Brian Dunseth went down after the second game in Hershey, Califf filled in admirably in the final two matches and then found himself entrenched in the starting lineup in Australia, starting all six matches and scoring a goal in the 3-1 win over Kuwait.
Now: Califf has since carved out a successful career starting in central defense for the Galaxy, where he helped them win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2001 and MLS Cup in 2002.
Then: Being groomed as the future right back of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Cherundolo was perhaps the team’s best defender in Hershey, starting all four games for a defense that conceded just two goals in four games. But unfortunately, Cherundolo suffered a knee injury while training with Hannover 96 in Germany and was forced to miss the Olympics, conceding the right back spot to speedy MNT "overaged" defender Frankie Hejduk.
Now: The San Diego, Calif., native went on to play in eight MNT games in 2001 and made the 2002 World Cup squad as an 11th hour replacement for the injured Chris Armas, but an untimely injury again forced him to the sideline as he got hurt while training in Korea and never saw the field. Cherundolo is still at Hannover and is arguably the club’s top defender, if not one of the top outside backs in the Bundesliga.
Then: Corrales was a staple at left back in Hershey, playing all four games to help the U.S. qualify, but in Australia, he was bumped from the starting lineup by MNT "overaged" defender Jeff Agoos and only appeared in one game at the 2000 Olympics.
Now: The Cerritos, Calif., native has found a home as a role player with the San Jose Earthquakes, where he started his very young career in 1996. After finishing a stint with the MetroStars in 2000, he returned to the ‘Quakes and was a part of both of their MLS Cup championship teams in 2001 and 2003.
Then: Denton was called in as an alternate after injuries to left-sided defender/midfielder Joey DiGiamarino, and came off the bench to replace Corrales in the team’s two final matches in Hershey.
Now: Coincidentally, Denton still plays alongside McCarty on the back line of the Columbus Crew, where he’s been a regular at left back over the last two seasons after being picked up by D.C. United in 2000 and making a brief stop in Tampa Bay in 2001. In 2002, Dunseth was also with the Crew, giving them three of four defenders on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Qualifying Team. Now Denton might have a chance to play with current U-23 defenders Chad Marshall and Chris Wingert for the 2004 MLS season.
Then: Dunseth was the team captain in the early part of 2000 before getting injured and missing the final two games of the qualifying tournament in Hershey, thereby handing the captaincy to central back and long-time teammate Chad McCarty. Dunseth had the same bad luck at the Olympics, sitting out all but the team’s final game, in which he stepped in for McCarty (suspended due to yellow cards) as captain and narrowly missed tying the bronze medal match against Spain before the U.S. fell 2-0.
Now: After Sydney and four years in New England, Dunseth was traded to Miami, then Columbus (where he paired with McCarty in 2002) before ending up in Dallas.
Then: McCarty was about as stable as they come for the U-23s in 2000, starting all four games in Hershey, where he took over the captain’s armband from Dunseth, and then playing five of six matches in Australia on the team’s remarkable run to the semifinals. Although he did concede two penalty kicks in the competition, his leadership in central defense with newcomer Danny Califf was part of the reason the team went so far.
Now: After Sydney, the Fresno, Calif., native missed most of 2001 with a knee injury before landing in Columbus in 2002, where he starts in central defense.
Then: Coming off the U-17 MNT’s fourth place finish at New Zealand ’99, there was a lot of talk about the wiry midfielder being the next big thing. But for the U-23s, the 5’7" speedster wasn’t a sure-fire starter for the qualifying squad, starting just two of the four games in Hershey and barely missing the final cut for the Olympics.
Now: The Sydney snub might’ve been just what DaMarcus needed, as he set out to vastly improve many facets of his game and had a decent rookie season with the Fire as they advanced to the 2000 MLS Cup Final. Beasley has been one of Chicago’s most dangerous attackers for the last three years, as he has been for the full U.S. Men’s National Team. Beasley came out of almost nowhere to earn 12 caps in 2002, helping the team to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title and making three appearances in the team’s remarkable run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.
Then: Back in 2000, O’Brien was being talked about as a possible heir apparent to Claudio Reyna in central midfield for the U.S. Men’s National Team, but similar to the case of Cherundolo, untimely injuries seemed to be preventing him from realizing his potential with the full team. But his performance for the U-23s that year re-instilled faith in his career trajectory, as he stayed healthy and ran the midfield both in Hershey and Sydney, where he played every minute of each competition.
Now: O’Brien made a triumphant return from injury just in time for 2002, where he went on to start and play every minute of the USA’s improbable run to the quarterfinals at Korea/Japan. O’Brien’s stunning goal against Portugal in the opener sent shock waves across America that are still being felt today. As a pro, he’s battled back into the Ajax starting lineup after yet another serious injury.
Then: One of two hometown boys at the tournament, Olsen was the U.S. Soccer "it" boy of the moment, showing promise after two solid seasons at D.C. United and pulling double duty with the full U.S. Men’s National Team. Bennie Boy provided two assists in the team’s 3-0 opening win in Hershey and worked tirelessly on the left flank across the next three games to help the U.S. qualify. In Sydney, he was equally effective, appearing in all six games on the way to the medal round.
