The team missed out on the playoffs last season, but you had to be proud of the way the team finished during the final stretch of games in 2012. Does that give you momentum going into this season?
“There is momentum because the guys from last year know what it takes to win and go on a run like that. It’s unfortunate we missed out on the playoffs because we had what every playoff team needed at the end of the season, and that’s momentum. I really think we would have faired well in the postseason had we made it. But it’s a clean slate now, and everyone is starting at zero points.”
How excited are you to begin your first full season as the head coach of a men’s professional soccer club?
“It’s kind of a dual feeling. On one hand, I’m just relieved because this opportunity has been a long time coming for me. I’ve always wanted to be a head coach and now I get to fulfill that dream. On the other hand, I am very excited. I can’t wait to get going.”
How has the offseason been on and off the field?
“The offseason was good in a lot of different ways. I was able to go see a lot of games, and take a lot away from them. I spent a significant amount of time with my good friend Dominic Kinnear and his team, the Houston Dynamo. He let me observe their practices and even go to some of their late-season and playoff games. The thing I really admire about Dominic’s teams is that they’re always soaring by the time the playoffs roll around. They’re always ready for the big games. It also goes without saying that it was really nice to spend time with my family. After coming to Atlanta, my son decided to start playing soccer again, so I’ve enjoyed watching him play down in Houston. I got to spend a lot of time watching my daughter sing and pursue her love for art. It was tough being away from them during the season, so the offseason has allowed me to make up for that lost time.“
The club just held its final local combine. How was the level of play and were you able to discover any talent that might be able to help the team out in the future?
“The level was pretty good, especially at the second combine, which was this past weekend. I saw at least six players that I believe are good enough to come in and compete for a spot during the preseason. One or two of those players could even fight for a starting spot. I’d say that is a pretty good return for an open tryout.”
The club exercised options on 11 players back in early November, leaving plenty of open spots on the team. How has the offseason recruiting and contract negotiations been going?
“We wanted to make sure that everyone returning from last year’s team truly wanted to be back and be a part of what we’re doing here. It was important to get back the nucleus from last year, which I think we did. We’re hopefully wrapping up negotiations on a handful of players this week.”
If you could give the fans a message about the upcoming season, what would you tell them?
“This season, the fans are going to be able to come watch a team that will always give their best. There isn’t going to be a single player on the field for our team that won’t be giving their all game in and game out. I want to make Atlanta Silverbacks Park a place that opposing teams don’t want to come to. I want our place to be somewhere where it’s hard for an away team to even earn a tie. This is our home and we’re going to protect it, and we’re going to be die-hard in that mentality.”
While you were back home with your family in Houston this offseason, what did you miss most about Atlanta?
“I think just the daily routine – getting up and going to work to do what I’m most passionate about. I just missed the little things and the camaraderie with everyone. We were really a close-knit bunch at the end of the season last year.”
What was your favorite Christmas gift this year?
“Actually it was a book from my wife. It’s called “Marriage Made Easy” and it honestly was a great gift. It was good for someone who is in this line of work, where you sometimes have to be away from your family for extended periods of time.”
Who do you fancy to win the English Premier League and Champions League this year?
“I’ll take Manchester United to win the EPL, and I’ll take Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. I know all of the hoopla is around Messi and Barcelona and even Borussia Dortmund right now, but I think Bayern has something to prove. Their time might be coming.”
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