Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mike Quarino: Once Twice in a Lifetime

Mike Quarino snuffs out Ryan Babel’s attack.

For the second year in a row UF was astounded by the sheer awesomeness of Showdown in Chinatown and for the second year in a row UF has been lucky enough to have someone who was a part of the awesomeness to answer our questions about the awesomeness of the event. This year we managed to snag ourselves an interview with Marc Stein's Man of the Match, winning goalkeeper for Team Reyna, Mike Quarino, who put up with us last year as well.

Now, on with the awesome.

You do realize you, and Marc Stein, are two of the luckiest soccer players ever, to manage to play in a charity game with NBA and soccer superstars two years in a row, right? Is this something you hold over all of your soccer playing friends' heads at any opportunity?

Oh yeah, we realize it. It was funny, all of the players were on one shuttle heading over to the field. And you look around and just have a feeling like “what am I doing here?” Then you get a little smile on your face and realize just how lucky you are.

Have you played the lottery lately? If not, you should be.

I have not, but I may take your advice…it can’t hurt.

How did you manage to get into this year's game, as well? Do you have incriminating photos of somebody?

At the advice of my attorney I am not allowed to discuss these photos. Kidding, no photos, I guess I played well enough last year to get the call. Claudio reached out to me and asked if I wanted to play again. I answered yes before he finished the question. My motivation this year was to play well enough to get another call next year.

How was this year's event different from last year's? Was the atmosphere different?

It was a little more controlled this year, there was more security and they put up bleachers for the fans so there weren’t any people standing on cars, climbing fences, or hanging from trees. That was probably the best for everyone’s safety.

Were you more nervous?

No, more anxious. Just ready to get out there get playing. We were on the field for about 20 minutes before we started playing. I had Tony Parker warm me up (just saying that is still crazy for me), so I was ready to go from the first whistle. Then a few minutes in Flamini scored a great goal on a volley, and I had a flash back to the volley Nash hit last year. I think you have a picture of that somewhere. [Ed. Note: Yep, third pic down on this post]

Marc Stein said you were the Man of the Match for the winning side. Do you think you had a good game? Any personal highlights from the match? Who was the MoM in your eyes?

I told Marc if he said that I would pass to him every time I get the ball if we are invited back next year. I think I played pretty well, there are a few goals I would like back. Steve had 2 on me that I thought I could have saved…including the PK. I got a piece of it, but not enough to keep it out. Personal highlights, well Davids had a few good chances that I was able to keep out. So not having him score on me was nice. There were back to back saves on Steve and Martin Nash that made me smile on the inside. And Thierry had a semi breakaway on me that I was able to send over the bar. My MoM would probably be Claudio or Tony Parker. Adrian Mutu had a pretty good game as well. A true group effort from Team Reyna.

Now, did you ever think being a GK would come in so handy in your life?

Absolutely not. I could never have imagined this. It’s crazy for me to be on the same field as some of the guys that were on my Champions League fantasy team.

Does Nash recruit you to play keeper in his rumored pickup games in NYC?

No, I don’t think Steve and I have ever played on the same team, we are always against each other. Davide Di Malta, who was the other keeper in last year’s match usually minds the net for Steve’s team. Unfortunately Davide was traveling for this year’s Showdown and could not play. We usually make a couple of trips a year into Chinatown for these rumored games.

I understand you are no longer with NY Red Bull and are now working for the expansion MLS club Philadelphia Union. How are the preparations for the inaugural 2010 season coming along?

That is correct, I came to Philadelphia in October as the Director of Ticket Sales and Fan Services to make sure we are sold out for all of our matches in 2010. The other members of the front office have been great to work with, and we continue to grow and move forward in our plans to make this club a success on and off the field. The fans have been absolutely amazing. They’ve been waiting for a MLS team in this market for a long time, and their support has been very impressive. I am very fortunate to be part of this club and can’t wait for our first match to get here.

When will the stadium be done? How are ticket sales?

Construction is coming along and we are targeting a spring 2010 opening. Let’s all hope for good weather in the northeast. Ticket sales have been tremendous. With a very small staff we have already eclipsed 7,000 season tickets. Our stadium is going to have about 18,500 seats and we will cap season tickets at 15,000, so we have already sold about 50% of our season tickets 9 months before we play a game, and before we have signed any players.

Do you think Philadelphia can match Seattle's impressive opening campaign?

I absolutely think we can, and that is our goal. Not only to match, but to surpass what both Toronto and Seattle have done. Every expansion team coming in should be looking to raise the bar that has been set by the previous expansion clubs. That bar has been set very high because both of those clubs have done a great job promoting their teams and embracing their respective soccer communities. But we are confident in reaching our goals, and as many people know Philadelphia is a very passionate sports town. We are looking forward to having one of the best atmospheres and most intimidating stadiums in Major League Soccer.

How does it feel to have penalties scored on you by Thierry Henry and Steve Nash [see photo above] in successive years?

Not as good as it would have felt to have saved penalties from Henry and Nash in successive years. But that’s not bad company to be connected with. So I have that going for me, which is nice. [Ed. Note: Marc Stein says the Nash penalty was revoked at halftime, so technically Mike did not get scored on by Steve Nash from a PK]

I don't believe I asked this last year, but do you have any souvenirs, autographs, shoes from the players in the matches? Or is it just the memories?

I did get a few last year, I took one of the game balls and had all the guys sign it. Greg Berhalter left the inserts for his boots in my bag. This year Mutu wore my boots since it rained and he did not want to play in flats. That and all the pictures on the internet have been more than enough.

Maybe it was the boots.

Is there any particular moment that stands out for you about this year's event? Or is there a particularly interesting story we might be interested in? I ask because Marc Stein tweeted that on the bus ride over Grant Hill was talking to Ryan Babel about Johan Cruyff playing in the NASL. It seems like that would have incredibly surreal to hear/see.

Having Tony Parker warm me up, he was a very cool guy. Grant Hill megging Chris Bosh. Having Reggie Bush drop in at the hotel before the game (he just happened to be staying in the same hotel as us). Mathieu Flamini unleashing a rocket past me for Team Nash’s first goal of the game. Those were some of this year’s highlights. Grant is a big soccer fan, he was talking about the Washington Diplomats and Baltimore Blast, it was pretty surreal.

Two Goal Scorer, Tony Parker

Who was the best player of the non-soccer-playing-professional-athletes this year?

That’s a tough one this year. I would say that Grant Hill and Tony Parker were both pretty good. Tony got our first two goals so I would have to give him the nod. But Grant did get one past as well. It should be noted that this was Chris Bosh’s first time ever playing soccer, he was a great sport about it and had a great time. He was this year’s Baron Davis. I have a lot of respect for these guys coming out and playing against world class players in a sport that they have no experience in. To come out and pretty much know there’s a good chance you’re going to embarrass yourself for charity says a lot about their character. Kudos to both of those guys.

Fan fave Chris Bosh celebrates.

I was expecting another question about the capris. This year I wore them by choice. I would like to give a shout out to Calle, they were one of the sponsors of the event and it was their gear that all the players were wearing. They have a hot soccer clothing line out there. You can check it it out at callerepublic.com

UF would like to thank Mike once again for indulging us and we hope he will be there next year as well.

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