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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