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Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 01/31/2011

For D.C. United's Santino Quaranta, there will always be challenges on and off the soccer field

By Steve Goff

D.C. United's Santino Quaranta has been clean and sober for more than three years, but the effort never ends.

"When success comes and people think you are fine, it's forgotten about, but for me, it's a daily routine," Quaranta told the Insider in an extensive interview before the club's departure to Florida for the second stage of training camp. "I am not doing anything differently than the first day I got back to D.C. [from rehab for substance abuse in early 2008]. It's the same thing and it will never change. I am in a better place mentally. I have to stay in a routine. It's one drink or one little injury [and the appetite for pain killers] from going back."

Quaranta, who went public with his addiction in a lengthy and riveting story in The Washington Post in June 2008, says he attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three or four times per week. His core fellowship of about a half-dozen members, including his sponsor, has remained the same, gathering in Bel Air, Md., which is about 20 minutes from Quaranta's home in the Perry Hall/White Marsh area of Baltimore.

For more.....

Preseason is the most challenging time, when United is away for an extended period. Quaranta said he brings along reading material related to sobriety and spirituality, seeks out meetings in that area and speaks regularly on the phone with family and friends. Starting today, United will be based in Fort Lauderdale for about two weeks, then will return home briefly between trips to California and South Carolina before the March 19 season opener against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.

In his meetings in Maryland, Quaranta says there are "guys 40 years sober and 40 days sober. If I don't have that community and I forget that, that is where it all goes wrong for me."

Quaranta said, since achieving sobriety, he has never felt himself slipping but must guard against temptation.

"Are there times when life throws you challenges? Of course. Was last year [during United's poor season] challenging? Of course, it was. But I have a choice. I am not living that obsession anymore. You ask God for help, and once that obsession is lifted, I have a choice when I leave [RFK Stadium] whether to go have a drink in a bar, you know? I go home to my family -- my wife [Petrina], my kids [Olivia, 7, and Valentino, 2], they depend on me now. A lot of people depend on me.

"Is there temptation sometimes? Sure. In the summertime, is it nice to think about crabs and beer? Yeah. I never had just one beer, though. That's the difference between me and you. You can have one. I can't have just one. It comes easier now. I can have fun without a beer."

As a public figure with a well-known story, Quaranta has become a role model for others seeking help. "Everyone is asking for advice. I'm Dr. Phil and Oprah," he said, laughing.

Quaranta remains in regular contact with Dan Cronin, a counselor overseeing the MLS substance abuse program. They have discussed a possible role for him in helping athletes with similar problems when his playing career is over. He is also getting involved in player development, serving as a partner in Pipeline Soccer Club, a new initiative in the Baltimore area.

Though he is just 26 years old, Quaranta is entering his 11th pro season. Among United's players, only forward Josh Wolff, 33, has more MLS experience. Quaranta started 26 league games in 2010 and displayed leadership qualities but lacked production (two goals, two assists in 26 league starts) on a team that set the league record for fewest goals in a season (21).

With Jaime Moreno's departure, Quaranta would seem to be a prime candidate for the captain's armband. Coach Ben Olsen has yet to decide whether to name a full-time captain.

"He has grown as a person 10 fold since he came back. I always joke to him: 'From where you came, 10 fold is just normal now'," Olsen said. "He's up to speed and I'd like to see him as a guy on the field who is unaffected by distractions. He has grown so much, and he can still grow as a soccer player. His life is in order, he seems to be doing great. We are all very happy for him. But as a player, he still has room to grow. I've talked to him about production, about getting to the next level as a leader and who has an influence."

While he works on his game, he also must continue working on his life.

"People think it's hard and it's a battle," Quaranta said. "I don't see it that way. I see it as being given a second chance. The battle was when I was actively in an addiction. That was the battle. For me now, this is an enjoyment. But I have to remember, it's that one drink, one mistake from falling back."

By Steve Goff  | January 31, 2011; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  | Tags:  D.C. United, MLS, Santino Quaranta  
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Great post, Goffinho.

Hang in there, Tino.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | January 31, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Great story, Goff. Will some version of this be appearing in tomorrow's print edition?

Posted by: universityandpark | January 31, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

If only there was a field goal kickers anonymous..

