CHI Player Interviews: Rochester’s Chad Severs

Chad Severs is a NJ-born striker currently playing for the Rochester Rhinos of the USL First Division. A lethal finishing touch and high work rate highlights his arsenal of attributes that have taken to him from Ocean City HS – where he came one goal shy (with 159) of tying Tab Ramos’ NJ state record of most career goals – to Penn State University – where he led the Nittany Lions in scoring three years in a row – and then to the professional ranks. At 25, Severs has done a lot in his young career but has already established himself as one of the most admirable professionals in the league. CHI caught up with him after he got back from a 5-month stint with Otago United in New Zealand. He is now preparing with Rochester for the new 2008 USL Division One season.

You started in Ocean City [NJ], which has turned into a real hotbed of youth talent for New Jersey soccer. A clear reason for that has been Coach Mike Pellegrino, your former coach. How did he influence your career? What other coaches have really helped shape you as the player you are today?

Coach Pellegrino and I experienced a lot of great memories together including winning two state championships. During my time there, Coach Pellegrino allowed me to express myself and do what I love, which is to score goals. I gained a lot of confidence in front of the net and repetition of scoring goals. For a striker those two things are important in your development as a player.

My biggest soccer influence has been Loy Urbina. He has been a coach, mentor, and friend and has given me all the necessary tools to become a professional soccer player.

My parents, Wayne and Amy have also been a major influence in my soccer career by supporting and believing in me. My father introduced me to the game, spent endless hours driving me to tournaments and practices, and was always there kicking the ball with me in the backyard. He encouraged me to become the best player I could be and instilled confidence in me at an early age.

What else in and around Ocean City contributes the influx of soccer talent? If you look at the names that are starting to come out of Ocean City, it’s amazing – Ryan Carr, Adam Sternberger, Chad Severs, Adam Williamson, Matt and Anthony Maher, Kyle Evans…the list goes on and on.

The Ocean City Barons PDL team and youth academy has played a major role in the development of local talent. A lot of good players have come out of the academy in the past few years and the barons provide that link between the collegiate game and the professional game. It gives local players a chance to come back in the summer months leading up to there college seasons, receive good training, and play with and against the best the best players in the area.

You’ve had one hell of a scoring career so far. What has been your most memorable moment?

One of my most memorable moments was in 2002 during my sophomore year at Penn State. We won the Big Ten Championship and I went on a goal scoring tear scoring 17 goals in 24 matches. I was on fire at the time and was averaging a goal a game in postseason play. After winning the Big Ten Championship we made a run to the elite 8 in the NCAA tournament. I scored the golden goal against the University of North Carolina in overtime to push us into the sweet sixteen and then in the next round I did the same thing against William and Mary to help us get into the elite 8.

When did you realize you had the drive, talent, and desire to become a professional soccer player?

From an early age I developed a passion for the game and knew that I loved to play the sport. I loved being out there on the field and the feeling of scoring a goal. As the years went on my work ethic and drive really propelled my dream of being a professional soccer player into more of a reality. I can’t pinpoint an exact age I realized I wanted to become a professional soccer player but I developed a belief, a dream, and aspired to play professional soccer early on. I knew that would take hard work and I can remember spending endless hours on the field, in my backyard, on the streets, or just making sacrifices to train and become a better player. I always wanted to be the best and was striving to become a better player.

After Ocean City, you went on to be the leading scorer for Penn State University and a scoring force within the Big Ten. What aspects of your game changed the most throughout college?

My technical ability and speed of play improved during my time at Penn State. I developed my ability to finish in the box and get in better positions to score. After working with the weight trainers my strength, speed, and agility also improved greatly.

You might be the first American to play professionally in New Zealand. How was your time in New Zealand?? What drew you to it?

I spent the last 5 months in New Zealand and it was a great experience. I was contacted based off recommendation by the manager of Otago United, Terry Phelan, a former English Premier League and Irish national team player. Everything happened rather quickly and a contract was offered and I decided to make the move. Anytime you can go to another country and learn a different culture and play the game you love for a living it can be taken as a positive experience. The country was absolutely amazing and I had a blast. I have always had a dream to play soccer in another country so I when the opportunity arose I didn’t have to think twice.

Were there any noticeable differences between the playing styles in US and New Zealand? Biggest culture shocks in general?

