- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Cover boy Clint Mathis may start the World Cup on the U.S. team bench. He's already been criticized by his coach.
The dynamic attacker is still recovering from knee surgery last summer, U.S. coach Bruce Arena said yesterday, repeating that Mathis needs better work habits. Because Arena is reluctant to start players who can't go 90 minutes, the remarks left open the possibility that Mathis won't be on the field when the Americans open on Wednesday against Portugal.
"In the next couple of years, if Clint really wants to move forward, he has got to bend a little bit towards conforming to the way professionals on big clubs have to act," Arena said. "He'll get there. I think he's still fighting a little bit of the injury.
"It's been a tough month for him, because he was physically behind the other players. Having said that, I think he's got a real good future if he can just develop some better habits as a professional, and that will happen, and that's part of being in an environment where that is required of a player."
Arena has said for more than a month it would be difficult to start a player not fully fit.
"You can't base your substitutes based on fitness. Not only Clint," he said. "You can see why some teams are not playing players because they're less than 100 percent."
This morning, Arena said he was satisfied with the performance in training of his entire team, including Mathis. "We've had a great run with our 23 players," he said.
Mathis, a 25-year-old midfielder and forward who plays for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, was hurt in practice last June5 and didn't return to the national team until Jan.27 as a reserve in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He's made 11 appearances this year, including seven starts, but has played just three complete games.
"In Clint's situation, I think any way you look at it, the knee injury he suffered is going to take time," Arena said yesterday. "For everybody, the road to recovery is different. His has been a little slower."
Mathis has been the most creative American player in the last two years, scoring the go-ahead goal in the semifinal qualifying win at Barbados that advanced the U.S. team; making the pass that led to the go-ahead goal in the win over Mexico that opened the final qualifying round; and scoring the lone goal at Honduras. According to Arena, Mathis hasn't been in pressure situations comparable to the World Cup.
"He hasn't been in big club games, international games, and he missed pressure-cooker games in qualifying," Arena said.
Mathis, in addition to his talent, also has an ebullient personality, one that makes him stand out.
"Clint's a good guy," Arena said. "I wouldn't say flaky; he's different."
When the Americans arrived at the World Cup, Mathis didn't shave for several days. He trimmed his beard to a Fu Manchu, then to a mustache.
"I imagine if I see him today his head will be shaved," Arena said.
Mathis was not available for comment yesterday.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide