MLS Exclusive interview with Phildelphia Union's Chris Konopka
Aston Villa embark on a tour of the States this week. Their first opponents will be MLS outfit Philidephia Union and our man Stateside, Anthony Bedworth, managed to catch up with Union goalkeeper Chris Konopka for a brief chat about the game in the America, his hopes for the future and why he can't wait to see Shay Given in action.
How do you feel the season has gone so far for the Philadelphia Union?
We started off a bit rocky, but there are a lot of new faces to the team so realistically I’m not surprised that it took a bit for us to gel. But it is a long season and it is never the team that starts off strong to make a push at the cup, but the teams that find their groove mid-season going into the end, and I feel we have made some great progress over the past few games to look forward to that!
What are the squad looking to do this season?
With the way our season started off, we'd like to turn it around and make a good push at the play-offs. I feel it is everyone’s mind that this is more than possible and that’s what we are shooting for.
Having made your Union debut back in May, was you hoping to see more regular first team action or are you just biding your time?
I think every goalkeeper wants to play, but every goalkeeper also knows he has to be patient. All three goalkeepers at the club were called upon so far this year and all three of us have shown well. I think it gives the team confidence knowing that whether it is myself, Zac or Chase back there, they can rely on us.
How is your relationship with Zac MacMath despite you both battling for the number 1 jersey?
The three of us all get a long great I feel. To be honest, it is the best GK environment that I have ever been in. All three of us are pushing one another, yet helping one another to be our best. And on the day, whomever is between the posts, that person knows that the other two have his support.
Also you have experienced playing in Ireland for Bohemians, how was that for you and what did you learn from your time there?
I enjoyed every bit playing overseas in Ireland. I was fortunate enough to be on a team that was involved in the Europa qualifiers, that won the league and the FAI Cup. I feel it was a great experience for me football wise to be over there and get a different understanding of the game.
For the British fans who are unfamiliar with the type of player you are what would you say are you best attributes?
I'd like to say I am a big physical presence in and around the goal being I am 6ft 5.
Over the next five years what ambitions do you have within the game?
I'd like to see where it can take me. I feel that this year in the opportunities that I have been given, I am capable of competing for a number one spot in this league, which is something that I would like. I am 27 now, which in retrospect, is still not even my prime yet as a keeper, so I know I have a lot more growing to do bettering myself towards that. At the same time, while in Ireland, I was doing a bit of behind the scenes work to secure an EU passport with my family's roots from Poland, finally getting it at the beginning of last year when I was back with NY Red Bull. If there was an opportunity to go to England in my future (with work permit issues bypassed due to the EU passport), I would not be opposed whatsoever if it was the right fit.
MLS How big do you feel the MLS can be?
In my eyes the MLS has been getting bigger and bigger every year. The market is growing, the fan base is growing and the quality of players are getting better and better.
The support in Britain for the MLS is very minimal do you feel the barrier can be removed and more fans from the UK can start to follow the soccer from across the pond?
I think one thing that has helped the MLS here is actually the growing coverage of the EPL and other football leagues in America. There is football on every weekend in America for the entire year now, and that is something that has never been before. I don’t know how that can effect or be reversed to grab the interest of Britain, but whatever can be done, should be tried.
As we have seen there has be a number of high profile top European names moving to the MLS how do you feel this can benefit the league?
It just means that the standard is being raised even more when you get big names wanting to come and play here. It just brings another level of their experiences that they have had through football to their club here in the league, to benefit the rest of their teammates.
Aston Villa Friendly Preview
How is the whole of Philadelphia feeling ahead of the arrival of Aston Villa to PPL Park?
I feel we are excited about it, however we have two very important games coming up beforehand in the league and the cup, so I feel that once we get through those two, our gears will switch to the Villa game, and take a breath and just enjoy it.
Who in the Villa side are you most looking forward to see play and play against?
Well, Living in Ireland for the three years, I got to watch a lot of the Irish National team play, so if I had to be itching to play against anyone I guess it would be Shay Given.
With a well established club touring the USA for pre-season do you think that the fan base of the Premier League club can expand in Philadelphia especially?
I think it is always a possibility. Obviously Americans know the big big clubs in England, but with a team touring it can get people an intimate tie to their club, which may help establish more of a fan base here.
In a personal prospective will you be looking to swap shirts with any of the players or are you and the team just looking to put on a good display for all the fans?
I'm just looking to have fun, it’s what I look to do every day at training or in a game. If you are not having fun, you shouldn't be doing it!
Best Match played in (MLS)? vs Toronto this year
Best player played with (MLS)? Thierry Henry last year at NYRB
Football idol growing up? Tony Meola goalkeeper for the US in the 94 world cup
Favourite team growing up? NY/NJ Metrostars (currently the NYRB)
Favourite MLS stadium? PPL Park home to the Philadelphia Union!
First Car? Mercury Topaz bright teal (it was ugly!)
Favourite Holiday Destination? Southern California
Favourite Dish? Shrimp Salad Sandwich
Favourite Drink? Guinness
Favourite Film? The Endless Summer
Favourite TV programme/s ? Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Favourite Song? Trench Town Rock - Bob Marley
Hobbies/ Interests outside soccer? Surfing, Painting, Playing Music, Cooking
What would you do if you won $1million? Put it on Black