Sept. 23, 2004
A large reason for the Huskies' strong start so far this season has been the play of junior midfielder Mike Chabala. Chabala has already put up career high numbers with two goals and three assists, for a team-high seven points. Chabala was named the Defensive MVP at last weekend's Husky Invitational and sat down with GoHuskies.com correspondent Mike Bruscas to talk about how the team is doing, what it felt like to score his first collegiate goal and his plans for a soccer career beyond college.
GoHuskies.com: How did you feel about last weekend's games?
Mike Chabala: "It was good that we tied against Denver. In the past two years sometimes those games we probably would have lost."
G.H.: What is the difference with this year's team?
M.C.: "I think there's a seriousness, an atmosphere of confidence with what we've been talking about as a team that hasn't been there in the past. Plus, you have an eclectic group of guys that bring different things that we've really never had before. The depth shows too, on Friday night we played a whole different team almost than Sunday. But with the depth, with just the attitude and the discipline I think our whole team has and the work that we put in all through last year just makes us that much better."
G.H.: Why have the lineups been shifting?
M.C.: "Coaches haven't exactly found the right lineup yet. They're still cutting and pasting and exactly figure out what's going to be the right key guys and who can play with who. The other reason for that was on Sunday that was our fifth game in ten days and that's a lot on the body even for young 20 year olds. Pros don't do that. So there were a lot of tired bodies and you've got to keep the lineup fresh and be able to put in different guys and a lot of those guys played outstanding."
G.H.: Were you surprised by how tough Denver played?
M.C.: "Yeah, I think some of us were caught by that early goal. Talking to the coaches, that was the difference. If we had scored that goal, it probably would have been over. We probably would have scored another one and that would have been the game. But because they got that early goal that made it a lot easier for them to raise their game a little bit more and we knew we were in for a real fight and had to dig back and whatnot. But they play in the altitude all the time so their lungs are able to carry themselves more and they haven't played as many games as us. There are a lot of excuses you could throw in there but on the day too they had more energy and were flying faster than we were that day."
G.H.: How did it feel to finally play some home games?
M.C.: "It was great, there's nothing like being back home. I'm from California so I never used to consider this my home but now I just feel like this is where I belong. It's a nice feeling to come back and have people cheering for you and hearing your name and have the support that you haven't had on the road for six games. You miss that, so it was exciting to be back playing in front of our family and friends."
G.H.: What are you expecting for this weekend's games?
M.C.: "I'm expecting from our team the quality to raise ten times. Attacking from our forward, finishing all the way to our defending. Our first games we were scoring, we were keeping the ball out of our net, defensively we were disciplined and I think just as time's gone on we've become mentally fatigued and our bodies were tired as well. Now that we have this week to prepare for a game finally that we haven't had, it's just going to freshen us up. I think this weekend is a great opportunity for us to make sure we really push back in the right direction. We're definitely going to be ready. We'll be fresh and have our second wind."
G.H.: How are your responsibilities different this year with C.J. Klaas moving from midfield to defender?
M.C.: "C.J. still holds a very big role on our team, even though he's not necessarily a captain, he is in his own way. He leads by his example on the field. Plus it gives him the ability to focus on his own game and not worry about anybody else. I'm not saying I'm trying to fill his shoes because he's still doing it, but it's a great challenge. It's an opportunity that I enjoy. The things that I aspire to do is be put in those situations to take a penalty kick, to tie the game 1-1 in Portland or give us the 1-0 lead at UNLV where if I miss those two the game could be totally different. For me it's just enjoying those opportunities where it can be really tough."
G.H.: Through eight games this year you have scored more points than in your first two years combined. What has caused the jump in your offensive numbers?
M.C.: "I think I'm getting better. I think as a player I've matured and I've grown. Freshman year I was kind of figuring out things. Sophomore year I really made a jump from my freshman season. And this year I just have this confidence like I know what I can do and I know how I can play and I know where I can go and the work that I've put in. So I just rely on that and tap back into that and just trust my game. I really feel confident when I step on the field every day. All my family and friends would say, `When are you going to score a goal?' And some people would say a penalty kick is not a real goal so I'm still going to dig for that one. But it's still nice to finally put a point up there."
G.H.: What did it feel like to finally score your first goal?
M.C.: "It was exciting. It was a feeling I'd never had to finally say I scored a goal for the Huskies. It's something to be proud of but all of a sudden the coach is yelling at you to get organized again and set up so it's gone quick."
G.H.: Describe what happened on that goal.
M.C.: "Ely (Allen) had dribbled down the left side of the box and he's such a crafty player that he drew a penalty kick off the left-hand side. So it was like, `Whoa, penalty kick. That's me, I'm on it. I'll go grab it.' Because when you take those penalty kicks you've got to be confident and know you're going to put it away because if you're passive about it, more times than not you're going to miss it. So I just grabbed the ball and got ready and did my routine really quick and put it away. It hit the left inside bar so everybody gasped but I knew it was going in."
