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Pittsburgh's Dynasty Connection

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Cut from the U.S. Under-20 team during her freshman year, Meghan Klingenberg never stopped working. One year later, the University of North Carolina midfielder had her opening.

"She found out that the U.S. needed a left back," said Joenao Caspma, an ex-pro player who coached Klingenberg for four years with the Penns Forest club team. "She told me: 'Coach, I want you to teach me everything there is to know about playing left back.'

"It was challenging, because she is right-footed. But she worked until you couldn't tell which was her dominant foot. She just has the drive to keep going until she gets what she wants."

She got exactly what she wanted - a starting job with Team USA and a trip to Chile, where the Americans won gold in the 2008 world championships, beating North Korea, 2-1.

Klingenberg actually won two titles that day.

Just before the Americans took the field, her Tar Heels won the national championship by defeating Notre Dame, 2-1, in Cary, N.C.

"It was one of coolest days ever," she said.

There have been a lot of cool days for Klingenberg, who has already won one state title at Pine-Richland High School, two national titles at North Carolina and the world championship.

She is also the only player from Western Pennsylvania ever to compete for the Tar Heels' historic women's soccer program, which has recorded 20 NCAA titles in 28 years.

"'Kling' is the most agile girl on the soccer field," said UNC forward Courtney Jones, an excellent athlete herself and the daughter of former San Francisco 49ers tight end Brent Jones. "No one else compares."

Klingenberg's agility makes up for the fact that she is only 5 foot 2. No one on the UNC or U.S. teams is shorter.

"She is relentless," Caspma said.

Klingenberg, now a senior, started 41 games in her first three years at UNC, compiling 12 goals and 13 assists. She is one of the key returners on this year's UNC team,  and the Tar Heels have Dec. 5 circled on their calendar - the date of the national championship game.

Klingenberg's success is no surprise to anyone who knows her. She began playing soccer at age six but found time to mix in softball, track, karate and flag football.
When she was in grade school, she and her mom took an eight-hour car trip to North Carolina's campus to watch a soccer game, and Klingenberg "fell in love" with the school.

By the time she got to Pine-Richland, she had focused strictly on soccer, earning Parade All-America honors and helping the Rams win state in 2005.

Klingenberg had competed in one of North Carolina's camps while in middle school, and the Tar Heels started sending her letters after that, ultimately earning her commitment.

Once she arrived at Chapel Hill to play for legendary Tar Heels Coach Anson Dorrance, she said she felt a "mixture of nervousness and excitement."

The feelings were understandable. Dorrance's 20 NCAA titles are the most for any coach in any sport, and the Tar Heels attract elite recruits every year, helping to explain his .963 winning percentage in 31 years.

"You get there, and you know these are the best players in the country," Klingenberg said. "You hear all these rumors about how the UNC girls are mean and nasty (on the field)."

As a freshman at UNC, Klingenberg proved she was just as tough, scoring game-winning goals against Florida State (overtime) and Boston College (double OT).

"What I love about Meghan," Dorrance said, "is that other schools who were recruiting her said she would never (be good enough to) play for us. And yet she came back to  beat those schools."

Kristen Klingenberg can vouch for her daughter's hunger to win, which was evidenced while playing family board games that also included Meghan's father, Daniel, and her little brother, Drew, a midfielder who will be a junior this fall for Pine-Richland. 

"Her competitiveness is off the charts," Kristen said.

Klingenberg, who has a 3.0 grade-point average while majoring in business, is set to graduate in May. After that, she hopes to give pro soccer a shot while still climbing the U.S. national team ladder.

Dorrance would not be surprised to see her achieve her goals.

"The improvement Meghan has made since her freshman year has been phenomenal," he said. "I've been coaching a long time, and I've seen very few kids work as hard as her. Meghan's a beast."

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