FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Eric Wynalda was on the phone, but it was difficult to tell.
Where was the brashness that once characterized the U.S. national team's all-time leading goal scorer? Where were the outspoken comments designed to rub Major League Soccer's officialdom the wrong way?
Has the move to Florida mellowed the striker from Westlake Village?
Apparently so, although it's more likely that a six-month layoff because of a knee injury and the birth of his first child have had more impact than simply the change of coasts.
Tonight, Wynalda is scheduled to make his MLS season debut when his new team, the Miami Fusion, plays the Galaxy at Lockhart Stadium. For the 30-year-old, it marks a new beginning.
Whereas he was burned out and considering quitting soccer last spring, he now is eager to return.
"This injury happened in March," Wynalda said. "My little baby girl, Brooke, was born later that month and she has been therapy in herself. She's brought a lot of joy into my life and it's made me almost rejuvenated as a person and put things in perspective and made me really want to get back on the field.
"It's funny how it works, but fatherhood is really cool."
That doesn't sound like the Wynalda of old. Nor do his comments on getting back on the U.S. national team. Where he once might have expected that as his rightful due, now he knows he has to earn it.
"When you've been on the national team as long as I have [since 1990] and you take basically a year hiatus from that, people tend to forget about you completely, and that's understandable," he said.
"The only way for me to get back on the national team is with good performances in MLS. That's it. And that's really what I intend to do."
Wynalda realizes that younger players are pushing the old guard aside. Veterans of the 1990, '94 and '98 World Cups, as Wynalda is, will have to fight to be on the U.S. team for the Japan/South Korea World Cup in 2002.
"There's a perception problem [in the U.S.]," he said. "We don't believe that we're good enough, [but] we're a lot better than we think we are. Some of our younger players don't even realize how good they are.
"As someone who has played in Europe, I have played against a hell of a lot worse competition in the first division in Germany. I think it's just a matter of time until we finally wake up and realize how good we are and how many good players we have."
Meanwhile, all his squabbles at the San Jose Clash are history.
"My frustrations really came from not winning," he said. "I've always been a competitor. San Jose, for me, just wasn't the right team. It took a few years to figure that out.
"Miami is a great new start for me and my family."
GALAXY (16-9) at MIAMI (10-16)
* Site--Lockhart Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
* Time--4:30 p.m. PDT
* TV--FSW (delayed, 8 p.m.)
* Radio--KRLA (1110), KTNQ (1020, Spanish)
* Record vs. Fusion--0-1
* Update--A single point that comes from a shootout win will be enough to clinch a spot in the playoffs for the Galaxy. Missing tonight will be defenders Paul Caligiuri (groin strain) and Zak Ibsen (flu), midfielder Roy Myers (suspended) and backup goalkeeper Matt Reis (abdominal strain).