World Cup star Reyna gives Baltimore fans signature performance

U.S. team captain visits shoemaker, soccer camp

given jersey by Orioles


July 20, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

With the rehearsal complete, all that remained was the much-anticipated arrival.

For the 100-or-so campers at McDonogh School yesterday, there wasn't a better way to end a full week of soccer. Yes, the buses for the trip home would have to wait. After all, this was Claudio Reyna we're talking about.

A car drives by above the soccer fields and the buzz begins: "That's Claudio," one camper yells in excitement. False alarm. Then another.

And then finally, the team captain of the U.S. men's national team, fresh off its quarterfinal performance in this summer's World Cup, had arrived.

"U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" the group - a sea of enthusiastic orange - shouts in unison as Reyna made his way across the field to greet them.

"I was amazed," said Michael Owens, 15, who attends Pikesville Middle School and plays the same midfield position as Reyna. "I saw him in the World Cup, and he was just awesome."

Reyna, spending the week with family in his hometown of Springfield, N.J., was in Baltimore with his wife, Danielle, to visit the national headquarters of Fila, the maker of sports shoes and fashion, in Sparks and to sign autographs and talk with fans both new and old. He also took in last night's Orioles game, where Melvin Mora presented him with an Orioles jersey.

Reyna, who has made appearances in three World Cups for the United States and has captained the past two teams, has had a shoe deal with Fila for the past seven years. While his nifty footwork helped earn the deal, yesterday proved a good workout for Reyna's writing hand.

Over the course of the day, which also included an appearance at Soccer Shack, a Bel Air retailer, he signed soccer balls, posters, T-shirts, soccer shoes and even a couple tennis balls.

"It's nice to meet fans and see how excited they were for us, and it's not something I get to do very much, so it's fun," said Reyna, who turns 29 today and will soon return to England, where he plays professionally for Premier League team Sunderland AFC. "It's also important that we continue to promote the sport of soccer. It took a huge leap during the World Cup, but it has to keep rolling."

Questions varied from "what's your favorite move on the field" to "would the team like to play Germany [which eliminated the Americans, 1-0, in the quarterfinal round] again, maybe this afternoon?"

The message Reyna wanted to send to the young players was to work hard, but more importantly, have fun - and that goes with anything.

"I think that's what everyone saw at the World Cup - the best and greatest tournament in the world, and we were able to enjoy it," he said. "I think that helped a lot in us being successful."

Arielle Blahus, 12, who has played six years with the Towson Recreation Council, left Fila's headquarters with an autographed poster and a lasting impression.

"He was very nice and had some good words to encourage kids to continue playing soccer," she said. "I play anything, but mostly I like halfback, because I like running around."

Back over at McDonogh, George Banks, 14, a midfielder who goes to St. Paul's, came ready. The Reyna poster handed out at last year's camp came off his bedroom wall for a day, neatly rolled up, to later be returned with a prized autograph when it goes back up.

"Right above my bed," he said.

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