world cup 2010 20 days

Clarence Goodson's journey from Springfield could culminate at World Cup

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 22, 2010

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Clarence Goodson's soccer education began in Fairfax County's schoolyards and parks and flourished in the Braddock Road Youth Club. Mom operated the video camera and dad kept statistics. His big sister attended matches when she didn't have a swim meet.

A goal rested in the back yard of their home in a Springfield subdivision and trophies stood like sentries on basement shelves. Weekdays were crammed with practices, weekends with tournaments -- a typical summer almanac for thousands of Washington area families consumed by youth soccer.

"He swam, he ran, he played basketball, he did it all," said his father, also named Clarence. "But it always came back to soccer. That was what he liked, that is what he wanted to do."

From common suburban roots sprouted an uncommon player. And on Monday, his 28th birthday, Goodson arrived at Princeton University to compete for a roster spot on the U.S. World Cup squad. Thirty players are in training camp and 23 will go to South Africa for the 32-team tournament, which begins June 11.

Even before camp opened, Goodson had a good chance of making the cut. Now, with all the other natural center backs recovering from injury or facing fitness issues, Goodson seems a likely choice when Coach Bob Bradley makes his final decisions next week.

"I have a chance," said Goodson, who has made 10 appearances with the national team and scored twice. "It's not there yet. It's obviously a goal reached being in training camp, but it's not the final goal. I haven't allowed myself to think about going yet."

Under the radar

Goodson's selection would be the culmination of a career that, in many ways, has gone by unnoticed. Despite starring for a club juggernaut, the Braddock Road Warhawks, and winning a state championship with W.T. Woodson High School, he was never selected to elite district or region squads and settled for an honorable mention All-Met award as a senior.

Unlike many of his U.S. teammates, he was never invited to any of the junior national teams. His first senior training camp came in January 2008 -- after completing his fourth season in MLS and before moving to Norwegian club IK Start.

He wasn't a complete unknown, having played three seasons at the University of Maryland, one of the NCAA's premier programs, and drafted by FC Dallas in the first round of the 2004 MLS draft.

However, "Clarence was always in the shadow of everyone and it is great now to see him pass them all," said Gene Mishalow, who coached the Warhawks for the last five years the team was together and guided them to several state titles and the under-17 national championship in 1999. "He was just a skinny kid who kept working hard." The absence of recognition puzzled Goodson.

"For whatever reason, I sort of fell through the cracks," he said. "You have a decision to make: You can decide that they are right or prove that they are wrong. I have gone about my business proving them wrong, I guess."

His father once asked him if he was bothered by being passed over. "He said, 'Well, if I keep working, people will notice,' " the elder Goodson said. "Usually the parent says something like that to the child. He taught me as much as I taught him."

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