But seriously, great piece Goff. I hope Tino finds good shooting form and pushes this team

Posted by: TenoriosLaptop | January 31, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

He's right. I know his story. Love his story. More than teared up when he scored in the Gold Cup at RFK. But I never think of how hard he still works at this. All power to him to keep it up.

Also, his son has one of the greatest names I've ever heard.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | January 31, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

We got to meet Santino at a meet & greet right after the end of the 2010 season. He was a super nice guy, especially to the kids at the meet & greet. Admittedly I didn't know much about him before that day but since then he definitely stands out for us as a great representative of the DCU franchise.

Posted by: Twitch703 | January 31, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Great follow-up story and I truly hope Tino can continue his sobriety...and that DCU respects that.

Ben's comments about what he needs to see from Tino were equally telling. I think it is safe to say the Ben is emphasizing attacking and finishing for the next six weeks.

Posted by: jnel | January 31, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: edgeonyou | January 31, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Pulling for you Tino!

Gentle poke at Goff: "riveting"? Your own article? :) Not disputing, just saying . . .

Posted by: WhateverHappenedtoDiegoSerna | January 31, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Keep up the good work Tino. I hope you are made Captain.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | January 31, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I would think about making Boskovik the captain...He is our D.P. isn't he?

Posted by: alan19 | January 31, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Quaranta's sobriety is laudable, and he is to be congratulated for his commitment to doing right on a daily basis. I sincerely wish him well in that regard.

I just wish he was a better soccer player. He is a poor dribbler, he is a poor shooter, he lacks vision leading to a lot of unnecessary back passes thus slowing the team down. He admirably but only partially makes up for these glaring deficiencies with his work rate. His excellent pace as a teenager has left him as pretty average in that regard.

Hate to say it but Tino wouldn't sniff the game day roster of any of the better MLS teams. If DCU is ever to get good again, it will have to be without him.

Posted by: Ron16 | January 31, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Ron, you are a d!ckhead.

Keep up the work Tino, and shake the haters off. I'm sure no one is more aware of your short comings on and off the field than yourself. Keep fighting the good fight my man.

Posted by: DadRyan | January 31, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I would think about making Boskovik the captain...He is our D.P. isn't he?

Posted by: alan19

Yeah, that went over real well for the Galaxy eh? Maybe Houston would have done better had they given the arm band to Landin?

Posted by: DadRyan | January 31, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

@Ron16, you kill me. The shear pig-headed inappropriateness of your comments is just startling. Do I disagree with them? Only the hyperbole. But, wow, what a sense of timing.

Posted by: glfrazier | January 31, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

@DadRyan: Ron is not a d!ckhead. Just misinformed. I think part of Santino's problem is, for whatever, he's been playing out of position (i.e as a striker) for the past 2 seasons. Soehn messed around with that formation and I was sad to see Onalfo continue it.

Posted by: tundey | January 31, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

anyone else think Benny will be able to get more out of Tino than guys like Onalfo and Soehn were able to?

Posted by: VTUnited | January 31, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Disagree with Ron16 on the merits.

Q has well above average talent, both for this roster, and for the league. I attribute the misfires in 2010 to trying to do too much to pick up the slack for a rubbish team.

"Room to grow" as a player? Sure, who doesn't.

It's still a riveting story -- even if you do so say so yourself ;) -- and I am sure Q did not choose his story-teller by accident.

Posted by: OWNTF | January 31, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

anyone else think Benny will be able to get more out of Tino than guys like Onalfo and Soehn were able to?

Posted by: VTUnited | January 31, 2011 2:09 PM | Repor

The Ben has grown so much, and he can still grow as a soccer coach. His life is in order, he seems to be doing great. We are all very happy for him. But as a coach, he still has room to grow. Now, it's about production, about getting to the next level as a leader and coach who has an influence.

Posted by: OWNTF | January 31, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Timing is everything! I cringe when I read those posts, and worry that Ron's wife and kids have lived a lifetime of tiny flecks of recognition for their accomplishments only to be shredded to bits by boat loads of condemnation after the fact. Maybe I'm the jerk for calling him out, but sometimes the Washington Post makes me want to throw my computer out the window because of sheer meanness, ignorance, and plain old block headed stupidity of the pricks posting in the comments sections of articles and blogs.
Free speech, it's the internet, yada yada yada, but save the negative tirade for a more appropriate thread.

