The 2001 U-17s: Where are they now?
Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a look at the U.S. youth squads that competed in past FIFA U-17 World Cups. Part 1 examined the 1999 team.
Curfew was at 10 p.m. sharp every night: Lights out.
Of course, five, maybe 10 minutes later, the lights flickered back on. And the party on campus began. This was back in 2001. In this case, the dorms at the U.S. U-17 national residency training facility in Bradenton , Fla., served as party central. No, beer never flowed from a tap. Girls never made a visit or spent the night.
"People tell me that I missed out on college, but those two years were a blast," said Jordan Stone, who played on the team. "Living with 18 or 20 guys, no parents, no nothing, it was a lot of fun. We were loud, stayed up late, watching 'Seinfeld' and 'SportsCenter.' It was like we were above the law, but in a good way."
Still, not even the rush of breaking curfew could compare to these young players' experience on the pitch. They played, practiced and, most importantly, competed like they never had. For some, as good as they were, Bradenton showed them that the game had a whole different stratosphere.
"Where everyone came from, they were the king of soccer," said Heath Pearce, now a standout defender for the U.S. men's national team, who was on the U-17 team in '01. "At first, I think the atmosphere, the schedule, was a little overwhelming. I actually was sent home after sixth months [Pearce first arrived in 2000], but was asked back two weeks later. But I grew from the experience and made the decision that I wanted to do this for a job. It definitely built a fire in me."
Despite the chemistry and camaraderie of the squad, the '01 edition struggled at the 2001 U-17 World Cup, suffering from a tough draw in the group stage. The U.S. was one of only three sides, including host Trinidad and Tobago and Iran, to go 0-3 at the tournament. The U.S. lost 1-0 in its opener to Japan, before losing to eventual tourney winner France 5-3 and eventual runner-up Nigeria 2-0.
Here is a look at where all of those players who played in the 2001 U-17 World Cup are now.
Craig Capano, midfielder: The next Emeril? Maybe. Capano is a student at the Culinary Institute of America in his hometown of Hyde Park, N.Y.
Capano suited up for the Chicago Fire from 2002-06, playing sparingly. He was cut by the Red Bulls during training camp in '07.
David Chun, defender: Chun, who played midfielder for Southern Methodist University from 2003-06, works as a financial planner for the Ayco Company, L.P., in Irvine, Calif. Chun, 24, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in June 2008 and underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy.
"I'm expected to make a full recovery," Chun says. "You don't take things for granted after this, it definitely impacts your perspective. You cherish the ties you have with friends and family a lot more."
Erik Forbes, defender: Played at Clemson from 2002-05, sitting out most of his senior year with a spine injury.
Forbes spent June 2007 to March 2008 traveling in South American (Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Bolivia) with friends. He is now working on a master's degree in nursing at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
"Part of what I saw in the slums of Argentina sparked me to go back to school," Forbes says. "I don't want to work here in the U.S. I want to get involved in international health. First and foremost, I never wanted to be a person who works an office job."
Gray Griffin, defender: Philip Gray Griffin died in October 2002 in a car accident in Spartanburg County, S.C. He was 18.
According to an AP report, Griffin, then a freshman at Furman, was killed when his Mitsubishi Montero overturned at approximately 2:50 a.m. on Interstate 85. Two of his teammates with the U-17 team and at Furman, Josh Villalobos and Chefik Simo, were in the car. Simo almost died from the injuries he suffered. Villalobos sustained multiple cuts and serious bruises.
Griffin captained the U-17 team at the 2001 World Cup.
"Gray was my best friend, a leader, a leader every team needs," Simo says. "He was the heart and soul of the team, a guy everyone loved. I was closer with him at Bradenton and had the pleasure of living with him for 2½ years. I enjoyed his friendship, things would be a lot different if Gray was still around."
Adds Villalobos: "I definitely still go through periods of time when I think about the accident. For sure, there are still some tough nights. It will never be gone. But I also think about all the good times I had with Gray and what [the accident] taught me about life."
Jordan Harvey, defender: Harvey worked his way up through the Reserve Division in 2007 and played in 15 games for the Colorado Rapids last season.
