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Aug. 13, 2002

Aug. 13, 2002 – The 2002 World Cup U.S. Team made quite an impression in the world of soccer this summer, advancing to the quarterfinals against Germany and marking its best finish since 1930. The U.S. team featured strong representation from the University of Virginia, including 3 coaches, 1 strength and conditioning coach, and 3 players. Recently, UVA Men’s Soccer Head Coach and U.S. Team Assistant Coach George Gelnovatch shared some thoughts on his World Cup experience and the upcoming 2002 men’s soccer season.

“The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, but most Americans can’t totally comprehend it”, Gelnovatch states. “Until you’re up against the South Korean team, surrounded by 70,000 red-shirted Korean fans singing organized chants and unable to hear the person next to you, you don’t realize the magnitude and rush of the event.”

According to Gelnovatch, the security around the American team, fueled by the September 11th attacks, was both comforting and unnerving. “There were Secret Service, CIA, and other officials with us at all times. Helicopters circled over our practices. Chemical detection zones surrounded them.”

The U.S. Team’s daily schedule while in Korea was very regimented. Gelnovatch explains, “We trained in the morning at 10am, had a team lunch and team meeting until about 2pm. The staff held meetings until a team dinner at 6pm, and more meetings until 9pm before going to sleep. Other than visiting the demilitarized zone and going to games, it was all work, the reason why we were there. I left the hotel once.”

George feels UVA’s contribution to the successful World Cup run is a tribute to Virginia’s soccer program. When asked what he can bring back from the event to this season’s team and to the program, he answers, “Any international involvement in soccer makes you a better coach. My involvement in U.S. soccer, coaching the under 18 national team, and interacting with high-level soccer teams in overseas countries improves my coaching abilities. I also hope to see more UVA players in the 2006 World Cup.”

This year’s UVA Men’s Soccer Team begins practice Thursday, August 15th and they will return most of the outstanding team from 2001. “I think our team is on a mission.” Gelnovatch says. “After losing our last 2 games, we realized the importance of remaining mentally and physically prepared at the end of the season as well as throughout it. Since we’re returning most of last year’s team, I think the lessons learned will pay off.”

The 2002 team is currently ranked #1 in the preseason in the toughest college soccer conference. This, in turn, carries with it many expectations. “We went 6-0 in the conference last year and were not scored upon. These two accomplishments are extremely tough in our conference, and I’d be very surprised to see it happen again this season. Our talent runs deep and this year, it will be key for us to balance it. Because only 11 players can be playing on the field and because we have more than 11 that are capable of starting, keeping the players fresh and happy, rotating them constantly, and giving everyone valuable playing time will be a delicate but necessary process.”

The team’s preseason play begins in the IPFW Invitational in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on August 23 against Michigan State and Indiana. The first home game and regular season play starts with the Virginia Soccer Classic on August 30 and September 1 against Kentucky and Rhode Island respectively. The games will be played at Klockner Stadium.

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