Posted by: DadRyan | January 31, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

glfrazier, since when is it "inappropriate" to evaluate the soccer merits, or lack thereof, of a DC United soccer player, on a blog about, well, DC United soccer players?

Posted by: Ron16 | January 31, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@tundey, what do you see as his natural position? He has not done well as a striker, he has been average at best as a wide mid, and he was clearly not the answer in central midfield.

Posted by: Ron16 | January 31, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ron16
You are a bad man. Tino doesn't need talent and skill he has passion and potential. He has room to grow or potential (11th season in the league and he still has POTENTIAL). Don't you ever express your opinion on anything ever again! :)

Posted by: Ivanovich84 | January 31, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

You guys/gals need to lay off the name calling. Whether or not you agree with somebody's position, or the appropriateness of their timing in voicing it, we should all show some respect.

Posted by: Matte | January 31, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Good job for Steve, Great Job in progress to Santino. Your sobriety is the only positive thing United has to show for the last 2 years.

Posted by: NICKYNUNYA | January 31, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Gpff -- It is a great piece. I'm struck by the fact you've posted in the blog. I guess it's getting harder and harder for soccer to get any space in the print edition....

Posted by: fischy | January 31, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Look, I want nothing but the best for Tino and I thought he was great when he met us Fans in person on the way to the MLS draft. I think he's a great person but I'mnot completely convinced with his play. I feel he needs to inject more firepower, taken on more players, shoot more, trap better and shoot with more accuracy. I know Tino has a lot of potential, I saw him against B. Leverkusen way back in 2k1. I just don't know if it was a Seohn/Onalfo thing or if Tino just had a bad season like the rest of team, hopefully the latter is the case because with Jaime gone and Olsen on the coaching staff, we need someone else to be that gritty player who sticks his nose.

Posted by: godpere | January 31, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I guess this blog is one of Tino's challenges off the field. After Steve's original article, I saw Tino at a USOC match at the Plex and told him that he has a lot more courage than I did at his age. He'll be OK.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | January 31, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

@Ron16, I thought I said it, but I'll say it again. Timing. On a thread discussing the merits of the players, let's talk about the merits of the players. On a thread talking about a guy pulling himself out of adiction, that's just not the place or the time.

Here's a bad correlary. Your kid has been having troubles in math class. Is it appropriate to have a conversation with him about it? Yes. During his birthday dinner? Not so much. Right after he got thumped in a basketball game? Maybe you want to hold off a bit. In front of his friends? Very bad.

Same deal here. If you'd just held your water for a bit, I'm sure you'd have had a chance to relieve yourself all over the place in a much more appropriate context.

Posted by: glfrazier | January 31, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Tino a pro at 16. Youngest MLS All-Star. His body was hard-wired for him to become a soccer player.

Sadly, his body was hard-wired for addiction, too.

Long after his playing career is over he will be dealing with the other aspect of his physical make-up.

I'm just glad he knows which of those two matters more, even if some posters here do not seem to get this basic point.

Posted by: rcdwriting | January 31, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

glfrazier, sorry, but you don't make the rules around here. Couple that with the fact that Goff's blog post puts forth Quaranta as the logical candidate for the Captain's armband, then Quaranta's on-field performance is germane to comments to this post. If you don't like that, well, its just too bad.

The DCU captain doesn't have to be the best player on the team, but he should at least be better than average. Quaranta *had* a lot of potential when he was younger. But now he is average at best.

Posted by: Ron16 | January 31, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

@Ron16, Not making the rules, just letting you know what I think.

Posted by: glfrazier | January 31, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Bravo Santino Quaranta. Your story hits home and means a lot to me.

Folks, there will be a gazillion more chances to discuss the details of DCU here on SI. I'm just happy to recognize his positive accomplishment and hope that he helps lead us to a better season.

Posted by: DCB23 | January 31, 2011 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Attaboy, Tino. Keep fighting the good fight, brother!

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | February 1, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Great article goff and good luck with the season Santino

Posted by: highlandtownoldtimer | February 1, 2011 9:00 PM | Report abuse

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