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Llamosa reflects on team’s run at World Cup

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If anything, the Maspeth native has embraced the added regard he has received as a member of the U.S. national soccer team, which had its best ever showing in the World...

By Arthur V. Claps

Much has changed in the last month, but nothing that Carlos Llamosa couldn’t handle.

If anything, the Maspeth native has embraced the added regard he has received as a member of the U.S. national soccer team, which had its best ever showing in the World Cup last month.

“The sport is different now,” said Llamosa, a central defender for Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution. “Everyone is paying more attention to us. The media wants to speak with me — sports radio shows [in Boston] want to interview me and I’ve been on TV more. The excitement and the atmosphere at games are livelier. It’s just been a great experience.”

“The reception for Carlos went from good to excellent,” said New England coach Steve Nicol, who started for Scotland in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. “The enthusiasm towards Carlos — and any player from United States team — is great. The applauds are plentiful.”

Llamosa, who moved to Queens from Palmira, Colombia in 1991, was on the field when the United States defeated Mexico to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930.

“I’m glad I got an opportunity to be there,” said Llamosa, who holds a duel citizenship with both Colombia and the United States. “To play for USA, the country where I started my professional career, makes it even more special.”

Many believed that U.S. head coach Bruce Arena, who coached Llamosa while with D.C. United from 1997-98, should have given the six-year MLS veteran a starting nod over Gregg Berhalter and Pablo Mastroeni in the second-round game. Instead, Arena inserted Llamosa for the final three minutes of stoppage time.

A team player, Llamosa held no grudges for the lack of playing time in the Cup.

But discontent was felt by the 32-year-old last week when he pulled a hamstring against the Kansas City Wizards July 13. The injury prevented Llamosa from making his first trip to New York City since the World Cup.

Llamosa’s absence was evident as the Revolution dropped a 4-3 decision to the MetroStars Saturday.

“I have many family and friends in New York, and it’s disappointing not to play in front of them,” said Llamosa, who remained in Boston with his parents for the weekend. “But it’s more disappointing because I won’t be there for my team. We were just starting to play well and I can’t help them. It’s very frustrating.”

The injury bug has hit a couple of World Cup stars, including MetroStars forward Clint Mathis, who underwent successful arthroscopic surgery last Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Llamosa said the injuries had nothing to do with the strenuous play in the World Cup.

“It’s just a coincidence,” Llamosa said. “It happened at the wrong time, but it’s not serious. I’m going to rest, and I’ll be back in a week.”

Llamosa still has a strong connection to the Queens area — some of his family resides in Elmhurst. His sister, Claudia, crammed a large contingent of family and friends into her fifth-floor apartment on Lamont Avenue to watch the historic USA/Mexico match June 17.

That connection has grown in the past couple weeks.

The borough — which is home to one of the nation’s best collegiate soccer teams in St. John’s and churns out some of the best high school talent in the Northeast Region — has adopted Llamosa as a role model.

“It’s something special to play for the U.S. in the World Cup, and being from Queens makes it even bigger,” said Llamosa, who was All-Star for the Miami Fusion last season and played for D.C. United’s MLS Cup Championship teams of 1997 and 1999.

“I wish this happened when I was 20 or 21. But the opportunities were tougher. People say that if I stayed in Colombia I could have played for the national team ... Now people are talking differently about soccer, taking the sport seriously. I hope I could be an inspiration.”

Reach contributing writer Arthur V. Claps by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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