* * *Is there a certain type of center back you found ideal to play with during your career? The aggressor, always challenging for the ball? The senseful defender, always steady? The leader, always vocal?
JC: That's easy: Eddie Pope. I enjoyed playing with him the most for a number of reasons and I'll tell you why: 1. I watched him play A LOT when I was a defender in college and during my career in MLS because I tried to make my game like his and what I learned was that he could be any player that he needed to be based on the situation. He could be the aggressor a la Aurelien Collin or he could the thoughtful, steady defender like Matt Besler, and he always spoke up with the right and timely words when he needed to and never yelled just to yell to make it seem like he was doing something productive or to deflect responsibility like some other defenders I had been around, like Peter Vermes, for example! (Laughing) Peter was the king of that. 2. When I became a regular with the National Team and got to play with Eddie on a consistent basis, I felt like I already knew what he was going to do in every situation because I had been studying him for so long! I liken it to the defense on the 2004 Kansas City Wizards. I knew the way Kerry Zavagnin, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga, and Shavar Thomas played inside and out and that made the game easier for me to read, which allowed me to put my teammates in better starting positions, which allowed us to win the ball in better areas, which allowed us to use our energy for going forward, which allowed us to win games! Okay, I got sidetracked. Did I answer your question?
Obviously, you played for the Wizards for eight years, which is an extremely long time in the world of soccer. What was it like to leave the team after being in Kansas City for so long?
JC: It hurt to leave the team from a personal standpoint because of all of the special people I met and the charities I was involved with during my time in the city but, professionally, it was time to move on. It was clear that I wasn't wanted by the current coaching staff, which was highlighted by the fact that they never had one conversation with me about my future with the team during the whole 2010 season. After eight years of putting it on the line for the team in every game, they didn't have the class or courage to pick up the phone or to call me into the office and say that they were going a different direction or that I was too old but, in all fairness, they made the right decision! I was damaged goods. I only played two games with Chivas USA before having to retire due to concussions so kudos to them for making that call. However, I wish they would've shown me a little more respect on the way out…and, yes, I might get the "Sour Grapes" tag for bringing up old sh*t but I don't think I was asking for too much in return for my service to the team and the community.
What’s your fondest memory of your time with the Wizards?
JC: Playing for Bob Gansler. He was a coach that I didn't fully appreciate until after he got fired. He was tough and resilient and we reflected those personality traits of his on the field. And, as for me personally, I got thicker skin while playing for him and I know that I could have never played in a World Cup without his steady guidance behind the scenes.
You, along with Omar Bravo (who also is no longer in Kansas City), were the featured players to show off the first Sporting KC uniform at the rebranding ceremony. At that point, were you aware that your time in KC was ultimately at its ending point?
JC: Once I got stripped of being captain (for, apparently, being too awesome and not enough of a robot), I knew my days were numbered.
During your time in Kansas City, you weren’t exactly offered the greatest venues for playing soccer. Are you at all bitter that you left Kansas City before LIVESTRONG Sporting Park was opened?
JC: Nope. Not in the slightest. I'm just happy it exists for the great and passionate fans of Kansas City. Like the players that played before LIVESTRONG opened, the fans had been treated like second-class citizens for many, many years so I'm glad the OnGoal owners stepped up, followed through on their promises, and delivered a world-class facility that everyone can be proud of.
By the end of your playing time in KC, after the captaincy was stripped from you, what was your relationship like with the organization? With Peter Vermes?
JC: Though I lost a lot of respect for him based on how he handled my situation and some other players who are no longer part of the organization, I always thought he had the chops to be a good coach and I think he's proven that over the last few years. I expect him to be in charge of the team for a very long time. As for the rest of the organization, I think there are a lot of great people involved from the owners, Cliff, Greg, Neal, and Robb, all the way down to the unsung heroes who really keep things moving in a straight line like Rick Dressel, Rob Thomson, Chet North, and Mike Flaherty to name a few. In short, I'll remember my personal relationships a lot longer than what I did on the field and a lot of that is due to the special people in the organization and the incredible fans that supported the club through thick and thin.
If you could go back and change one decision you made in your career, what would it be?
JC: Great question! I would have to say trying to play the ball back over Alecko Eskandarian's giant head in the 2004 MLS Cup final instead of just lumping it up the field because, even though it was a blatant hand ball by Alecko that wasn't called by referee Michael Kennedy, which led to DC United's second goal, I could've handled it much different by not risking a situation that could put my team in a bad spot. That goal happened a few minutes after we gave up the first goal and then we gave up another one shortly after that and we never recovered. We should've won the double that year.
After retiring, what was your immediate plan? How did you get involved with Kick TV?
JC: My immediate plan was to finish the season with Chivas USA and then decide what I wanted to do next. I got offered a few different jobs following the 2011 season, including the opportunity to be Chivas USA's technical director and some other TV stuff, but the KICKTV option stood out because I thought it gave me the best opportunity to be me so I conversed with the family and we decided, "Why not? It sounds fun," so we packed up our crew and moved to New York City to see it out.
What’s your experience in Poland and Ukraine for EURO 2012 been like? Do you have a favorite moment from your trip?
JC: I had a great time in Poland and Ukraine and I thought my posse, which included shooter/editor, Sam Winter, and producer, Michael Milberger, produced some videos that I'm really proud of. Videos that I encourage people to watch because they are all about me learning to become a fan after so many years of being a player. Here's the link to the playlist. As for my favorite moment, I'd have to say getting a ticket for the Spain-Italy game in the group stages. I got to sit right in the heart of the Spanish supporters, I got to see the best game before the knockout rounds, and I made three new friends from Spain who I plan on hooking up with in Brazil in 2014.
Do you have any other soccer-related aspirations now that you’re retired?
JC: Sure. I have plenty. I will continue to wreak havoc on the powers that be with my podcast, "Jimmy Conrad's American Soccer Spectacular" or "JC's ASS," for short, which you can find on iTunes or on Facebook and Twitter, I will continue to run my soccer camp in my hometown of Temple City, CA in the summer and winter, which allows me to brainwash kids of all ages, and I will finish up my coaching curriculum here in the States when I set out to get my "A" license next January, which will give me the opportunity to seek a head coaching job if one opens up. In short, I am game for whatever…if the timing is right…and if the my wife gives me the green light…and, well, I have a lot of "ifs" to get through but if something I'm intrigued in is available, I will jump in with both feet.
I know it’s sort of a secret, but I’ve heard you’re quite funny. Where do you get your humor from?
JC: That is just rumor and speculation. If anything, I've become what every retired player becomes, a bitter, old has-been who hates today's players who make more money than we did for doing much, much less and not playing the game "the right way" like when we used to play. (Smiling big) Yup, that pretty much sums me up!
Shockingly – well, not really at all – you’re still a favorite here in Kansas City. Anything you’d like to say to the fans?
JC: Me? A fan favorite still? Wow. I am truly honored to hear that and I want to thank the fans for their continued support. It really means a lot because it validates everything that I gave to their team, well, their former team. Thank you so much.
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I'd like to thank Jimmy for his dedication during his time in Kansas City, his great sense of humor, and the fact that he agreed to do an interview with a 15-year-old blogger in the midst of the craziness that is his life. The fans of Kansas City appreciate it all.Follow @FootyChronicles