In his latest entry for Goal.com, the Vancouver Whitecaps center back and U.S. international looks back at his career after being named as an MLS All-Star this week.
It's pretty amazing to me to think that a decade ago I was a college senior contemplating my future in the game of soccer. There were walk-on offers to MLS, there was a college degree I was about to gain in design, and there was a sea of wonder as to whether I should go to Europe with my cleats and backpack and see what happens.
Ten years on, I see a documentary about my experiences, "Rise and Shine", arrive on iTunes listings and discover U.S. soccer fans have voted me to the First XI for the MLS All-Star game – all in the same week. It really feels like my journey has come full circle, and I honestly couldn't feel more fortunate for the journey that I have been on.
Back when I was graduating from college, MLS was a pretty new league. I knew there were a lot of college guys to chose from – and it was hard for lesser-known college players like me to get spotted. That is partly why I decided to take on the journey myself to make it happen.
Of course, I am happy with the journey I chose to take – and with how far I've come from being that confused and naive senior. But it's also nice to see how far MLS has come as well.
To be named to an All-Star team along with the likes of David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan is an incredible honor – we are all here to help grow the game in the U.S., so to see those names on the MLS sheet, and to see how popular this league is becoming, is extrememly exciting.
It's also great to see guys like Collin and Zusi from Sporting Kansas City make the team. They might not be the "big names", but they definitely deserve their spots because of the seasons they are having. To me, that says how knowledgeable the fans of this league have become.
Going to an MLS game isn't just a family day out anymore – and that's the way it should be in my opinion. It's great to see fans getting behind their team with passion, making up new chants and creating supporters groups – and voting in the right players to represent our league against the Champions League trophy winners.
Being able to get honored as an individual is always nice, but you really can't have that success without your teammates to help you – and I have to give massive credit to mine for this honor. And it doesn't end there. If our manager, Martin Rennie, wouldn't have come to our team to lead us and change the mentality we had last year, or if my club wouldn't have brought in more quality players to help our team get better, or if we didn't have a world class medical staff to help me cure my health issues, I know for a fact my name wouldn't be on that All-Star roster. I thank them for all of that and I hope to represent them well, given that opportunity.
We have a lot of tough games coming up in our conference against San Jose, Real Salt Lake, Seattle and the Galaxy, so we're going to have to find that consistency in form – and in health – if we want to stay near the top.
This is the "grind" part of the season, where games come thick and fast, your body is carrying bumps and bruises, and the travel and the road starts to wear you down. It's the time of the season where you need to go deep inside yourself to find that extra inch, to convince yourself that it doesn't hurt, and to make sure that your team is ready to perform down the stretch.
The second half of the season is going to be a challenge, both individually and for our team. But rising to challenges is what this beautiful game is all about, so i"m looking forward to it.
Speak to you guys again soon. Until then, keep Rising and Shining...