Saturday, August 2, 2008

FOR REAL: Robbie Russell (Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

15. Who is your favorite soccer player of all-time? I think it would be a tie between Zinadine Zidane and Marco van Basten. Van Basten just played on that Dutch team that’s style was so revolutionary at the time. The idea of having players that were interchangeable – defenders that go forward, and attackers that would defend. And Marco van Basten, along with Ruud Gullit, I thought some of the goals that he scored for that team were incredible. And Zidane was one of those players that every time he got the ball you thought something was going to happen. (This sidetracked into a discussion of the Zidane movie “Un Portrait du 21E Siecle (2006)”, and Robbie explained his best birthday present was signed pictures from Zidane with his nephews).

16. What’s your favorite athlete outside of soccer? I’d have to say Tiger Woods. To be honest as a soccer player, I don’t see golf as the most athletic sport in the world. It’s more a game of precision. To have that kind of concentration and control over your body is something as an athlete you are always striving for. Watching that last tournament, seeing him make shots when he needed them is clutch, and that’s what players always want to have.

17. What’s your favorite brand of boot? Adidas.

18. What do you do to prepare mentally and physically for a game? Do you have a pre-game ritual? Of course I have a pre-game ritual, just in terms of when you eat, what you do before the game, not doing anything to strenuous, but for me I’ve found that for every game you play you need to try something a little different mentally to prepare for that game. If you know the game is going to be a very physical, tackling, hard game you may need to tap into a little more anger and animosity. If you know it’s a game that requires more possession you start thinking a little more about juggling and being a (tripsy?) kind of player. Or maybe you need to go through the range of them all to get ready. But the most consistent facet of my mental preparation is to make sure that I’m always positive. Because there is a tendancy when sitting in the lockerroom, and you’re nerves are getting up and you’re all stressed, that you put your head down and not look at anyone else because you are so involved in your own mind. You are trying to prepare, but it’s a team game, so the best thing to do is just look up and talk to the guy next to you. And make sure he’s ready. Sometimes that’s the best thing to do even if you are nervous. That can really help you get out of a rut.

19. What kind of music do you like? I hate it when people say this but I do like a little bit of everything. Just from the fact that I’ve been in so many different countries. It’s like the more that you listen to something, the more that you find what you like in it. I can go through I phase where I’m stuck listening to rap music for 6 months and then all of the sudden I’ll get into alternative rock for no apparent reason. My favorite band in the world is Dave Mathews, but I’m not the prototypical Dave Mathews fan. If it just happens to have a sound that I like in it, then I’ll follow that band for awhile, but it can switch at any time.

20. What do you see ahead for the rest of your soccer career and then once you hang up the boots what do you see that being like? Whew! Those are deep questions! Well, I think I definitely want to make that last run to try to make it on the World Cup team. That would be a dream come true. If I’m lucky enough to get that chance it would be fantastic. But sometimes as an athlete the worst thing to do is to make plans too far in advance, because you never know what’s going to get thrown at you. With my surgeries on my knee that was the first time I had been injured and that really brought me down to earth. So as an athlete you really need to think about the next game, and improving over the last game. After football, to be honest I’ve dragged my wife around a couple of places and she’s put her career on the backburner and so I feel that after football she should focus on her career and then maybe I’ll try to go back to school. I am interested in going to medical school, but I do need some undergrad credits, so we’ll see how that goes.

21. Having been here a week, what is your initial assessment of the team, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses? Just from general experience, I really feel that this team has a lot of positive energy around it. That is something that organizations strive for especially in Europe. To have a situation where everything is pointed in a positive direction, so that you have everyone from the head of the club to someone in the FO is pulling for the team. Every time you walk in they say hello, they know your name, they go the extra mile to get to know you. I’ve seen that a lot from the guys I have met on the club. That is so hard to get in athletics. Maybe the biggest hindrance to Real is that they are so young. And they have everything moving in a positive direction. As they get a bit older, and things go up and down can they keep that positive energy? The best teams focus on maintaining that.

22. Since you can play 7 positions, that includes some on the left side, do you feel comfortable with your left foot crossing the ball? There is a joke that I have, it’s “my left foot is pretty much just for standing.” I don’t mind playing on the left side, I can hit a ball, cross a ball, but my favorite side is the right. I feel like my right foot is very good, so anything that brings out my positives then I am all for it.

23. How do you feel you use your speed on the pitch and how does it define you as a player? I’m one of those players that like to play the ball more than run with it. So I’m good at runs off the ball, but runs off the ball you don’t necessarily need to be the fastest, but they need to be done at smart moments. So when I have the ball at my feet is generally when I use my pace. During the course of the game, you don’t necessarily have the ball a lot. So the rest of the time, it’s not using my pace. I generally see myself as a player that is roaming around and then when I see an opening – BAM! – I go through it.

24. What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses? My touch is very good. I have good vision, but that’s based on feeling comfortable in a system. I like to get to know players and their tendancies and that doesn’t happen overnight. I definitely can deliver the ball to players anyway that I need to and I can strike the ball very well, but getting to know the other guys is what I work at.

25. Tell us about the injuries that you have had and how they affect you as a player. My first injury was at Rosenborg. Over the course of 8 months I had 3 separate knee surgeries. Surgery. Rehab. Training. Injury. Surgery. Rehab. Training. Injury. Surgery. Rehab. Training. The first was a meniscus tear, where they tried an experimental treatment that went really wrong. The second injury happened on the first training back. After the second surgery, I didn’t take enough time to rehab and was again injured in the first training back, but this time quite severely. The muscles in my thigh I had lost 40% of my muscle mass, when I came back I didn’t have enough muscle strength to support my leg. So what happened, I went to plant, the knee locked, and the bones grinded together and I created a lot of cartilage damage. And with cartilage damage but it’s very long rehab time. They can shape the cartilage but they have to wait 6 months to a year to see if it heals properly. So my knee has been my biggest issue.

26. So when did the 3rd surgery happen and do you feel you are fully past it? In 2005 and it took almost 2 years to heal. So it’s only been in the last year and a half that I have felt like myself. Right now probably the strongest part of my body is my left knee.

27. How many languages do you speak? I can speak Norweigan. Danish and Norweigan are very similar, but the Danish and Norweigan’s don’t like to hear that. They are written very similar, but the pronunciation of the words is very different. Danish is more guttural with more slurring of the words, whereas Norweigan is enunciated more. I also have high school French and have had practice playing with French players. I’m okay in English as well.

28. When you were born in Ghana were both of your parents American? No, my father was American and my mother is Ghanaian. So when I was little I spoke Fante, an African dialect. I was 2 so I was just starting to speak. But I’ve been in the US so long that I’ve lost that.

29. Do you think travelling in the US is going to be a big adjustment? In Champions League, and in certain countries like France you do fly to a lot of games, but it will be an adjustment. It’s on a different scale here.

30. Have you learn to hate the Rapids yet? I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to. (After this Trey and I gave him the background and I think he’s on board now).

31. If there was one thing you’d like to say to RSL fans what would it be? The biggest thing is I hope that I can make them proud and I hope that I can help them to foster their love for the team.