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Oct 6, 2004

Mathis puts club incident in the past

WASHINGTON -- One thing is for sure: If Clint Mathis comes off the bench and scores a goal for the U.S. National Team against El Salvador on Saturday night, he won't be tapping his finger on his watch while staring at Bruce Arena.

For one, showing up Arena would likely result in the same sort of dire consequences that a Dallas Cowboy player would find himself in if he made such a gesture to Bill Parcells. Needless to say, it wouldn't be pretty.

Secondly, Mathis has already learned his lesson from the motion he made to his wrist while eye-balling Hannover 96 manager Ewald Lienen back on September 25 after scoring the game-winning goal against Schalke 04 as if to say: "You should have put me in earlier."

The 27-year-old striker had entered the match less than two minutes before scoring a highlight-reel goal that came as a result of his wily defensive play at midfield, skillful dribbling in traffic and a precise finish off a perfectly-executed one-two pass with teammate Thomas Christiansen.

Of course, all anyone wanted to talk about after the match was the wrist-tapping during the celebration.

In a conservative culture that frowns upon any sort of showy displays, the actions of Mathis were obviously not received very well. As the Associated Press reported, Germany's largest circulation newspaper, Bild, wrote, "A provocation like that is something a Bundesliga coach rarely has to put up with."

Yet, as both Mathis and fellow National Team striker Conor Casey, who also plays in the German Bundesliga, said on Wednesday, the incident probably received more coverage in the United States and in soccer-mad England than it received in Germany.

"It was blown out of proportion," said Mathis, now some six time zones away from Hannover as he trains with the National Team at American University for its World Cup qualifying matches against El Salvador on Saturday and against Panama on October 13. "More was made out of it than it really was."

Casey, who is in his first year playing for Mainz, said it wasn't that big of a deal over there.

"I saw Clint's goal on a highlight tape, but that was about it," said the 23-year-old striker. "It didn't get a lot of coverage at all."

Mathis said he was simply frustrated for his lack of playing time recently, which is why he acted out after scoring what was an emotional goal for a club that had only one victory under its belt at the time.

"It was the adrenaline I was experiencing in the moment," said Mathis, whose goal against Schalke 04 was his first of the season. "The guys on my team knew that, too. They didn't give me any problem about it at all."

Casey said he hasn't heard anyone talking about the incident afterwards in bad terms. The guys who mentioned it did so simply because they know that Mathis and Casey are friends and teammates on the National Team.

"Everyone knows what it's like not to play," said Casey. "They understand the frustration he was feeling, so it was kind of one of those things we watched and then were done with it."

After the match, Lienen tried to brush it off, joking with reporters saying, "If Clint is complaining like this when he is scoring each game, then I don't care about complaining."

Mathis said he talked with his manager right after the match to clear things up.

"Everything was okay afterwards," he said. "It couldn't be too much of a problem because (Lienen) started me the next game (on September 28 against Arminia Bielefeld) a few days later."

What Mathis said he doesn't know is whether he was left off the roster for Saturday's 3-1 win against Hansa Rostock as a delayed punishment or if he was getting an extra day to clear his head before traveling to the U.S. for international duty.

Arena said he wasn't even aware of it until after the fact. And since he didn't hear from any officials from Hannover 96, he's staying out of it.

"In all honesty, it's none of my business," said Arena, who saw the highlight of Mathis' goal. "I don't tell clubs how to deal with their players. Clint is a player for Hannover 96. When he is released to the National Team, he's under my responsibility. However, if there is an incident where a club thinks it's important enough to discuss it with me that would perhaps alter a decision I've made to bring in a player, I would listen.

"But I had no communication with the club."

Hannover 96, which currently sits in the middle of the table with a 2-3-2 record, is off this weekend, and won't play again until Oct. 16 against Vfl Wolfsburg at home.

Only time will tell whether Mathis will once again join fellow American Steve Cherundolo as a regular starter for the club as he was last season after signing with Hannover 96 during the winter. For now, though, Mathis doesn't want to worry about it, saying that his mind is on El Salvador and with the National Team.

"When I get back, I'll have to see where I stand with the club and the coach," said the former standout for the MetroStars, who said he's been given no indication whether he'll be used as an attacking midfielder as he was against Panama or as a striker where he has often played in the past. "I have to live with my actions. And I will. I'll suffer any consequences that may be coming, as well.

"But, for me, it's over with, and not much of a big deal."

Marc Connolly covers American soccer for ESPN Soccernet.com. He can be reached at: marc@oakwoodsoccer.com