The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) continues its video series focused on educating soccer parents with an interview with former U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Chris Armas.
Armas was born in the Bronx, but grew up in Brentwood where he played with the Brentwood Bandits of the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) as well as the highest levels of youth soccer, including the Olympic Development Program (ODP) and St. Anthony’s High School on Long Island before attending Adelphi University. He is now an inductee of the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame.
“What the LIJSL Select Team and Eastern New York ODP Team exposed me to was good training sessions, better players and better coaching,“ Armas explains in the video. “The formula for players to improve is playing against better players where time and space is limited.“
“Graduating from Adelphi University in 1994, I played for the Long Island Rough Riders for two years. I was signed to a contract and played locally,“ Armas said. “It wasn’t a huge jump from college soccer even though I was playing against men. The bar was higher and that prepared me for MLS when it debuted in 1996.“
After spending two seasons with the LA Galaxy, Armas was traded to the Chicago Fire ahead of their expansion 1998 campaign and played a huge role in the Fire’s storied run to the 1998 MLS Cup and US Open Cup double in their inaugural season. Armas was named to the MLS Best XI for four straight seasons from 1998 through 2001 before seeing his streak broken by an ACL injury that caused him to miss much of the 2002 campaign and the World Cup for the USMNT.
He bounced back in 2003, being named MLS Comeback Player of the Year and MLS Best XI for the fifth time. Armas is one of just four players to earn Best XI distinction five times, second only to Landon Donovan’s seven Best XI selections.
He found a bulk of his success at the Fire, winning four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles and an MLS Supporter’s Shield in addition to the 1998 MLS Cup. Captaining the side from 2003-2007, he was named an MLS All-Star six times and was voted team MVP in 2003. He was also named US Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2000.
After the Fire’s double-winning campaign in 1998, Armas became a regular for the US Men’s National Team, cracking the lineup just after the 1998 World Cup. He was part of the FIFA Gold Cup squads in 2002 and 2005. In all, Armas earned 66 caps for the red, white and blue. He became the prototypical “defensive or holding midfielder,” but he was an example of the soccer term “unlucky” as separate ACL injuries kept him out of both the World Cup and the Olympics. Missing two World Cups and the Olympics due to injury is the only reason Armas has not yet been inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame.
Armas retired at the end of the 2007 season after a dozen years in MLS. He served the following season as an assistant coach for the Fire under current Red Bulls assistant Denis Hamlett. Since then, he has returned to Long Island with his family, most recently serving as head coach of the women’s team at alma mater Adelphi University. Armas led the program to back-to-back conference title game appearances in the Northeast-10, and reached the ECAC Championship in 2014. He is currently the Assistant Coach of the New York Red Bulls.
“A lot of lessons I learned as a kid from my family such as hard work, dedication, just never giving up and being a team player. What is in your heart and your character, which opened doors for me,“ Armas adds in the video. “My advice for parents as well as myself with my own 14-year-old and 11-year-old sons, are they having fun, do they have a coach mentoring them? These situations, I don’t see all the time. As a parent, I always ask my kids, are you having fun?“
(Information for this article was supplied by Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association.)