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Red Storm’s Wingert helps U.S. team to 3-1 win over Mexico

Chris Wingert’s soccer resume just keeps getting better and better.

The Red Storm defender, who will be one of the favorites for the Hermann Award given out to the top collegiate soccer player in the country, came off the bench for the United States Under-23 national team May 14 in a stirring 3-1 win over Mexico in front of 9,000 rabid fans in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Wingert, a native of Babylon, L.I., is the lone collegiate player on the squad, which will begin qualifications for the 2004 Olympics in November. The team featured a bevy of Major League Soccer stars, including World Cup heroes Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley.

“Whenever you get to play for the national team it’s a huge honor, and you never want to take that for granted because it could be taken away from you at any time,” Wingert said. “For us to be able to go down there and get a win, it’s probably the best experience I’ve had with this team so far.”

U.S. U-23 national team coach Glenn Myernick started an entire professional lineup, including defenders Ricky Lewis, Oguchi Onyewu, Alex Yi and Kelly Gray. In the 46th minute Myernick made his first sub, and Wingert came on for Lewis and played left back.

But 21 minutes after entering the game, Wingert was forced to play central defense after Yi picked up his second yellow card and was ejected in the 67th minute with the score tied at 1.

In the 75th minute Wingert played a ball down the left wing to substitute Justin Mapp, who dribbled to the endline, drawing two defenders, and slotted a brilliant ball back into the box to an unmarked Alecko Eskandarian. The D.C. United rookie slotted the ball into the net through traffic for the eventual game-winner, silencing the crowd at Estadio Tres de Marzo.

“It was a real big win for us, especially going down to their place,” Wingert said. “Being in a hostile environment was part of it, but also just the elevation and the heat, which most of our guys aren’t used to, it was really a gutty win for us, especially going down a man in the second half.”

Wingert, a first-team All-American and Big East Defender of the Year last season, is keeping in game shape this summer by playing with Red Storm teammates Andre Schmid, Chris Leidner, Chris Corcoran and Billy Gaudette for the Brooklyn Knights in the Premier Development League. He said plans are also in the works to train with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

“Obviously the coaches would like everyone to be pros, which is understandable. I would be the same way if I were part of the staff because they want everyone to be in a pro environment,” Wingert said.

“It just so happens that I didn’t think it was the right time for me to leave, but I’m going to do all I can to get into professional environments whenever possible this summer.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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