The Philadelphia Union defender talks about his positional change, becoming one of the few holdovers from the team's inaugural season and his March Madness bracket
It’s been awhile, but I’m happy to be back writing a blog for Goal.com.
A lot has changed since the last time you’ve heard from me. I’m now a year older and a year wiser. It’s crazy to think I’m going into my fourth season in Major League Soccer. I feel like it was just yesterday that the Philadelphia Union organization drafted me in front of the Sons of Ben in Philadelphia.
Now, I’m one of the “originals,” and it honestly feels really good to finally be older than some of the rookies. Carrying the balls and equipment was taking its toll on me - I guess the veteran rule doesn’t work when you’re still one of the young guns.
I guess you could also say that I’ve moved homes... and I’m not just talking about my new apartment. Playing center back was always a possibility coming into this season after last year. What started out as me filling in out of necessity, ended up working out better than anyone expected. At the end of last season, Coach Hack told me to be prepared to play and fight for both the center back and center mid positions so in the offseason I worked on a lot of areas in my game that would help me become a better player. I knew as a defender, I would have to continue improving my aerial ability, overall strength to deal with the physicality, and tactical awareness of the position.
My work in the offseason and the support that I’ve received from the coaches and my teammates thus far have helped me immensely. Playing center back next to players like Carlos Valdes, Jeff Parke, and Baky Soumare has made my transition much easier. Add in Sheanon Williams to my right, Ray Gaddis on the left, Brian Carroll to shield and Zac MacMath as cover, it makes a formidable defensive unit around me. I’m just hoping to continue to make an impact on the field and help the team to the best of my abilities.
This past weekend we suffered a tough loss to our rivals, the New York Red Bulls. It was a hard fought game and I think our team did a great job in a tough environment. Unfortunately, Thierry Henry, formerly my favorite player until last Saturday, came in as a late substitute and scored the game-winner. It was a tough game to swallow because we knew the importance of getting a road result and continuing our momentum. We know that we have to regroup as a team and learn from our mistakes because we have a tough matchup against Columbus on Saturday.
It’s still early in the season, but the progress that we have made thus far has been very good. We know we still have a lot to improve on and like honorary Philadelphia Mayor Chris Albright says, “MLS Cups aren’t won in March.”
Speaking of March, how about this March Madness?! I hope your brackets turned out better than mine.
I was done early. I mean... wow, Wichita State in the Final Four? Did anyone see that coming?
Every year when I sit down to fill out my bracket, I think that it’s going to be my year. Then teams that everyone thinks are going to do well, bow out early and sleeper teams emerge (can someone say Florida Gulf Coast?!) and it’s all over before it even started. At least the Philly and PAC-12 teams represented pretty well.
Personally, I hope Louisville wins after the horrific injury that Kevin Ware suffered in the Elite Eight. If his team can band together and win the National Championship for him, it would be more than just a great sentimental story.
Well, it’s been fun guys. I’ll check back with you soon.