• Manasquan native PJ Nitz grew up playing soccer and still laces up his big-league cleats near his home in the Washington, D.C., area.
  • Defending Team USA “is a dream come true, man,” he said. “I’m very happy to be here.”

On the eve of his opening game in World Cup16 members of the US Men’s National Soccer Team visited Souq Waqif, a famous market in the Qatari capital, Doha.

They wanted to do a little shopping and sightseeing. For Philip “PJ” Nice, the US State Department special agent who defended the team, there was nothing sloppy about it.

Nice, 38, who grew up in Manasquan, was one of six government agents and two security guards hired by the team to escort the players to the market. When the players split up, they split up too, focusing on the more famous guys who were more likely to be recognized in public.

“We made sure that all 16 people had someone to consult with if something happened — if someone got in their face with a camera, they could turn to us and say, ‘Help me,'” Nice said in a phone interview earlier this week.

Of course, American star Christian Pulisic and teammate Serjino Dest, who like Pulisic plays for a big-name European club, looked his way after the attention became too much. Nice’s goal in this case is not just to get Pulisic out of the crowd, but to do it in a way that doesn’t cause a riot.

Special Agent Philip

“As diplomatic security officers, maybe we have a little more tact (than standard team security) in understanding international fans and foreign cultures,” Nice said. “So we can step in and say, ‘This guy is tired, he’s done with pictures. What do you want to know?”

It’s an exciting assignment for Nice, who will take the field when the USA take on England tonight at 2pm and then again on Tuesday when the Americans take on Iran. He grew up playing soccer and still laces up his cleats in an adult league near his home in the Washington, D.C., area.

“It’s a dream, man,” he said. “I’m very happy to be here.”

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Nice’s parents worked for the US government in the foreign service. He attended high school in Turkey and then in Uruguay, where he was introduced to the beautiful game. He has tickets for Uruguay vs Ghana on December 2nd.

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