Interview: Jimmy Conrad, The Most Special One?

Go to Jimmy Conrad’s personal home page and it makes a bold proclamation…

Welcome to JimmyConrad.com: Your whole life will now change for the better.

It was a short night on Saturday for JC.

Well Jimmy, after stomping on my hopes and dreams Saturday night at the Home Depot Center with your 17th minute sayonara I call bullsh.. false advertising!

After meeting Jimmy in-person earlier this month when TSG was at the US Soccer training camp, I actually believed my life had changed for the better. I started a new job, attended the Jets playoff beatdown of the Chargers in my own backyard and matched all my socks coming out of the dryer.

Things were looking good.

Then came Saturday.

JC gets a red card, the USMNT gets thumped 3-1, the Knicks get walloped by 50 and the Jets fell apart in the second half versus the Colts. In other words, I’m not quite sure what to believe anymore. While the USMNT and greater soccer public is probably harboring a grudge against Conrad, take a read of our time with him and the scales of injustice will begin to balance.

Perhaps the only thing I know for certain following my short time with Mr. Conrad after a US training session earlier this month in Carson is this – what you see is what you get with Jimmy Conrad. He’s comes across just as engaging, funny and intelligent after practice talking 1-on-1 as he does through his multi-pronged media exposure.

Upon meeting Conrad, he took a quick glance down towards my notes which happened to be a page marked “Conor Casey” and immediately informed me that he was not, in fact, Conor Casey, but Jimmy Conrad.

(Thanks for the heads up, Jimmy, but we know you’re not bald. We know you don’t score goals, you give up fouls in the box. Zing!)

And thus we were off on a great Jimmy Conrad experience that touched on MLS, teaching math and playing in Poland among other things. You’re going to want to stay around for the Poland part.

Of course TSG’s first question of Mr. Conrad centered on his wing in the TSG Comment Hall of Fame. After explaining its existence to Conrad, TSG asked for his criteria in allowing entrance into the hallowed halls of the Jimmy Conrad Wing for humorous commentary.

JC’s advice? “Got to be sharp wit, obviously…you don’t take yourself too serious. That’s gotta probably be number one. You act like you do, but you really don’t. You think you know it all, but you really don’t and…you acknowledge that you don’t it all.”

One thing Jimmy Conrad does know about is playing for the USMNT. As the elder statesmen of the just completed January camp, Conrad took the opportunity to lead by example (with one notable exception) and share his experiences with the squad of mostly up-and-comers the past few weeks in Carson.

“I am the only guy here with World Cup experience,” said Conrad, “so I tell people how special it is to represent your country in that competition. Even for the guys who are at their first camp…just what it means when you step on the field when you wear the practice jersey and make sure that they realize it comes with a great deal of honor.”

Captain Conrad with is infamous bobblehead.

The 32-year-old defender arguably has the longest string of success among Americans in recent history having won a NCAA championship, US Open Cup, MLS Cup and Gold Cup as well as made an appearance in a World Cup.

Yet, he still has aspirations on the field. Outside of a World Cup title, the long-time Wizard’s number one goal is “to win a MLS Cup as a captain. I think it would be really neat to be the first guy to touch the trophy and lift it up and hand it off to my teammates and coaches and stuff would be a big honor and something I have been striving for the last five years in KC.”

In addition to his work on the field, Conrad is very busy off it including numerous charitable activities that netted him a 2009 Humanitarian of the year award from the US Soccer Foundation and MLS W.O.R.K S., guitar-hero escapades versus Freddy Montero and ESPN.com articles. As many American soccer fans know, Conrad stirred the pot this past December with his ideas for re-shaping soccer in the US. While Conrad’s ideas were many, what would be his number one priority if he slipped into Don Garber’s chair for a day?

For Conrad it would all be about the future, the grand plan. “I’d really kind of sit down with the owners and try and decide how this thing should evolve,” said Conrad. “What’s the direction? What are we really trying to achieve? What’s the end game? Are we trying to get to club autonomy and free agency and make it like a real league in this country or are we satisfied with what we have and just to build slowly and go from there?”

The KC Wizard then went on to say he’d also like to “bridge the gap between point A and point B [in American soccer] so the people at the bottom know exactly what they have to do to get to the top.” Reminding Conrad of the recent formation of a Division 2 he deadpanned, “clearly my impact.”

Though Conrad would consider a management role in MLS following the conclusion of his playing days, he might be headed to the sideline first.  “I do have some dreams of being a coach in MLS…I am going to call myself ‘The Most Special One.’ I think the MLS needs a little more personality in the coaching department.” (Actually Jimmy, MLS and more broadly American soccer needs more personality everywhere.)

Conrad authentic: "And he was crying in the shower like, "Please don't hurt me..."

With the brother TSG being of Polish descent we would have been remiss if we didn’t close our time with Conrad by asking him about his brief stint at Poznań in 2000 and the tenor of Polish football at that time. “[Poznan was] pretty intense,” said Conrad. “We had some nasty hooligans once when I was there and they stormed lockerroom because the goal keeper made to errors and they were looking for him. And he was like crying in the shower like, ‘don’t hurt me.’ It was insane…yeah…they were insane and I loved it. They loved me, so it was good. They were all like NFL linebacker size. Huge. It was unbelievable.”

Think that recent US exports Ricardo Clark and Stu Holden will have similar experiences in their forays across the pond? (I hope not.)