The speed of play was the most noticeable difference. Here in the states the game is played at a quicker pace and the style is more attacking. I noticed a lot of teams in New Zealand preferred to sit back and defend and play a more counterattacking style of soccer.

You went away for several months and came back. Within that time, long-time Rochester Rhinos coach Laurie Calloway was fired. Darren Tilley has come in to take over. What has been difference between the two?

It is still early in preseason for us so we haven’t done too much up to this point on playing styles so I can’t pinpoint any differences between the two on coaching styles, but they both are former players; Darren was a goal scorer and Laurie was a left sided defender.

Your first stint with the Rhinos led to a loan deal with the Harrisburg City Islanders. It led to 2005 USL-2 Rookie of the Year honors, another stint in 2006 and 2007? It eventually led to a USL-2 Championship, but your loan had ended before the Championship run. What has led to Harrisburg’s rapid rise to the cream of the USL-2 crop??

Harrisburg City Islanders head coach, Bill Becher, has to be given a lot of credit for the club’s rise to the top of the USL second-division. He is a players’ coach who finds out how to get the most out of his players. Every year he brings in talented individuals and has a knack for developing them into a good TEAM. Last years group of guys had great team chemistry and they were willing to work hard for each other. For me, it was great to see Harrisburg raise the cup at the end of the year and it was a good feeling to know that I did my part while I was on loan with the team helping them earn valuable points in the regular season that would put them into a good position for postseason play.

Not only have there been coaching changes, but also change in the ownership. Have there been any significant changes so far with the takeover?

Well, along with the new ownership/coaching changes the public funding of 4 million dollars will finally be released from the state of New York. The stadium, Paetec Park, which was recently built two years ago, will be finished with luxury suites, locker rooms, and first class facilities. The new luxury suites which are expected to be done by the end of 2009 will provide more revenue which in return will be better for the club. Also there have been several people hired within the front office that will add much needed enthusiasm and experience to help things get going in the right direction.

How has it been at Paetec Park?? Do you think the city of Rochester will ever take the leap to the Major League Soccer ranks?

Paetec Park is a beautiful stadium and has a lot of potential. Once the funding is released and the stadium is finished off it will be first class. The stadium itself and the fans of Rochester provide a great atmosphere that already competes with MLS attendances and a place where any top player would be excited to play. There have been talks of Rochester moving to MLS for the past few years but I don’t see that happening in the near future, until the facility is completely finished and everything is in place. It will also depend on the direction MLS takes on expansion and the state of the USL. I think all professional players hope that potential markets find stable ownership and we can have a promotion/relegation system in the future.

Any pre-game rituals?? What helps you maintain a level of consistency with your scoring?

There are little things from season to season you acquire. If something works you did the week before and you play well you try to do the same the next week. I usually say a prayer before the match during the national anthem. But the main thing I have found to be most beneficial is positive mental imagery and visualization. I think the most important thing for a player is preparation for a match. I have found visualizing and reliving positive images and moments in my career is helpful and gives me that extra edge on opponents. Before leaving for the stadium I will take 5 to 10 minutes of quiet and relaxation time using that concept. I run through the process of everything from getting ready for the game to the end of the game. After getting mentally prepared I like to listen to music on the way to the stadium and before going out for warm-ups.

To maintain a level of consistency for goal scorers it is a matter of confidence and being sharp in front of goal. It all starts in training and working hard and doing the extra things like staying after and working on shooting. If you work hard you will have the confidence of knowing that you did everything to prepare, the rest will follow and the goals will come.

With preseason just getting under way for the new USL Division 1 season, which Rhinos should be watching out for?

Well, we have a good group of core players that are returning and we’ve had a couple of good acquisitions in the off-season. We had good output offensively last year finishing second in the league in scoring and have most of those attacking players returning with a few additions. In the midfield we have seasoned veteran Johnny Menyongar returning, who is a creative playmaker and is capable of having a big season. Defensively, we are led by captain and long time Rhino goalkeeper Scott Vallow.

Otherwise, we have a lot of talented players and anyone has the chance of having a breakout year. So far, the atmosphere at camp has been electric, the players in camp are motivated, and practices have been very competitive. Everyone is out to earn a job in the starting eleven and prove to Coach Tilley that they belong. The key to our success this year is to stay healthy. If we can keep bodies healthy we have a great chance at bringing the USL first-division championship back to Rochester.

