Lost in the hoopla of Livestrong Sporting Park and Chad Ochocinco is that Saturday’s season opener against Chivas USA will feature an old friend to many fans here.
Former captain Jimmy Conrad will be making his first appearance against his former team. He took time to talk with The Full 90 about Saturday’s game, Ochocinco and Chivas USA’s possible NFL addition: former Kansas State star Terence Newman.The Full 90: Are you ready to break some hearts around here on Saturday? Conrad:
(Laughs) The funny thing is I really want the team to do well. I think the city and the fans would really glom to its success. Obviously, anyone likes to join a front-runner. But I think the team hasn’t done as well as it should have the last four, five years, and I think it’s time, especially with the new stadium and all that good stuff. I know I’m still kind of pushing the KC agenda here, but it would really be a big deal for the city to have success. However, not at the hands of my new team, Chivas USA. As long as my new team can do its business against Kansas City, they can go on and do whatever they want with their season, and we can get on our way and hopefully meet down the line when the games mean more in the playoffs.
I liken it to when you join the national team. You have a lack of familiarity with the guys, but you still respect that everybody there is a good player. The national team is even more intense because you have to figure it out within a week. You usually have five, six days before playing a qualifier or a friendly. Here we had seven or eight weeks before we played this first game. There is still that general respect of everyone here is a good player and everyone here wants to win, so how do we get everyone speaking the same language on the field. (Coach) Robin Fraser and the staff has done a good job of making that happen and I think it will be a good game on Saturday night. If I look at it honestly, they probably have more talent on paper, but games aren’t played on paper, so we have to play the game and see how it goes.Full 90: Has coach Fraser picked your brain about Kansas City? Conrad:
I think he’s pretty well versed having been an assistant coach in the league for a number of years of what the strengths and weaknesses of a Peter Vermes-coached team for the last year and half, two years. I think he’s pretty familiar with how Kansas City moves and what it is trying to do, what it is trying to accomplish. If anything, it’s maybe some strengths and weaknesses about certain individual players, like where they like to pick up the ball. But not as much as you think. I think he has a good idea of how they’re going to come at us, and we’re going to try and play our game and make some adjustments for some of the players we expect to see.Full 90: Have you talked with any of the Sporting players since you left? Conrad:
I spoke to Jack Jewsbury quite a bit and Matt Besler. Of course, Jack’s no longer part of the team. I’ve spoken with Davy a few times, Graham Zusi, Kei (Kamara), Ryan Smith and (Craig) Rocastle and (Korede) Aiyegbusi. And Jimmy Nielsen and Eric Kronberg. Pretty much everybody at some point or another. I talked with Teal after he got hurt and Mikey Harrington every once in a while. As the preseason wears on, there’s not much to say. Gearing up for this first game, it’s all good-natured ribbing until the game starts. It’s really going to be like a practice, because I’ve seen these guys for so long and they’ve been part of my world for so long and vice versa. It should be fun to go out and run around with those guys and see them in their new threads.Full 90: Forget the new stadium and the new uniforms, are you disappointed you won’t be able to practice with Chad Ochocino?
No, actually. It’s kind of a neat experience, but I really hope he can play, otherwise it just becomes more of a publicity stunt. There’s a part of me that wants him to do well and make the team or at least make them make a decision — hey, maybe this guy does have something. Obviously, he’s a tremendous athlete, but I really hope there’s something more to it, than some hopeful tryout where it’s “Hey, I’m Chad Johnson and because of that I can get a tryout with an MLS team.” It would be pretty neat to see the spectacle. I’m sure the cameras coming out to the first few practices will be something else.Full 90: What do your teammates think about Ochocino? Conrad:
We had a good laugh about it. At the Home Depot Center, there’s an Athletes Performance, so there’s a whole bunch of guys. So we saw Terence Newman today, who is a DB for the Dallas Cowboys. [Ed note: Newman is also from Salina, Kansas, and played college ball at Kansas State.] He asked if he could come play midfield for us. We’re already getting grief from some of the NFL guys we see everyday. Some of them, you think, “Man, he’s a horse, you might as well throw him up top and see if he can get on the end of some crosses.” But it’s all good. If anything, it makes MLS a watercooler topic and I just hope it has a happy ending and doesn’t cheapen what we’re trying to build.Full 90: Tell us more about Newman. Conrad:
We just kind of laughed. We asked him what position, because I was like I’ll just throw you up top and you can just win balls and try to head them into the goal. He said he preferred to play midfield, and I was actually quite impressed he knew that much to say midfield. I think those guys are a little more in tune with our sport and our league than they might let on. It’s pretty cool to see them every day, because right now they don’t have anything to concentrate on but lifting weights and talking to us. But it’s kind of cool to see them.
| Pete Grathoff, email@example.com