Casa Grande, Arizona – At a training ground known more for its baseball past than it’s soccer present, it’s a refreshing sight to see one of the more exciting midfielders in the game wreaking havoc on his own defenders during a morning preseason session.
After conversing with his coach Sigi Schmid and teammate Pete Vagenas, the shaved-head Seattle Sounder and former Arsenal man greets me with a handshake and a warm smile as we talk soccer under the bright Arizona midday sun.
You’ve been through a lot of preseason camps in your career, do you get tired of it and how do you deal with it?
What do they say…no pain, no gain? That’s probably how it feels. I’m used to a four week preseason and this preseason is long, like 7 to 8 weeks. It’s going to be long but if it’s going to make our team better, it’s a good thing.
How do the legs feel?
I feel great…But as well, I had to prepare myself before I got here because of the CBA in case I had to go play in Europe, I would be ready to play straight away…so I’m prepared…I’m ready. I feel really good.
Did you like the longer off season in MLS as opposed to Europe?
Of course it’s good I liked it. It gave me the opportunity to see America. For me to come here it was a big decision to help promote the game and to learn from all the different people and to see the country.
What have been the biggest adjustments so far for you on and off the field?
It’s a very physical game I think on the pitch. So that’s something I had to get used to. The refeering is very different, not that it’s bad, just different. It’s more liberal than Europe. Off the field, Everybody is extremely friendly. When I moved into my street my neighbors came over and wanted to make a party for me. So you feel quite welcome.
What are some of the biggest differences between a European preseason and MLS?
We have a lot of players in camp, we have some guys who are trying out…in Europe you already have your team set when you come into preseason and you just train hard for four weeks and then start your league. In Europe the results in preseason games don’t matter…here I think because the preseason is so long you try to get some results before you get going into the league.
–Mark Vincent Lincir