Harvey played four years at UCLA (2002-05). His class was the first in school history to win four PAC-10 titles.
Eddie Johnson, forward: Johnson is making runs for Cardiff City in Wales. Johnson is on a loan from Fullham of the English Premier League.
Johnson, a veteran U.S. national player, joined Fullham in January 2008. He previously played for Kansas City and FC Dallas in the MLS.
Johnson received his first cap and scored his first goal for the senior U.S. team against El Salvador on Oct. 9, 2004, becoming one of a small group of American players to get his first international goal in a World Cup qualifier. Four days later, Johnson scored a hat trick in his second appearance against Panama. Johnson totaled seven goals in his first six World Cup qualifiers and is already third on the U.S. all-time scoring list in World Cup qualifiers.
David Johnson, midfielder: In 2002, about six months after leaving residency, Johnson signed with Willem II in Holland's first division.
Johnson returned to the U.S. to play for the L.A. Galaxy in '04. He sat out the next year with a sports hernia, and in '06 trained with teams in Holland, Belgium and Spain, but didn't receive a contract. Johnson, who lives in Riverside, Calif., suited up for the Puerto Rico Islanders in '07 and sat out last year for personal reasons. He is mulling a comeback.
"I'm still re-evaluating some things," Johnson says. " was tough for me. I've had some things happen in my life, but soccer has always been my passion, my love. I just want to make sure I'm ready to come back."
Paul Michael Johnson, striker: Played at the University of Virginia from 2002-04. However, back and knee injuries forced Johnson to miss his senior season.
Johnson took a year off and graduated in May 2007. He is now an assistant men's soccer coach at Division III Drew University in Madison, N.J. Johnson will play for the Newark Iron Bound Express of the USL's Premier Development League for the second straight year this summer.
Johnson hopes to attend an open tryout with Philadelphia's new MLS franchise next year.
"I always promised myself that, when soccer became a job, I would stop doing it," Johnson says. "That's what happened at Virginia, at one point. Soccer wasn't fun anymore. I stepped away from the game and fell back in love with it."
Chris Lancos, defender: Living in Middletown, N.J., Lancos is currently a salesman for a network security firm in New York.
Lancos played at the University of Maryland from 2002-05. He helped the Terrapins to the NCAA College Cup semifinals in each of his first three seasons and to the national title as a senior.
He was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 MLS supplemental draft (41st overall by Real Salt Lake), but opted instead to sign with the youth team of Germany's FC Kaiserslautern. After a year in Germany, he was allowed to terminate his contract early in January 2007 and subsequently signed with Real Salt Lake for the 2007 MLS season. Real Salt Lake allowed Lancos to leave the team and pursue other playing options in April 2008. However, he decided to retire.
Mike Magee, midfielder/forward: Appeared in a career-high 26 games for the Red Bulls, helping their unexpected run to the MLS Cup final.
Magee, selected in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, scored five goals with an assist. He became the youngest player to make his professional debut at 18 years, 222 days for New York on April 12, 2003, against Columbus. The Red Bulls traded him to Los Angeles for a second-round pick in January.
Justin Mapp, midfielder: Mapp, a dangerous flanker, has put himself on the MLS map, seemingly getting better each season. He has also represented the U.S. national team.
He had another strong year for Chicago this fall, posting two goals and eight assists, helping the Fire reach the Eastern Conference final. Mapp, 24, broke into the MLS in 2002 as a sub for D.C. United, which traded him to the Fire for Dema Kovalenko in December 2002.
Chad Marshall, defender: Marshall's lockdown play in the back line helped the Columbus Crew to the MLS Cup this season.
Led by Marshall, the Crew allowed just 36 goals last year, third-fewest in the league. He added two goals in the playoffs. For his efforts, Marshall was named the 2008 MLS defender of the year. Columbus re-signed Marshall to a multiyear contract in December.
Marshall, who played at Stanford for two years, has been with Columbus since 2004.
