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Demmin different as a rookie

Extensive seasoning made the defender's adjustment a quick one.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 2001


Officially, Craig Demmin is a Major League Soccer rookie. But how many rookies are 29, have 35 national team appearances, three A-League titles and three most valuable player awards?

Clearly, Demmin is not the average rookie. That was why Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo and general manager Bill Manning were as excited as 3-year-olds at a Barney concert when Demmin was available after five picks in the first round of the 2001 MLS draft.

"Once we saw that fifth pick and it wasn't Craig, we wrote his name down real quick," Mondelo said.

The Mutiny got the defender it coveted. Mondelo and Manning had no doubt he could start right away. What they didn't know was how valuable Demmin would be just one week into the season.

Demmin, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sweeper from Trinidad and Tobago, was to be paired with Chad McCarty and Steve Trittschuh to form a three-man wall in the back.

But Trittschuh broke his right leg in practice and is likely out until mid-June. McCarty broke his left ankle in the opener.

Suddenly, Demmin was the only starting defender left standing.

"I thought I was bad luck," Demmin said. "I had an injury (hamstring) and I hoped to be back for the first game, then those two guys go down. It showed me that what you have happen to you is not really that bad compared to what happens to others."

Demmin is used to change. Anyone who leaves his country to play soccer in Jackson, Miss., should be.

After a stellar career at Arima Senior High in Trinidad and Tobago, Demmin wanted to play soccer in the United States. He had offers to small schools in Virginia, but when they fell through he inquired about playing at Belhaven College after his brother, living in Jackson, told him about the NAIA school.

Some in Arima thought there would be a problem.

"Sometimes in Trinidad and Tobago the thought is that if you go to college to play soccer your game drops," Demmin said. "They always want to keep you in a professional environment all the time. My uncle said (going to college) was like a two-eyed man in a one-eyed world. I didn't look at it like that."

He played so well at Belhaven that his jersey (No. 15) was retired. He played for the Jackson Chargers of the Professional Development Soccer League from 1995-97 after graduation.

Then came a stint in Scotland and three successful years with Rochester of the A-League. The Rhinos won championships in 1998 and 2000 and the U.S. Open Cup in 1999.

Demmin was happy, and a hero, in Rochester. The money was good, and he loved the city. But he thought it was time to make a change.

"Three of the happiest years (were in Rochester)," Demmin said. "It was very comfortable for me. You tend to lean to staying there. But you have to realize that you have to come out of your comfort zone."

Demmin impressed Mondelo from the beginning and has played well through two weeks. He's certainly not playing like a rookie.

"He's a player that has earned the respect of the team from the moment he arrived in camp," Mondelo said. "He has a seriousness, a hard work ethic and professionalism. He's shown that from Day 1."

Mutiny at N.Y./N.J.

WHEN/WHERE: 3 p.m. today; Giants Stadium, Meadowlands, N.J.

TV/RADIO: ESPN2; WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).

RECORDS: Mutiny 1-1, MetroStars 1-0-1.

COACHES: Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo. MetroStars -- Octavio Zambrano.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mutiny -- M Carlos Valderrama, F Mamadou Diallo, M/D Joe Addo, G Scott Garlick, D Craig Demmin. MetroStars -- F Adolfo Valencia, M Mark Chung, M Tab Ramos, D Mike Petke, F Alex Comas.

NOTES: MetroStars D Daniel Hernandez (fractured right kneecap), D Mark Semioli (right hamstring) and M Billy Walsh (right foot stress fracture) are out. Clint Mathis and Richie Williams are with the U.S. national team in preparation for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica and will not play. M Steve Ralston was cut for the national team's qualifier and joined the Mutiny Friday. He will start. Both teams will wear retro NASL jerseys as part of Cosmos Reunion weekend. New York/New Jersey will wear Cosmos replica uniforms and the Mutiny will wear Tampa Bay Rowdies replica uniforms. -- Compiled by Rodney Page.

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