Former South Carolina men's soccer standout Josh Wolff has enjoyed a celebrated professional career, which he continues in 2010 with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. As of May 24, 2010, Wolff has scored 73 career goals and 39 assists playing for the Chicago Fire and the Wizards during his MLS career. (Wolff - MLS Bio Page) A three-year letterwinner (1995-97) for longtime South Carolina head coach Mark Berson, Wolff appeared 52 times for the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team, including participating as a two-time member of the U.S. World Cup team - Korea/Japan '02 and Germany '06. He also played every minute of the U.S.' six contests in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, scoring two goals for the Red, White and Blue.
GamecocksOnline.com recently spoke with Wolff on his experiences at South Carolina, his career and his World Cup memories.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from playing soccer at South Carolina? A: My first game. We played on the road at Clemson and beat them 3-2. Knowing what that rivalry was about and me being a freshman, going to Clemson and winning on their field was quite memorable and fun, one of those lasting images. Another would be when we beat Furman when they opened their stadium and Clint (Mathis) had a goal with no time left on the clock. It was also a very exciting way to win the game.
Q: Who was your toughest opponent to play during your time at South Carolina? A: The Clemson games were always tough. They were obviously our rivals so most of the games against them were certainly the most heated, the most emotional and thus provided the best entertainment.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from playing in the World Cup? A: We played Mexico in 2002. Fortunately I was able to play, and I actually had an assist in that game. We had advanced out of our group, and we faced Mexico, which for us at the time was a good thing. We'd had good results against Mexico during that time period. That, and we were able to beat them, our biggest rivals, and to do it on the world stage was a great feeling because we had taken it pretty heavily from them over the years previous to 2000. It was great, quite memorable. Good goals for us and it got us through to the next round in the World Cup, which was certainly one of our best finishes. It was a lot of fun and exciting.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received from a coach? A: Clive Charles (longtime coach within the U.S. Soccer organization) told us when you cross the lines (of the field) it's all about soccer. It doesn't mean you can't have fun, but once you cross the lines, whether it's for training or for games, it's about competing, winning and getting better. You have the rest of your day, the rest of your time to goof around, but when you're out on the field, it's business. It is one of those things I got when I was 21 or 22, and it certainly applies still today. When you're young, you don't see everything for what it's worth, but that was one of those things, and he was certainly an important coach along the lines for me.
Q: What is a typical day like when in camp with the National Team in preparation for the World Cup? A: The next stage for the group is to start preparing for the World Cup. A lot of that will be fitness, and just general camaraderie stuff, whether that be playing, or drills, but it's certainly going to be intense. Daily training with the National Team is usually an hour to an hour and a half, and it is an intense training, but that's the only way when you get the best players together, which isn't often, so it's important to make those times matter. A lot has to do with chemistry, camaraderie and being a team and being true to each other. You're coming together for the biggest event in the world, and it's important to be clear and understanding of what your role is and what is expected of you from the team. It's a lot of fun, but it certainly comes with a lot of pressure.
Q: It was recently announced that the Wizards would host Manchester United to inaugurate the New Arrowhead Stadium at the end of July. What is the buzz around the team for that match? A: It's great news. Six, seven years ago, when I first came to Kansas City, we played in Arrowhead Stadium. This is a moment when soccer is on the rise in our country. We're getting our own soccer-specific stadium in Kansas City, and the kids just play by the hundreds of thousands. Now that we're playing Manchester United, this is an opportunity for fans, for kids, for us, to see and play against the best players in the world, the biggest soccer club in the world. It's a unique experience. I don't think that you get this opportunity too many times in life and hopefully the fans from all over the country come out and see us. There are a number of teams that come from England and tour the U.S. during the summer, and we're fortunate to get the biggest one of them all. We're very excited about it.
Q: Who is your toughest MLS opponent? A: There are a lot. There is so much parity in our league these days. There are some teams that run away and are extremely good, and then for the most part you have the bulk of the teams that are in the middle, that try to sort themselves out through the year. Los Angeles has been good the last couple years and we (Kansas City) have our own rivalries with Columbus and Chicago. There are so many. I think there is a lot of parity in the league, and that makes for good games.
Q: Have you and former South Carolina teammate Clint Mathis faced each other much during your professional careers? A: You play everyone a couple times a year (in an MLS season). He was in Germany, and I was over there a little bit. We've faced each other a few times, and we're very familiar with each other since we came along at the same time. I have a great deal of respect for Clint. Always good times, we always share good memories and have good times when we're together.
Q: What would you say to young student-athletes that strive to play professional soccer in the future? A: You have to set goals and those goals change and evolve along the way. When you're 14 and you have a goal to do something, it changes when you're 16, changes when you're 18. I think you have to keep that hunger, you have to keep that drive and also a willingness to be coached and to learn. There are a lot of ways to succeed in this country and soccer has continued to blossom. First and foremost, be a good student, secondly do as well as you can with what you have in your abilities and hopefully that can carry you on to high school, college, youth national teams, wherever it may be.
Q: Complete this phrase: "If I wasn't playing soccer I would be..." A: It's a scary question. I wish I knew the answer to that. I can't answer because soccer has been everything for me. It's given me everything and when I'm done playing soccer I'll stay within the sport in some aspect.