Heath Pearce, defender: Pearce has become a staple of the U.S. national team. Pearce plays for German club FC Hansa Rostock. He previously played for FC Nordsjaelland in the Danish Superliga.
"I was sort of always in the background with the residency team, I never really made an impact," Pearce says. "[Coach] John Ellinger told us that only three or four of us would make the national team. At that point, you kind of felt invisible. But [Ellinger] continued to believe in me. I continued to work hard and feel blessed to have the opportunity to play college, pro and represent my country at the highest level."
Santino Quaranta, midfielder: Cut by the Red Bulls in January 2008, Quaranta returned to his roots with the D.C. United last season, rising from the ashes.
Quaranta played well, tallying five goals and four assists in 27 games, including 23 starts. He first broke into MLS with D.C. United in 2001 at age 16. The club traded Quartana to Los Angeles in 2006 and, a year later, the Galaxy shipped him to the Red Bulls.
Adam Schuerman, goalkeeper: Played for UConn from 2002-05 and attended the MLS combine. However, feeling burned out, Schuerman decided to join the work force. He worked as a salesman for Genworth Financial in Boston from June 2006 until August 2007. Schuerman, who has a degree in international business, now works as a product specialist salesman for Metavante in his hometown of Milwaukee.
He travels the East Coast, selling debit cards to banks of all sizes. Schuerman may attend law school next year and has contemplated getting into sports management.
"Things are going great, they couldn't be better," Schuerman says. "I was burnt out from soccer, but the U-17 team let me travel the world for free. I developed interests in different cultures and languages. [Metavante] is expanding globally and I may get more opportunities to go overseas."
Chefik Simo, midfielder: Suffered several injuries in the Griffin crash, including torn ligaments in his knee, a broken pelvis, stomach ruptures, a broken wrist, lacerations on his face and a separated shoulder. Simo spent two months in the hospital recovering.
He transferred to the University of Virginia and played for the Cavaliers in 2004. However, because of the injuries sustained in the crash, doctors advised Simo to quit. He graduated from Virginia two years ago and is now an agent with Proactive Sports Management in Washington, D.C.
"My job is to identify and sign new talent," Simo says. "I enjoy it and it's almost therapeutic, not being able to be able to play, but being around players and the game. It's a good situation."
Jordan Stone, midfielder: A former Project-40 player, Stone signed with the Dallas Burn, now FC Dallas, in 2001.
Stone retired three years later to pursue a life in the ministry. He is now an associate pastor at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. Stone does everything from preaching to counseling members to handling administrative duties at Providence.
"The lord called me to the ministry," Stone says. "I grew up in a Christian home and, at one time, soccer was my ministry. I'm not so far removed from soccer, but I don't miss it. I love what I'm doing, this is my calling."
Josh Villalobos, midfielder: Played at Furman from 2002-05 and is now a personal trainer at First Coast YMCA in Jacksonville, Fla.
Villalobos is also a part-time pre-med student at Florida Community College. Villalobos might pursue a career as a physician's assistant. As for his job at the Y, Villalobos said: "I enjoy it a lot. It's not just being a personal trainer, it's talking to people about their lifestyle and weight issues. It's rewarding to help people reach their goals."
Tyson Wahl, defender: Seattle Sounders FC plucked Wahl from the Kansas City Wizards in the expansion draft in November. He played in 32 games, including 26 starts, for the Wizards over the past three years. Wahl, an All-American at the University of California, started in 16 games for Kansas City last season.
Ford Williams, goalkeeper: A standout at the University of North Carolina from 2003-06, Williams is a development coordinator in the athletic department at Georgia State University .
Williams does fundraising, working with booster clubs, alumni, former athletes and friends of the school. He started as an intern at Georgia State, moving on to grad assistant, before being elevated to the coordinator position.
"I love this job, I'm excited about coming to work every day," Williams says. "I want to be an athletic director some day. North Carolina is my dream job, but I'm not locked in."
Others on the 2001 residency roster, but not members of the 2001 U-17 World Cup squad:
Justin Rodriguez covers USL, NCAA and youth soccer for ESPNsoccernet. He is the soccer writer for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., and can be reached at email@example.com.