Who is the last person you want to see marking you?

Rio Ferdinand

Favorite player? Team?

Thierry Henry
Arsenal

Who do you pick to win the young MLS season?

Chicago Fire

There have been a lot of different names thrown around for the new MLS Philly team. Any options you want to throw on the table?

Philly FC or FC Philadelphia

If you were GM of the new Philadelphia franchise, who would be your first selection for player?

My first selection would be Cristiano Ronaldo. He is currently the best winger in the world and is having a dream season for Manchester United. He is unstoppable and has put up incredible numbers for a winger.

Chad, thank you for your time and in-depth answers. Good luck in the upcoming season – and hope to see you suiting up for MLS Philly in 2010!

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Q&A with LA Galaxy’s JULIAN VALENTIN

30 stitches for a Championship...

Okay. Okay. So I missed all Red Bull coverage this weekend. Take a look at Jeff’s account of the game – I will post on it later. I wasn’t able to make the game due to some family stuff and it turns out I missed a fun one. Won’t happen again, I promise.

I was able to talk to NSCAA All-American Julian Valentin this weekend though. The Lancaster, PA native was selected by the LA Galaxy in 2008’s SuperDraft and talks about his time with the youth national teams, his travels, the new MLS Philly franchise, and his biggest achievement as of late, winning the 2007 College Cup with Wake Forest.

All of this over at OLDE CITY.

CHI Player Interview: FC Dallas’ Ray Burse, Jr.

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! 

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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.

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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.

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Thanks again Ray for doing this…..good luck with everything. 

Why Not an Interview with Jonathan Bornstein!

Even with the transfer window open, not much has happened so far except for the transfer of Ever Banega to Valencia. No one wants to hear anything about Danny Mills being sent to cellar-dwellars Derby County on loan or Goldenballs training with Arsenal. Instead, here is an interview with Jonathan Bornstein from about 6 months – I posted it on my old site and figured those who missed it, could grab a read. Plus, we haven’t heard from Bornstein in a while. I hope to start up the interviews again sometime soon. Enjoy.

Jonathan Bornstein

Jon Bornstein has had, so far, a whirlwind of a domestic and international career. 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year honors, then a goal in his first game with the US Men’s National Team. Bornstein has goals way above that, but for now his appreciation for where he is, what he has done, and who he gets to play with far exceeds the ambition he has. Undoubtedly, Jon has a bright future – he’s Cal-Pomona and UCLA product – and has taken advantage of the fact that has stayed local, surrounding himself with a family and friend support group. Drafted by Chivas USA in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, he was taken 37th and considered a ‘sleeper’ pick, if anything. His versatility proved key has he won himself a position in a formidable Chivas USA lineup. Just recently, Bornstein has been called up by former coach Bradley for his second stint at the international scene, the Gold Cup starting June 6th, 2007.


What kind of youth soccer background did you have growing up in California?In California I started out playing soccer in Carson. It was a little recreation league that my dad coached me at. After that I moved to Los Alamitos and played AYSO in region 159. After playing all stars and spring select, my parents figured I was good enough for club soccer and that is when I joined a club in Long Beach. From Long Beach I moved clubs to the Irvine Strikers when I was 15. That is where I feel that I became a much better youth player.

Being from California, attending UCLA, and on a squad of predominantly Hispanic players [Chivas USA], how is your Spanish?
My Spanish is nowhere near fluent, but it feels like I am learning more and more each day. I took Spanish while I attended high school and college, which helps out, a little bit. I always tell people that I can understand a lot more than I can speak.

You played for two colleges throughout your whole NCAA career, CSU Pomona and UCLA, how was the transition there?

The transition was rather easy. I felt that if I wanted to become a professional soccer player, I was going to need to transfer to a top of the line Division I school. Cal Poly Pomona was tough competition, but not as tough as UCLA. I knew a lot of the team at UCLA before I went there so all the friends I had on the team made the transition real easy.

How important is it to be so close to home? You have had the fortunate opportunity to stay in the same state (regardless of how gigantic it is) and that must supply you with a huge support system.

Yah, I love playing in southern California. It gives most of my family the opportunity to come see me play whenever they want to. For almost all of them, it is just a drive down the 405 freeway to catch a game. Not to mention all the friends and teammates that are able to come watch as well. I have always stayed local for soccer (school, club, etc…) and so I have built up quite a support group. I feel lucky to have been able to stay local.

