Here at Total-MLS we have been getting you ready for the season with our team previews and we are excited to bring you another interview with an MLS player. Today we bring you our interview with Portland Timber defender Mike Chabala. Mike is entering his 7th season in Major League Soccer and his 1st full season with the Timbers. Read on to find out what Mike thinks about the atmopshere at Jeld-Wen Field, what he did with his piece of log from last season, and much more.
Total-MLS (TMLS): How old were you when you first started playing soccer and when did you know it was something you would want to, and could do, professionally?
Mike Chabala (MC): Started kicking, or you could say training in kindergarten. I use to get in fights over the soccer ball at recess and was told later that my parents were called in multiple times for parent - teacher conferences. That's when the madness or obsession started. I was 14 years old when I made the decision and never looked back; I was sitting in Boise, Idaho for a Region 4 ODP camp watching the '98 World Cup.
TMLS: Who are some people who you looked up to both on and off the field and who inspired you growing up and even now as a professional?
MC: David Beckham, Edgar Davids and Zinedine Zidane. I had posters all over my room of these guys but I read and watched more games on David Beckham. I wanted to know how he trained and what he did to get to the top. Success always leaves clues! I studied and went to work. I always looked up to my grandfather. He is the most honest and hard working individual I know. I like to think I get my work rate and determination from him. Now, I watch the top backs in the world play and learn. Patrice Evra, Ashley Cole, Maicon and Dani Alves are all players who inspire me today.
TMLS: Last season you were traded midseason from Houston to Portland. What was it like to have to change teams in the middle of the season?
MC: It was tough but was the best move for my career. I had 6 years of friends and family I had made on and off the field. Houston and the Dynamo were all I knew in my professional career since 2006. Luckily I was going to a city I knew from a brief loan in '06 and a coach I respected and wanted to work for.
TMLS: Last season we all saw the great atmosphere at Jeld-Wen Field with the Timbers Army. What is it like to be on the field playing in that kind of environment?
MC: Hard to sum up in words but I suppose incredible will suffice. They are energetic for 120 minutes and they add the atmosphere that this club thrives on at home. If only we could take everyone on the road with is this season. I know every club and player in MLS will tell you there is nothing like the Timbers Army.
TMLS: The Timbers and their supporters have some great traditions like the players getting a piece of log after scoring. Last year we even saw you give one a karate chop. What have you done with your log pieces and do you have any more "celebrations" planned for this season?
MC: There is nothing else like it! It's the personality that this city harbors and takes pride in that separates us from the rest. My father wanted the pieces and I'm actually not sure what he is doing with it. Hopefully I can chop a few more so he can build himself a desk. I don't have any plans, yet.
TMLS: You played for John Spencer when he was an assistant in Houston and now he is your head coach in Portland. Spencer comes off as a fiery guy. What’s it like playing for him and what makes him so successful?
MC: I've known John for a while now and have him to thank for the time he spent with me when I was an apprentice of Wade Barrett (in Houston). He is fiery, passionate, a players coach and has the highest expectations for each one of us. He cares about each guy in the locker room and has the same standards and expectations from the oldest to youngest (guys) in our locker room. It's no secret why you saw so many guys go celebrate with our staff and team after we would score last season. He knows how to make guys want to win and play for him.
TMLS: The MLS Western Conference is stacking up to be very tough with the defending champions LA loading up and other talented teams like RSL, Seattle, and Dallas to name a few. What is it going to take for you guys to get into the playoffs this year?
MC: (There are) lots of really good teams in the West. We will be tested but I'm confident and excited for our squad. Every team out there has done their part to grow but so have we and on top of that we have gained a year of valuable experience. Every game is important and every point in crucial as you saw how close we were last season at the end. We will need to to battle on the road and get more out of those games and continue to take advantage of our Timbers Army home field advantage.
TMLS: What are your goals heading into this season both on a personal level and for the Timbers as a team?
MC: Get 1% better everyday and do my job very well to help this team be successful. Make playoffs to give our team the chance to make a run at the cup. All the personal goals and desires will follow because if the team is winning/successful then the rest will take care of itself.
I'd like to thank Mike for his time and wish him the best of luck this season with the Timbers.
(image courtesy of Craig Mitchelldyer)