How is family life going in these first few weeks?
We just had a baby boy June 4th. We’re battling through the sleep/no-sleep but my wife’s been great. What an amazing experience. [The Fire] were home for the birth, and so I was able to be there at the hospital, which is very important. And I got a red card so I didn’t travel to Dallas. The one trip that was tough was L.A. because we were there all week so I was gone Monday through Friday, and it was tough being away from the little guy. When we got back he had changed, gained a little bit of weight. They grow so quick it was amazing.
Can you recall those college days while at Washington, wondering if Seattle would get an MLS franchise?
When I first got to college there was no league and, to be honest, it wasn’t really a thought in my mind to continue playing. I was focused on the U-Dub and trying to win a national championship there. When MLS came into existence, all of sudden it was a possibility and a pretty cool one. I was very fortunate, and I’m grateful for the A-League Sounders. It was a great situation for me because I was able to finish school while playing and I lived in my same apartment. It was a great time in my life, and I’m really thankful. I was able to play every game and gain confidence and learn how to be a pro. In this league, you can’t be too picky about where you play. You go where a coach wants you. If that’s all the way across the country, you go and enjoy it. Of course it would be very special to play at home in front of family and friends, but you go where the opportunity presents itself.
You’ve been a defender throughout your MLS career. But
there must have been a time when you played elsewhere, only to be told
it would be best to move back. When and how did that happen?
Growing up, I was always a midfielder. I actually made the change in college, moving to play in the back. [Washington coach] Dean Wurzberger saw something in my ability to defend 1-on-1, and because of that he decided to play me in the back. I was willing to do anything to get on the field so I didn’t care where I played. It was a bit of transition and took a little time. Overall it was a good move for me, and I was able to learn a lot about team and individual defending in college. That set me up well for my professional career. I did move back and play right midfield for the Sounders. That got me a little better on the ball and going forward, and it helped my confidence. Then when in Kansas City I was a defender, and have been ever since.
You figured in a lot of goals for the Sounders as a
rookie, and yet you now have the distinction of the most MLS
appearances without a goal. Can you remember your closest chances?
You know, I have had quite a few. I had a header [at Chivas USA] just the other week. For whatever reason, I haven’t finished one. It is what it is. I don’t really dwell on it. I’d love to score a goal but it doesn’t define me as a player. I play to win championships and that’s it. I’m a defender, I try to defend well, move the ball offensively and try to be disciplined and a solid player. The whole goal thing doesn’t really matter to me.
Kansas City was your first team in MLS, and when the
Wizards won the MLS Cup in 2000 it was a bit unexpected. When a team is
special, can you tell so before everyone else?
Definitely. It all starts at training and in the locker room. It starts in preseason, with hard work, the right mix of players. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer to see that success on the field, but you can feel it at training. To be a good team you have to do the right things, have the right mix of players and coaches, a common vision and togetherness. We definitely see it before the fans.
Chicago’s allowed only 11 goals in the first 13 games.
The next best in MLS is 15 goals. Collectively, what’s the single-most
important thing a back four must be thinking and doing to be successful?
First and foremost, you have to have quality individual defenders. As a back four you have to come together, work well together. That comes through communication and just time. Sometimes it takes longer to gel. This season we’ve had some injuries, people in and out of the lineup, but by and large we’ve done a pretty good job of defending. That’s a testament to our coaches and the guys who have stepped in and done their role.
How would you describe your role with the Fire?
I’m one of the older, more experienced veteran guys. I’ve been around the league a while. I think I bring a level of professionalism and discipline to the team. I’m not a rah-rah, vocal guy. I try to lead more by example, to try to do the right things, day in, day out. I play right back, in a spot I’m comfortable with. I’m enjoying it and having a good time. At the end of the day, it’s a job but it’s a sport. You have to enjoy yourself, and I’ve been doing that this year.
You’re around a star, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, day in and day out. Any observations?
The amount of notoriety he has is pretty remarkable. We traveled down to Mexico, and he’s an icon down there. He’s like Michael Jordan. People just love him. And when we go to places like L.A., he’s very well known. As far as playing next to him, he’s just an extremely talented player. He can change the game pretty easily with one pass or one shot. For sure, he’s got a lot of talent.
Chicago has gone 4-2-1 on the road, but nine of the
other 13 teams have managed only one road win. Is the home field
becoming more of a factor as the league grows in maturity and fan bases
come into their own?
I don’t know if it’s more of a factor. It’s always been a factor in that traveling is tough. For me it’s not so much the crowd playing into it, it’s more being away from home, being on a flight the day before, not being in your own bed, all those things. The flip side of that is when you’re home, you’re in your own bed, you’re with your family, and the comfort level is there. I think that plays into it more. There’s a psychological factor to it, in that people feel like they should win at home and the opposite is true when you go away. It’s tougher to win on the road.
While you may not be an all-star, you seem to be part of
successful sides wherever you go. What is it you try to bring to your
My competitiveness. I really want to win, no matter what. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. If that means sacrificing for the team, I’ll do it. I had a year (2004) back in D.C., when I played half the season and toward the end I wasn’t playing. That was one of the most special years for me personally. We won it and I ended up swallowing my pride and doing what was best for the team. That’s the most important thing if you want to have success, to do what’s best for the team and organization, and not be selfish. I look back on that year, to be on the bench I could’ve been down and drug the team down, and been a bad locker room guy. I think I did the opposite. I tried to keep a good attitude and work hard in training. Most successful teams are filled with character guys, players who think of the team first.