What other teams do you follow closely? Players?

I try to watch as much soccer as I can whenever I get the chance. My favorite teams to watch are Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, and many other European Teams. I personally like it when Champions League is going on…exciting times. Some of my favorite players to watch are the guys who play on those teams. Ronaldhino, Christiano Ronaldo, Robben, and Messi, are just a few to name.

Who are you closest to on Chivas USA?

I would say that I am closest to Lawson Vaughn. We hang out a lot off the field and we even room together on the road. He is kind of a stinky guy, but overall he is a great guy. I am stoked we both got drafted when we did.


Any rookie horror stories that, after a year, you can now reflect on? Or were the veterans mostly upstanding gentlemen?

Overall I would say that the Veterans were very easy going and great guys to play with and learn from. Although throughout the year they make you get the goals, the balls, and everything else. There was one time when they played this pretty big practical joke on me. They set up this interview and had told me that I got rookie of the year. This was about a month before they actually announced the award winner. They put balloons by my locker, wrote it up on the board, told the whole team, and wouldn’t stop talking about it. After training, the interviewer came up to me and started asking me how it felt to win the award and as I was answering, they dumped a Gatorade jug on me and told me I got “PUNKED!!!” It was pretty embarrassing but all in good fun you know.

How exactly does the sharing of Home Depot Center work? Do you see Galaxy players quite a bit?

We run into the Galaxy players just about everyday…in the hallways, in the gym, in the parking lot, and also out on the fields. I would say that the biggest thing that sharing the home depot center does is that it creates tension between the teams. That is why El Super Clasico is always so intense.

Is there anyway to explain to those not able to make a SuperClasico (let alone play in one), what is the atmosphere on and off the field like?

It is pretty hard to explain what goes on during a Super Clasico game, but let me just start by saying it is out of control. The atmosphere in the Home Depot Center is electric. The fans are constantly yelling and rooting for their team to win. Friends who have attended games have told me that they have even seen little fights break out. Honestly though, to play in one of those games is amazing and no real words could describe how it feels.

How has the transition from Bob Bradley to Preki been? We have heard there a great many similarities…

Overall, the transition has been rather smooth. Preki was our assistant coach last year so all the players got to know him pretty well. I think that he also picked up a few things from coaching under Bob last year and that is probably why they have many great similarities.

Are there any notable differences between your rookie year and your sophomore year in the MLS? Either on the field, off the field, in the off-season?

Well on the field there are a few differences. One of those would be my responsibility on the team. Last year I was a new player and was trying to adjust to the league and just being a professional. This year I have a better idea of what it means to play and so there is more expected from me. Off the field it is basically the same, other than the fact that I know most of the guys very well and therefore hang out with them more than I did last year because I was just getting to know them.

What is the worst stadium to play in fan-wise?

Fan wise, I feel that playing against the Galaxy, when it is one of their home games, is the worst to play against. They are always screaming foul things at you and trying to get inside of your head.

How amazing was it to score your first international goal in your first appearance for the US Men’s National Team?

It was truly one of the greatest moments of my life. Not only had a dream finally come true, which was to play with the National team, but I scored a goal in that game also. Not to mention that my entire family was watching because the game took place in my hometown (HDC). So I would say that it truly was an amazing moment in my life.

You have seen time at many positions and excelled at many, how much has your versatility helped your career? Did you have that versatility at UCLA?

I would say that my versatility is the only reason that I was able to see time on the field at all last year. Prior to last season, I had never played fullback/defense. All of the spots on Chivas were basically taken last year and left fullback was the only one that wasn’t set. Bob Bradley played me there in a couple pre season games and it turned out that I could actually play in that spot. So basically because I was able to transition to left fullback I was able to get on the field and see some success. At UCLA I also played all the halfback positions and forward so I would say I was versatile there also.

Coupled with the question above, what do you feel your best attributes are as a player? What did you work on most this off-season?

In the off-season I worked on my one on one defending and trying to get stronger physically. Those were two things that I noticed I needed improvement on. Other than that I felt that my best attributes as a player are my ability to get forward from a defensive position and the speed that I bring to the game.


Jon, thank you again and good luck with the rest of the season!