While most players soccer odysseys would be winding down as they approach their 33 birthday, one gets the feeling that Conrad is still somewhere in the middle of his journey. Answering a question about the impact of soccer off the pitch, JC offered the following insight into how he works.

“Soccer is life is metaphor is not a bad thing…when I am at home with my wife I always give her soccer analogies to explain every situation and she is like ‘enough’ and I am like, ‘I haven’t done anything else…what do you want me to do.’ This is just how my life works.” He added, “She is pretty much over the soccer analogies.”

As my interview with Jimmy Conrad came to a close, a line from the movie Blades of Glory popped into my head. Adapting that line to Mr. Conrad it would go something like this:

Jimmy Conrad IS Soccer. Boom!

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14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/28 at 6:30 AM

    Conrad has always been a good guy – smart, funny, and great with fans. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. He brings veteran leadership to a young team, and keeps things light.

    That said, I still don’t think he belongs on our WC squad. He has lost his speed, and that kills. No other skill can compensate. Your footwork and knowledge of the game only go so far. When you’re getting left behind by opponents, you commit ill-advised fouls.

    Here’s one of my favorite shots of COnrad, taken at a DC United reserves game in 2008.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 6:34 AM

      Great pic, but are you sure that’s a DC United reserves game? Only reason I ask is because Santino Quaranta looks like he is ready to hit South Beach….

      Reply

      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/28 at 6:46 AM

        Yup, it was on the RFK auxiliary field. Tino was still in rehab and 6-8 months away from coming back to the team. We used to have Tino sightings at matches every few weeks, but never thought he might actually return.

        I have no explanation for why he was dressed like that.

        Reply

    • I agree that his tactical acumen no longer can compensate for his diminishing technical skills at the highest levels, but his presence in the locker room might be enough of a reason to bring him along. When the tension is too high, would you rather have Jimmy breaking the ice, or Sweatpants, Gooch, Bocanegra, Jozy, etc.?

      Reply

      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/28 at 7:55 AM

        I totally understand what JC brings to the table. I mentioned that as one of his strengths.

        The problem for me is that everyone on that roster should expect to get on the field at some point, should there be a couple of injuries. If the worst happens – say Gooch hasn’t recovered enough to make it through the group stages and Demerit finds he can’t go, would you be comfortable putting Conrad on the field in a knockout game to face, say, Klose or Torres?

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 8:03 AM

          I wouldn’t be comfortable going on the field against Torres in a knockout game Matt. :>

          In terms of JC, I think his physical ability–combined with his occasional mental lapses–makes it an easy decision to go with youth. If JC’s experience was such a factor like Boca’s for that matter, it might be another story.

          Reply

        • I would agree that everyone on the roster should prepare themselves as if they’ll see the field, but would anyone feel comfortable with anyone other than Gooch, Demerit, Boca, or Specs playing in the center of defense?

          The toughest decisions that Sweatpants will face is selecting the fringe players, do you go with youth as Matthew points out, so they get some of that experience and won’t have the deer-in-headlights look next time around. Or, do you go with a vet who brings more to the table (off the pitch) than a “I’m just glad to be here” attitude.

          Matthew does make a good point that we’ll already be bringing the aging vet with loads of experience in Bocanegra, so Conrad will most likely be left behind.

          Reply

        • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/28 at 9:28 AM

          The only other player besides Gooch, Demerit, Boca, or Specs that I would even dream of having in the middle, and that ONLY as a last resort, is Clarence Goodson. I actually think he’s further along than Chad Marshall, although I have no idea why that should be. He just seems more composed in the mix than Marshall does.

          Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 12:15 PM

        He’s no Franco Beresi, that’s for sure. I agree with Nick – centre backs usually read the game better, anticpate proactively rather than reactively with age and experience, and this in most cases this makes up for the lost yard in pace. But I honestly feel that he can no longer produce what is required at international level. And given that the squad is only 23, he cannot be in serious contention for a spot on that plane.

        Reply

  2. Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/28 at 8:22 AM

    Bradley chose to introduce Spector in central defense instead of playing Conrad in the December friendlies which I think says a lot in terms of JC’s chances of heading to South Africa.

    Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 9:30 AM

    I would rate the central midfield contenders as follows (disclaimer in that I am not taking other positions into account):

    Gooch
    DeMerit
    Boca
    Spector
    Marshall
    Goodson
    Conrad
    Gonzalez

    Reply

  4. Posted by bw on 2010/01/28 at 10:02 AM

    that photo looks like he’s kicking pavon in the nuts…definitely worthy of a third yellow.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Joe on 2010/01/29 at 9:54 AM

    I would like to see Gonzalez play before you list him dead last. On my list send Conrad to the cellar and Marshall right on top of him. Give me Goodson and Gonzalez a bit more. Marshall looked AWFUL the other night vs. Honduras which did not surprise me.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/29 at 10:18 AM

      Joe:

      I’m a huge Gonzalez fan. In my opinion, right now, he will be a starter for the USMNT in 2014 in central defense.

      I consider him the 8th best option in the United States right now…maybe I’ll put him ahead of Conrad only because I’ve never been a huge fan–as we saw on Saturday–of Conrad’s temperament.

      I think on Marshall (and our favorite mantra comes out), the Honduras was one game and the big man hadn’t played a competitive fair or consistent run of affairs since…October….

      I need only go back to the Friendly against Slovenia where Goodson in relief (and in form for his club) had a terrible outing.

      We must remember as well that Goodson was playing against the next level of players for Honduras for the bulk of that half.

      Reply

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