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Josh Wolff  - US Soccer Zone Interview  
July 19, 2001
Position: Forward
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 160 lbs.
Birth Date: February 25, 1977
Hometown: Stone Mountain, GA
Visit the Official Web Site of Josh Wolff 

 Josh Wolff has already had an impressive International career. On the US Olympic team in Sydney 2000, he played in all six games and scored two goals.  His Olympic performance enabled the US to finish in fourth place, which is the best result ever for a US Team.  Josh first appeared with the full US National Team in September of 1999 vs Jamaica and scored his first goal in October 2000 against Mexico.  He was one of the top forwards on the US Under-20 team at the 1997 World Championship in Malaysia and was with the US at the World University Games in Italy in 1997. His darting speed and unpredictability make him an attacking force on the US Team.  A force that the rest of the world will begin to notice in Korea / Japan in 2002.  Josh sustained an early season foot injury that has kept him out of MLS and National Team action.   He recently took some time to answer questions for US Soccer Zone.com, about his injury, his career and the US National Team.

You scored your first goal of your National Team career in the 2-0 win against Mexico on Oct. 25, 2000 and then on Feb 28 of this year, you scored a goal and an assist in the crucial game in Columbus, OH. You were awarded the Chevrolet Man of the Match honors for your performance in that game.  I am sure the Mexican team was happy to see that you were not in the line up earlier this month in Mexico City.  What is it about Mexico, that seems to bring out your best international games?

Josh:  The two games against Mexico have certainly proven to be helpful for my confidence. I have played a couple of games against a couple of Mexican Club teams (Toluca and Pumas). I did very well in both those games, so I think that they allowed me to go into the matches against Mexico with a little bit of a feel for how they play. I just try and be as aggressive as possible and make them defend me for 90 min.

What is your most memorable moment in your International career so far?

Josh:  Most memorable moment on the international scene is clearly the qualifier against Mexico. I got an opportunity and I did not waste it. I do a pretty good job of getting into the match when I come in as a sub. I adjust to the game pretty quickly. And to be able to contribute in a game of that stature was just and unbelievable feeling.

With the exception of the loss to Mexico on July 1st, the US team has had tremendous success in the final round of qualifying.  What has Bruce Arena done to prepare this team so well?

Josh: I think the strength of Bruce is his honesty. If your stinking it up, he will take you out, and if you are doing well, he rewards you with playing time. He also will drop a few things in your ear from time to time. Things to improve on, and things to be aware of. Most of all he keeps it very competitive in his training. There are spots open in the line-up because it is so tight with who can start. This is a good thing for a coach. 

You and Clint Mathis seem to be very effective when on the field together; does this chemistry come from complimentary styles, good communication or both?

Josh:  Clint and I have played together for a while now. We have a very good understanding of one another. He can deliver very good passes in and around the goal as well as be dangerous from distance. I think we bring a certain aggression to games, we take chances that may or may not work. That might be something that we get carried away with at times also, but the key for us is to be assertive and not be afraid to make mistakes.


You have been unlucky in your career with injuries, how is the foot progressing and what kind of rehabilitation will be needed to become 100 % match fit again?

Josh:  Well, my foot injury has been a bit of a pest. The injury ended up being worse than first thought. Now I am out of my walking cast, and am in a pool doing light exercises. It will be a couple more months until I am able to run or play again. We are taking it very conservative with the recovery because I don't want to jeopardize being part of the World Cup Team.

What have you been doing with your time since your injury, especially since golf is out of the question?

Josh:  I have played a little golf, since being hurt. I have had to wear a boot for the last 6 weeks or so, and it takes away all use of the foot. The boot absorbs all the pressure, so walking around does not hurt my foot. I am not able to do much else. No riding the bike, no Stairmaster, no elliptical, and pretty much nothing that is impact related. In a week or so I will be able to use the bike, which will be a nice change.

In the past ten years, the state of Georgia seems to have become an emerging force in youth soccer development.  The National Youth Soccer Rankings have at least one Georgia team in the top 25 in each age bracket. You and Clint Mathis are both products of Georgia’s Youth Soccer Program, What has caused the popularity of youth soccer to rise so much in Georgia, which is traditionally known as a football and baseball area?

Josh:   Soccer is just growing. Maybe that is the reason. Florida, Texas, California and states in the Northeast were typical soccer hotbeds. I think soccer is becoming a very national sport. We are getting more and more exposure and I think that helps even at the grassroots level. Kids have role models to look up to, and its something the sport did not have 10 years ago. 

You were assigned to the Chicago Fire as a Project 40 player in 1998, Was it difficult for you to break into the Fire’s line up and how do you see the Project 40 program progressing?

Josh:  I came in with an optimistic view, yet realistic. I knew it would take time for me to prove myself to the coaches. They had to figure out a new team and its personnel. And since I was part of P-40, I was guaranteed to be part of the team. P-40 allowed me to play at least 2 games a week, and then train with Chicago the other days. I scored a bunch of goals with the P-40's and that is how I got my chance with the Fire. Back when I was part of it we were playing in the A-League, and that was great because we were playing all the time and we were fit. So when I got my chance I was ready, and not someone who was sitting on the bench for every game. It seems to still be a strong avenue for young players.  

All soccer players dream of playing in the World Cup.  What do you think that experience would be like?

Josh:  I certainly am one who dreamed of playing in a World Cup. Its tough to say. Being part of the Olympics was incredible. Knowing the World Cup is such a bigger event than even the Olympics, would make the experience euphoric. It would be the highlight of my career. I just hope I get healthy and am able to be part of it.    

In your opinion what does MLS have to do, to develop a fan base and work towards establishing itself as the fifth major sport?

Josh:  I think MLS is starting to get the right ideas. We are getting Soccer specific stadiums. Which creates a demand for tickets since we would not be playing in 60,000 seat stadiums. We have more identifiable player, young and old. There are more quality players in this country, due to the youth push we are getting. The stadiums are a big deal. This would allow clubs to generate money, which is what the owners want as well as the league.

What kinds of things are the Chicago Fire doing to reach the youth soccer community?

Josh:  Chicago Fire does quite a bit to get out to the communities. We created the "Fireworks for Kids Foundation", and a youth team is in the works. Players do all kinds of appearances like going to schools, being part of events in the city, and doing soccer clinics. We have been very active since day one, and that is a big part of our success.

What advice do you have for youth soccer coaches around the country?

Josh:   For coaches, I would say to make sure the players enjoy what they are doing. If the kids do not enjoy it they will not want to learn. Once the kids are willing to learn and have that determination then it is your job to teach. Make sure there is communication, it is very important for kids when they are 10 years old or 16 years old to get feedback. Players need to know what they are doing well and what they need to work on. 

You can visit the Official Josh Wolff Web Site at http://www.joshwolff.net.  On his site, you can participate in the message board, read Josh's weekly journal and of course, join the official Josh Wolff fan club.  There is even a memorabilia store where you can pick up autographed merchandise.  Joshwolff.net is the perfect way to follow his career through the MLS season and all the way to the World Cup in 2002. 

 

 

 

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