Now: The exhausting 2000 season finally took its toll on Olsen, who spent the next 18 months dealing with a serious ankle injury that kept him from a transfer to Nottingham Forest. Olsen returned to United in 2002 and was back in form in 2003, earning him another call-up to the full MNT this month.
Then: Thorrington’s impressive goal and assist performance in coming off the bench for Beasley in the U-23’s convincing 3-0 opening win over Honduras might have sealed the Chicago Fire rookie’s fate with the team. Thorrington started two of the next three matches to help the U.S. earn a trip to Sydney, but didn’t make the trip himself.
Now: Already signed with the English First Division’s Huddersfield Town back in 2000, the versatile midfielder has remained with the club, but injured his ankle early in the 2003-04 season and is currently trying to work his way back into the starting lineup.
Then: Vagenas was "steady Eddie" in the middle of the park for the U-23s, combining superbly with O’Brien to stifle the opposition, then transition into the attack. Vagenas held down the fort at defensive midfield for all four games in Hershey and played every minute in Australia, leading the team with three goals, all of which were clutch penalty kicks.
Now: Vagenas has remained the same controlling presence in the center of the field for the Galaxy, where he has spent the last four years and won an Open Cup and MLS Cup playing in front of Califf.
Then: The other alternate on the Olympic Qualifying team, Winters was tabbed by U-23 MNT head coach Clive Charles (also his coach at the University of Portland) to replace an injured Sasha Victorine in a variety of midfield roles. Winters came off the bench in the team’s first two games in Hershey to spell Vagenas, but did not end up making the final roster for Sydney.
Now: After finishing his college career as a Pilot, Winters stayed close to home and played with the Portland Timbers of the A-League in 2002, but is currently a free agent and hasn’t signed with a team for the 2004 season.
Then: Being a Pennsylvania kid (Philly, to be exact) like Olsen meant the competition in Hershey was to be a showcase for his talents, and he didn’t disappoint. Albright scored the team’s first two goals in a 3-0 win over eventual champ Honduras and set up the first two goals in the all-important 4-0 semi-final win over Guatemala. He went on to perform well months later in Sydney, scoring two goals in the team’s three opening round games playing as a converted midfielder on the opposite side of the field as Olsen.
Now: Albright’s pro career has been up and down since Sydney, both in measurable scoring stats and position on the field. Albright spent two full seasons as a forward for D.C. United before being sent to the L.A. Galaxy, where he also plays in the midfield and helped the team to a 2002 MLS Cup crown. Now for the U.S. Men’s National Team camp, he’s trying out at right fullback in order to earn a spot on the team going forward into World Cup Qualifying.
Then: Casey was coming off a stellar freshman season playing for Charles at Portland where he scored a whopping 23 goals and added seven assists and earned Freshman of the Year honors. Casey’s effectiveness as a big target up front was lessened in playing quicker Central American teams, meaning he only played in the first two matches in Hershey. But while his stats don’t exactly show it in the Olympics, Casey was a key player for the U.S. as a huge target up front that drew the other team’s defenders, allowing the likes of Wolff, Olsen and Albright to get into the attack and be dangerous on the wings.
Now: Since Sydney, Casey has spent most of his time playing and living in Germany, where he signed a pro contract after his sophomore college season. He started out at Borussia Dortmund before being sold to Hannover 96, where he played with Cherundolo. Casey was recently loaned to Second Division club FC Karlsruhe, where he’s the team’s leading scorer after ringing up five goals in the club’s last seven games before the winter break.
Then: Like Beasley, Donovan came into 2000 buoyed by the U-17’s success at the World Youth Championship and his Golden Ball trophy as tournament MVP, but the transition into the U-23 mix wasn’t an immediate one. Donovan spent the first two games in Hershey on the bench before exploding for two goals in the crucial 4-0 semifinal win over Guatemala. Over in Sydney, he was deemed still not ready for prime time, coming off the bench in the team’s final four games after watching the first two. His one shining moment was a late insurance goal in a 3-1 win over Kuwait that was enough to help the U.S. win Group C on superior goal differential.
Now: Let’s see … since the Olympics, Landon has: 1) scored in his full MNT debut; 2) won two MLS Cups in three seasons with San Jose Earthquakes; 3) scored two goals at the 2002 World Cup; 4) been on the cover of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine; and 5) won a brand new Chevy TrailBlazer for U.S. Soccer’s top honor as Chevrolet Male Athlete of the Year as the U.S. MNT’s leading scorer in 2003. The player from the U-23 Class of 2000 that was seen by many as "Most Likely to Succeed" has done that and then some.
Then: After coming back from an injury, Wolff opened April 2000 as the U-23s "super sub," but started and scored in each of the team’s final two games in Hershey. Wolffie took it to another level in Sydney, scoring two goals with two assists in six matches as perhaps the team’s biggest offensive force in the tournament.
Now: Injuries continue to plague Wolff’s promising career, both at the Chicago Fire and now with the Kansas City Wizards, but he’s still one of the top forwards in MLS and with the full U.S. Men’s National Team when healthy. After missing most of 2001, Wolff scored a goal in a pair of World Cup qualifying games, helped the team to a 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and made two appearances at the 2002 World Cup.
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]
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