Monday, March 9, 2009

Soccer in America: Kevin Souter

Music Kevin Likes

On Friday of last week I talked with Kevin Souter and tried to understand a little about him and where he is going on this crazy ball of dust. It was a great talk; Souter is a friendly guy. It is imperative that you read his words in a Scottish accent.

Kevin Souter in the Beginning
Souter 1
What is your first soccer memory?
My actual first soccer memory was when I was really really small. As soon as you started walking [in the UK] you were going to be kicking a ball. I remember being over at my grandparents. I’d be in a hallway in his house just kicking the ball back and forth with my grandpa. We’d do it for a long, long time. Just him kicking the ball and kicking it back to him. It’s something I always remember.

Then I remember playing outside. There was a little parking lot we used to play in. I must have been three years old during that time.

You were in Scotland, how did pick Graceland out of all the American colleges?
Graceland U
Well something I’ve always had an eye on is soccer in the states. My high school PE teacher always said there is opportunity to go and play soccer in the states and get a scholarship and do some schooling over there. So from high school I’d always had it in the back of my mind.

When I was in high school I was picked up by a Scottish Premier League team Aberdeen and I was on their books as an academy player. I was with their youth team growing up. I never really thought about education. I’d always hoped I’d make it with Aberdeen.

That was my dream and boyhood team. As I progressed through there, [some of the] coach’s thought I was doing well with the younger team and the reserves but the head coach didn’t think I was progressing as much as I should have been and decided to part ways.

I took a little knock there and was pretty disheartened and went and played for some part time soccer team and did a college course back home. After a while I thought “I really do love soccer and I want to get back into it and continue with my education as well.”

A guy I was playing with had been over and was at Harvard University, a NCAA school. I talked to him and his coach contacted me and we talked a little bit. By that time he couldn’t get me over so the plan was to go to another school for a year and then transfer as long as my grades were good.

Graceland University contacted me. The coach that called me was the assistant woman’s coach, a goalkeeping coach. His son (Josh Wagenaar) was the goalkeeper at Harvard University. By this point I was ready to go anywhere. So I took the chance right away.

I had never seen the place, never heard of it, and it was an eye opener for sure. The people there were great, the coaching staff was great, and we had a lot of success. I grew a lot as a player and as a person and I have a lot of respect for the organization and the coaching staff there.

Playing in NAIA
How competitive do you think NAIA is?
I was pleasantly surprised by the standard of competition. Our strength was we were a hard team to beat, a hard working team. We played several teams that were better technical with guys from Brazil or South Africa, but our team was very hard to break down. We got goals off of set pieces - breakaways. Wherever it was we worked for it.

In terms of the league we played William Jewel, Benedictine, and Mid America. There was a lot of good team we would consistently play. Then going to the National Tournament as well, there were a lot of good players.

To be honest I think the NAIA is underrated. All the hype is about Division I and NCAA and during the draft all the players come from there, but there are a lot of good players in NAIA who are seemingly overlooked which is a shame but that’s the nature of it.

Current players in NAIA still talk about how good you were. Do you think you were better than the pack?
When I first came I probably lacked self belief. The coach was getting his doctorate in sports psychology and besides the team side of stuff he was probably working on sports psychology stuff. That really helped my game as a player and my confidence. I had experience in the past, professional experience, coming through a youth setup and seeing how it was done so I knew I had ability.

He gave me a license to take charge and the confidence to be a leader on the team and to take games by the scruff of the neck and be in charge. I felt I was a strong competitive player in the league. It’s a testament to the team, we’d go to some teams who’d been scouting us and they’d put two guys on me. That’s says something about me right?

We were a team so if two guys were on me we’ve got one guy spare. I loved my three years at Graceland and I’d never change them. I love the league and I had some great times there and it was defiantly great competition.

I put my head down and worked every spring and summer time. The coach would give me things to work on and I’d work on them and improve on them by the following season. It’s all about progression.

MLS Season One

Souter 2
How do you feel about your first Major League Soccer Season?
It was unexpected to be honest. Going into open tryouts I had that self belief in myself. I got picked up after the tryouts and went to Argentine with the team. As soon as I got myself adjusted to the team and the speed of play I started to understand a bit more what I could do and the potential I had. The coaches liked it and signed me up for the year. My targets for the year was to continually work hard and progress and that meant putting in all the extra time in the gym or after practice.

