Known for having a hardworking and relentless nature on the football pitch, New York Red Bulls midfielder Teemu Tainio is also praised for his team-first mentality.
Wanting the Red Bulls to improve from an inconsistent 2011, Tainio believes the biggest improvement that the team can make this season is off the pitch. The former Finland international believes team camaraderie can enhance New York's performance and he would like to see the players find different ways to bond.
"Maybe that's what we need to change for this year. Last year we didn't do too much together," Tainio explained to Goal.com. "Maybe this year, we'll try to go to more dinners and get together more often than last year. It always helps to build the team. "
During the preseason, Tainio noticed that with players gathering for dinners and off-the-field activities, morale was better than last season and players worked harder on the field.
Even the team's Designated Players joined in on the good times. The 32-year-old Tainio is a former Tottenham Hotspur player and leave it to a former Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, to rub in the rivalry between the two men.
"We talk about it all the time," Tainio said. "A few weeks ago there was an Arsenal at Spurs game and we really didn't talk to each other on gameday but in a good [competitive] way. We talk about a lot of players in Europe that we've played with and know."
While the New York Red Bulls are still a work in progress, Tainio is grateful to be playing for the side. Injuries almost ended the career of player who starred for top-division clubs in Europe such as Auxierre, Sunderland and Spurs. He admits that he came close to retiring after an injury knocked him out of playing for his last European club.
When Tainio received the offer by the Red Bulls, he decided to give his playing career one more chance.
"I had a chance to come here and I thought I'd give it one more shot and last year was good for me. I played 28 games," he added.
In his debut season with New York, Tainio became a fan favorite as he hustled for each loose ball and even occasionally created opportunities with two assists.
"As a player, the one thing you can guarantee is to work hard. If I lose the ball, I feel embarrassed and I want to get it as quick as I can," Tainio stated. "That's my mentality in games."
Maybe Tainio has a few years left in him after all.