Ray Burse, Jr. has had one hell of a past year – on and off the field. As primarily a reserve last year, Burse waited patiently for his chance at the first team. Then Shaka Hislop retired, Dario Sala was injured and Burse found himself in net for FC Dallas’ SuperLiga opener vs. Chivas Guadalajara. After that, it was all first team for the Ohio State Buckeye. Speaking of OSU, Burse pulled double-duty last season – finishing up his degree in American History. Clearly, the split-time never affected his on-field play. With his degree finished, 2008 looks to be a great year for the 23-year old as he looks to cement the starting position at FC Dallas and put himself firmly on the USMNT’s radar. The acquisition of Mexican defender Duilio Davino from Club America will certainly help! CHI got to talk with Burse about all sorts of things, mainly soccer of course. Enjoy…and good luck to Ray with the upcoming season!
How rough was that butt-whooping Ohio State got in the BCS Championship the other day?
A: It was a rough one to take, however I was more upset when the men’s soccer team was defeated in the finals of the College Cup against Wake Forest. Nevertheless, it was a great run for both teams, neither of which were given any chance of making the finals in their respective sport; a compliment to the success they achieved in making the finals.
What have you been doing this offseason?
A: I started out with a trip to Maui with my girlfriend the week before Christmas to celebrate our one year anniversary. We both had an amazing time on the island soaking up the sun, snorkeling, whale-watching, shopping, and relaxing. From there we went back to her hometown of St. Louis and spent Christmas week with her family. To bring in the New Year, we went to Columbus to visit with college friends that we do not get to see often. On New Year’s day, we drove to my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to visit with my family and I helped run a soccer camp for one of the local clubs. The turn out was great and there was a lot of interest expressed. I am hoping to turn this into an annual event.
Now that I am finished, it is time for me to focus on getting physically fit in preparation for camp starting in the beginning for February.
Does the city of Dallas still have the same allure as when you first arrived in 2006?
A: Of course! It is a great city with plenty to do, a great soccer community and it has great fans. I look forward to helping bring a championship to the city!
Being from Kentucky, what drew you to Ohio State in the first place?
A: When I went on my official visit to the University, I was drawn to the incredible athletic facilities they possessed, as well as the sheer magnitude of the school (over 50,000 students). Some people might people might be deterred by such a large student population, but I loved it.
As a fellow American History major, what do you find the most interesting event in American history?
A: I think the Civil War and Reconstruction are the most interesting events in American history. The struggle African Americans endured from enslavement to freedom makes this period the most intriguing for me.
What was your youth soccer experience like?
A: I had a great youth soccer experience playing for Javanon Soccer Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Youth soccer in Kentucky lacked the competitiveness that other states had, but we were able to compete on a national level.
You were both a goalkeeper and an All-American striker in high school and throughout the youth levels, what made you decide to focus on being a goalkeeper?
A: I would love to take all the credit for deciding to focus on being a goalkeeper, but the decision was forced upon me by my youth coach, Claudio Maldanado. I was reluctant at first and verbally voiced my opinion to him, but he stuck by his decision. Now, we both sit back and have a laugh about who knew best.
You had a busy past year as your career really started to take off. What would you peg as the most memorable moment of 2007?
A: My best moment of 2007 is my start against the Columbus Crew in Columbus. This is my best moment because I was able to play in front of my girlfriend, her son, my family, friends from college, and college coaches.
What are you most looking forward to in 2008?
A: I am looking forward to winning out the #1 spot and playing every week.
Heading into the 2008 season, what are the goals for FC Dallas this time around?
A: I think every team starts the season out with the same goal; to win the MLS Cup.
Who do credit for really helping you emerge last season as a starter and versatile goalkeeper?
A: There were three influential people for me last season, Jeff Cassar, Shaka Hislop, and Nestor Merlo. Jeff Cassar started off as our goalkeeping coach and pushed me very hard from the beginning of preseason camp. He was constantly on me at every moment to improve my game, something that I missed when he moved on to Salt Lake.
Shaka is a mentor and a good friend. I have tried to emluate him since before he came to FC Dallas. He was extremely successful on and off the field, and I look forward to having a great relationship with him for years to come.
Nestor took over as goalkeeper coach when Jeff left and pushed me very hard. He prepared me every week as though I was the starter, and I think that is why I was successful when called upon.
What are you looking to focus on in 2008 – in terms of your attributes as a goalkeeper? What are your strongest attributes?
A: In 2008 I want to focus on reading the game better, being sharper on my decision making, and distributing the ball better. My strength is my athletic ability.
You played in eight reserve games last year, is there anything – as the reserve division is still in its infancy – that the MLS could do to improve it?
A: Possibly a cash reward for winning the games? But for now, the player has to take it upon himself to use the games a tool for improving his game. That is the mentality I adopted when I played in them, and I think it helped me in the success I had last season with the first team.
Who has got the scariest shot in the MLS?
A: Right now I would go with Kenny Cooper. His shots have a tremendous amount of pace on them. But, I guess that might change if I play against Beckham…I heard he has a good free-kick.
Best goalkeeper in the world right now?
He may not be considered the best in the world, but I enjoy watching Tim Howard. I think my style of play is similar to his.
Any players or teams within the world of soccer that you follow?
A: Again I would have to say Tim Howard since his days as a Metrostar.
Any rituals or superstitions before game time?
A: I shower and shave after pregame meal, and listen to my ipod on the way to the stadium. After that, I just focus on getting mentally prepared for the game.
Would Europe ever be an option? If so, where would be the ideal destination?
A: Yes it would be. Ideally it would be England, however I would not limit myself to that.
Last but not least, what does the future have in store for Ray Burse? Long-term goals?
A: Hopefully I have a long successful future with FC Dallas and we are able to bring a championship to Dallas. My ultimate personal goal is to play for the US National team.
A couple miscellaneous questions for you…
What is on your iPod these days? Pre-game song?
A: My ipod has the new Kanye West and Common. I also listen to Micheal Jackson’s Number 1 hits. My favorite pregame songs are Champion and I Wonder from the new Kanye West album. I find them to be very inspirational.
Best place to eat in Dallas?
A: My favorite place to eat in Dallas is the Brazilian steakhouse Rafain.
Funniest member of FC Dallas?
Denilson is a pretty funny guy, but I miss a lot of his jokes because he speaks too fast for me to understand what he’s saying.
Thanks again Ray for doing this…..good luck with everything.