What does it mean to be a member of the first roster in Chattanooga Red Wolves SC’s history?
It’s very exciting! I’ve been a part of programs that have had history of winning multiple championships, and you can just feel the winning atmosphere and culture, and I think it inspires everyone involved to raise their levels. To have an opportunity to lay the foundation for a successful program, and begin to establish a winning culture, is very exciting and inspirational personally.
Why Chattanooga? What made this move the right one for you at this point in your career?
Honestly, I’ve heard many great things about the city, the club, and the soccer culture within the city. I’ve heard its growing rapidly, and that sort of passion and support is really exciting. To have an opportunity to get involved in a community that's passionate about football, I think is what every player strives for. The club seemed keen on me and bringing me in, and that made the decision easier despite a few Championship offers!
When did you know soccer was what you wanted to pursue? Did you always want to be a professional player?
Well, actually no! Up until about 7th grade, I believe, the NBA was always the dream. I began playing basketball long before soccer, about three years before, at about six years old. I played basketball simultaneously with soccer, all the way up until my freshman year in college. Although, I think I knew I wanted to pursue professional soccer, when we first got FOX Soccer Channel, in 5th grade. They showed English Premier League games, and I saw the passion of the fans over there and knew I wanted to do everything I could to try it make it in professional soccer.
Is there an iconic player you’ve looked up to throughout your career?
Yes there were a few. Basketball—Huge Kobe Bryant fan! Kobe > Lebron in my opinion.
Football—The skipper Steven Gerrard was always my favorite player! The way he lead a team, made plays in big moments and the passion and desire he played with was top class.
With 2019 being USL League One’s debut season, what are you most excited about? What are your expectations for the 2019 season?
I am excited to be a part of the growth of this league. I was in the league back in 2014 when there were about nine teams total. Now they have two divisions, and it's pretty amazing. But I am excited to put Chattanooga’s stamp on the league right from the beginning. It’s a new season and new league, but someone has to win it! And regardless, I think as a professional, you want to get results, and win championships—that's ultimately why you play. So Im excited to potentially set the tone and culture in Chattanooga, and have a chance to set the bar as high as we can as a collective.
How are you prepping for your time here?
Well in addition to professional indoor soccer, I have personal workouts I do that are a little more geared toward outdoor demands. As well as just working on all aspects of my game—you can never be too sharp or too good at the basics.
You held stints with USL Championship’s Saint Louis FC and Rochester Rhinos—in your opinion, what makes USL competition different?
I think USL compared to MLS, has some very subtle differences. Obviously MLS is a little more financially and traditionally established. But I think USL has a lot more younger, hungrier players getting significant minutes, as opposed to MLS where guys are on average a little older and a bit more established. MLS, as a whole, is probably a little more technical, and composed, but USL is a bit more fast paced throughout the average match, which can make the game difficult for a player of any caliber.
Are you excited to be staying in the USL?
Yes! Im excited to be a part of the growing league as I touched on before. I’ve seen it grow right before my eyes throughout the years, and it’s an exciting time to be involved with the league.
While rostered with the Rhinos, you led your team to claim the USL regular season and Cup Championship in 2015—describe that experience.
I mean seasons like that are seasons that you will never forget, filled with moments you couldn’t forget if you wanted to! The group that Bob Lilley put together that year was special and a true team on and off the pitch. As a collective, everyone was very focused on doing their job to help the team win, focused on the details, and just flat out hungry. We played with a chip on our shoulder, and it showed. Losing only one match all season says it all, never losing at home, and only losing on the scoreboard once, in the championship which we managed to win regardless. So I mean words are tough to do that season justice, but it was a tight-knit, humble, hungry group and those ingredients, sprinkled with organization and quality, will win a lot of games. I foresee similar seasons in Chattanooga’s future.
You have spent six seasons in the MASL—what are some key differences in arena vs outdoor professional play (aside from the obvious)?
Wow. Well where do I start?! Haha. I mean the cliché, “Football is football” holds true to some smaller degree. The tactics are much different than outdoor, obviously, considering the space is difference, number of players, etc. The tactics are more similar to that of the game of futsal, if you’re familiar with futsal. Also there are many different rules, involving line changes, foul count, ability to foul out, power plays (just like hockey) and three line violation—to name a few. Any outdoor player would need some time to adjust to Indoor, but I think they would grow to love it. It breeds versatility. For instance, I play center midfielder in outdoor, and for the past five indoor seasons I’ve played forward.
What’s your favorite part about arena play?
I think its more fast paced than outdoor and you can more easily engage with the fans. But I really like that all positions have the ability to get repetitions in front of goal, which isn’t always the case in outdoor.
What are you most looking forward to about living in Chattanooga?
I’ve heard a lot of good things—that it’s a beautiful city, a lot of nice scenery and nature, which I'm excited to explore. I am familiar with people from Tennessee and they always have been very friendly. Just learning a new city in general is exciting to me!
Favorite pregame song/ritual?
No specific song, but I always try to just calm my mind and visualize myself doing my job successfully and well before the game. I try to visualize certain scenarios that may potentially play out throughout the match, and just see myself doing well.
Favorite historic soccer moment?
Probably receiving the Championship trophy on the stage and lifting it up. Signing my first professional contract with Chicago Fire is probably close second though!