It was a long road getting to where I was. I wasn’t going to give it up that easy. I was going to do all that extra work. Stick around after practice working on certain things and implement them in the games. I was trying to get to the reserve team for starters. As I got more and more minutes there I would start to show a bit more and hopefully at the end of year to come away having earned a senior roster spot. That’s what I did. On top of that I got to make the A team and play a few games and I made my debut against my long time hero David Beckham.

You stole the ball from him with your first touch didn’t you?
Yeah. That was special. I went in on right side. I figured he’d be on the opposite side. Beckham was on my side for whatever reason and I think it was a corner. He took a bad touch and the ball got away from him and I got in there.

I have a picture sitting up in my room of me shaking hands with him after the game. That’s something I’m going to cherish for a long, long time.

After that things just took off. I got starts. I got a goal the following week when we played Toronto. It was a lucky hit but the records show it was mine so I’m taking it.

I started in Chicago and managed to keep myself in the lineup right through the playoffs. My task is to build off that this season.

2009 Preseason
You just got back from Guadalajara, what is it like?
Well the hotel was nice. We trained at Atlas’ facilities which were nice. They were very hospitable and we went and watched one of their games which they won 2-0. In terms of the city itself there are some nice areas and some rundown areas.

A few of us got a couple of taxis and went to a market. It was very nice and cool to see, a big market, a lot of stuff in there. We did a little sightseeing.

Guadalajara is kinda the same altitude as Colorado. In terms of training we were breathing heavy. Coming back the last couple days everyone is doing great.

No one was cut from the Wizard’s roster. How did that affect the preseason?
For the most part we had meetings before we left and got an idea of where we stood. The coach has enough confidence in all the players here. Certain spots have more depth but we got the majority of the guys back from last year. We didn’t add too much, just a little more depth. The guys like myself, John Leathers, Chance Myers, Marquess, the second year guys gained a lot of experience. Roger Espinoza with the Honduras National Team.

Guys are gaining more experience and on top of that we got a couple good acquisitions, the first year guys, Graham Zusi, and Beasler. We’ve got a pretty solid team. We have 24 but we still have Chance and Kronberg who are injured reserve right now. They are probably going to be added to the team too.

We went down to Florida and saw several teams down there with a lot of players, 40, 50, and it must be hard trying to get them all minutes and assessing all those players. We had maybe 25-30 guys and it was a lot more manageable. We could get straight to business and make more of the preseason this year than we did last year.

Thoughts on the 2009 Season
How will the Wizards do in the upcoming season?
I thought we finished really strong last year and I don’t think it will be any different this year. Our goal is to keep a really good home record which puts us in good stead and pick away at away games and try to get some wins away from home.

The squad is more than capable of getting results. Other teams have been adding to their squads and getting strong as well but I think we’ve got good balance and are gaining more experience. The coach has trust in the guys from last year.

There are no wholesale changes. In practice we’ve been working more on defensive movement and more offensive movements as well. As we play more as a team, we fight as a team, we win as a team. I think it’s going to show this year.

Our goal again is to make the playoffs and we want to win the conference and take it from there.

Do you think you will continue starting? I know you made a strong run at the end of last season.
It’s hard to say. This preseason has been kinda up and down for me. I feel like I started slower in the preseason but it has come around; I feel like I’m really getting sharp again. Again we’ve got so much competition in these spots. The acquisition of Hirsig, he’s been playing on the right in some preseason games, Zusi has been playing well along with Herculez who’s just come back from injury.

I feel I am starting to show more of the potential I have, getting sharper again and back to normal. There are plenty of options and it really depends who the coach decides to go with at the time. I’m always striving for a starting spot and whether it happens the first game or not I’m going to continue working.

When I’m called upon I’m going to do my job.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog site, it was really cool learning so much about this new young player, Kevin Souter. I really like how you not only had the write up but the videos and his favorite songs! I hope you follow up with him this season.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the 1st comment. Very well done, and your site layout offers a lot for your regular readers.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the interview. Thanks a lot from KC.

Soapy Souter impressed last year. He's unafraid to go at guys, has a great engine, and the fans like him. He'll have a lot of competition to start games this season, but it sounds like he's up for the challenge.

There will be lots of games this year between Superliga, US Open Cup, and the regular season. I have a feeling we'll see a lot of Kev on the field.

Graham said...

Hey everyone, thanks for the nice comments. I hope to bring ya'll more original content and MLS interviews. Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Looks like szazzy is already a Souter fan if he has a nickname for him already

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