G.H.: What would you say are the biggest strengths of your game?
M.C.: "I would say I'm really consistent and I'd say switching the field and trying to organize and keep the play going are my strengths. Also, defensively closing people down midfield and being a ball winner. So just trying to fulfill the defensive midfielder roll. Winning the ball, keeping possession, being a link to both sides of the field, which I don't think I've done as well this year and that's one of the things that once we freshen up a little more that I'll probably start doing a lot more of. And just being that leader, that presence in the midfield that's there as a constant that the team can kind of look up to."
G.H.: What is this team most looking to improve on right now?
M.C.: "As a collective group I'd say obviously we want to win and we want to go past where we were last year and after the last games we want to focus on getting back in front of the goal and getting a lot of reps and making sure our midfield and forwards are going to produce the goals that we haven't been getting that we were in the beginning few games. But there's really no sense of putting the emergency button on because we haven't scored as much and we got a loss and a tie and a win. It's just trying to step up and really get the quality back. That's the biggest thing. Get refreshed and get back on the right track as we were in the beginning of the season which we will do."
G.H.: Did the team just go through a stretch of road weariness?
M.C.: "That is what it is. Even though we went through that stretch, still being 5-2-1 is fine. I'd rather be 5-2-1 than 8-0 and thinking we're great and then teeter off at the end. Because as long as we get ourselves in a good position for Pac-10s and we do well there which we will, we'll be fine once postseason comes along with all the experience and games we've been getting on the road."
G.H.: Does the team expect to win the Pac-10?
M.C.: "It's going to be a tough conference this year. But definitely we think we're good enough. We have the maturity, the quality in our game just to really play well. It's the best team that I've ever played on. The quality of players, the atmosphere, the drive, it's all there. We're going to do great things to be honest with you."
G.H.: You played a lot of soccer in Europe when you were younger. Where all have you played?
M.C.: "I was pretty fortunate. I've played in Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, a little bit of Belgium, Wales, I think that's all the European countries I've played in. I saw a lot more when I was there."
G.H.: How old were you when you were over there?
M.C.: "I was fourth, fifth and sixth grade. I was really young. Then the regional team got to go to Australia and Costa Rica and Guadalajara. One of the benefits of being a soccer player is getting to travel and see these countries for free and just being able to go places where most kids don't get the opportunity."
G.H.: Which country was your favorite to play in?
M.C.: "I'd say Austria because I was playing with this club, Austria Wein. I was on my own too at that young of an age and I really matured and had to grow up on my own. It was a beautiful city too. I'm actually going to head back there this summer and play with that team again and get some training in. I'll see if that whole pro atmosphere starts working out for me."
G.H.: Do you follow any of the European pro teams?
M.C.: "I was a Manchester United fan and a David Beckham fan. I still am but I haven't really jumped on the Real Madrid bandwagon yet. I like Arsenal, I like watching all the games. Chelsea too. Any of the UPL games I usually follow the most."
G.H.: What's your favorite sport besides soccer?
M.C.: "It would have to be golf. I played in high school and I still try and play up here but it's pretty tough during season. Whenever I'm back in California I lug my bags around and try and pick up a game."
G.H.: What do you do to relax in your free time?
M.C.: "I love to read. I don't read as much as much as I wish I could.
G.H.: What was the last book that you read?
M.C.: "The last book that I read was The Da Vinci Code. It was fascinating. It was a lot to take in. It was for this online class "The Bible As Literature." It was an intriguing book."
G.H.: How about music. Any favorites?
M.C.: "I'm pretty eclectic. I used to be in the rap phase but I kind of got out of that. Then it was alternative and I'm getting into a little bit of country too. So it goes all over the place. I like jazz music too and am a big fan of classical. I like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. I took a jazz class at UW and really got into that so I hit Jazz Alley up every once in a while."
G.H.: Name some favorite movies.
M.C.: "The big guy movies like "Gladiator" and "Troy". But then I also like "Meet Joe Black" and "Moulin Rouge". It's kind of weird. I like them all."
G.H.: What classes are you taking in the fall?
M.C.: "I'm taking this crime and political justice class. I've been doing the poli sci thing for a while so I am trying to get a minor in that. I'm majoring in Economics now so I'm taking Econ 301 and also French."
G.H.: Have you ever taken French before?
M.C.: "No, my aunt's a French teacher so I'll have some kind of help. I took German all the way through high school because in 4th-6th grades I was almost fluent but now I can only speak the basics. I actually want to learn a couple different languages like Spanish and pick up German again and if I learn French that would be great."
G.H.: Are you hoping to play professionally in Europe at some point?
M.C.: "Definitely. I think every young player that aspires to go pro always looks at Europe first. I would love to play in the United States first though. I wouldn't mind at all playing in M.L.S. for a couple years and then hopefully play well enough to be picked up be a European team, which is pretty tough. You have to get a track record first in the United States. But I think it's possible if I have a good year this year. I just focus on improving each game and with that I think it will all fall into place."