Backpost Q&A, Inaugural Edition: Jimmy Conrad

Conrad and the U.S. face Honduras on Saturday.

Chances are if you’re reading this—and haven’t stumbled onto this site after a Google search for the Washington Post, or Post cereals—you don’t need an introduction to Jimmy Conrad, one of the more charismatic figures and best defenders in MLS.

But here’s a quick refresher bio for you:

It’s hard to imagine now, but Conrad went undrafted out of UCLA in 1998. After a season with the San Diego Flash of the A-League, he caught on with MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes in ‘99. Seizing his top-flight opportunity with both hands, Conrad improved every year until he drew a call-up from then-U.S. coach Bruce Arena in 2005, the year Conrad was named MLS Defender of the Year. 

He made the trip to Germany for the World Cup the following summer, appearing against Italy and Ghana in group play, and has been a stalwart on the Kansas City backline ever since. Conrad has 26 caps for the U.S. (and counting) and is a three-time MLS Best XI selection. He’s currently in camp with the U.S. ahead of the team’s friendly against Honduras on Saturday.  

Jimmy, first off, welcome, and thanks for being the first interview in site history.

It’s quite an honor to be the first interview on the site and my fingers are crossed that I live up to the hype. Wait, you are hyping this up, correct?

Oh, man—you might get tired of yourself, that’s how much we are hyping this. How is the mood in camp?

The mood in camp is good. Everyone is flying around, giving everything they have to prove to Bob that they deserve to be considered for the World Cup roster, and the camp has a lot of spirit as a result of this competitive fire between us. It’s been a lot of fun.

Lots of young guys called in this time. What’s the most significant adjustment a young player has to make in his first national team camp?

I would say the biggest adjustment is the speed of play. Everything happens a lot faster when you’re playing with the best guys from around the country so it’s best you have an idea of what you want to do with the ball before you it comes to you because if you don’t, you’ll get punished for it.

I hear that you’ve been frequently partnered in central defense with MLS Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez. How’s that going?

It’s going well. I only watched Omar play a few times during his Rookie of the Year campaign so it’s fun to play alongside him and see what all the fuss was about.  I think he’s got a bright future.

How satisfying is it for you to be able to compete with, and lead, guys ten years your junior? 

I don’t know if I feel “satisfied” knowing I was shaving peach fuzz off of my upper lip when they were still in diapers, but I do get a great deal of satisfaction from beating them in fitness drills.

When you’re joking around during downtime, do they get all your references to, you know, phonograph records, and WWII?

The sad part is that I don’t even have to go that far back. I can mention the TV show Diff’rent Strokes (quality programming by the way), or the movie The Goonies, or the Berlin Wall coming down, or the birthmark on Mikhail Gorbachev’s head, and all I get in return are blank stares.

One of Conrad's chief reference points, sadly lost on his young U.S. teammates.

Marcus Tracy had to leave camp early with tendinitis. How did he look while he was there? With the recent injuries to Charlie Davies and Clint Dempsey, the U.S. could be thin at forward. Is it realistic to think Tracy could step in?

It’s unfortunate Marcus had to leave camp early because he definitely has the tools to be a special player but, like the injured guys you mentioned, he needs to get healthy first.

You recently posted an impressive list of your top 10 songs of 2009 on U.S. Care to give us your top 5 movies of 2009?

I wish I could say I saw five movies from 2009 in 2009. Since I currently live with an almost-three-year-old little girl, who looks like me but without the five o’clock shadow, we watch a lot of Sleeping Beauty and Little Mermaid. In fact, I know all of the words to the songs, “Once Upon A Dream” and “Kiss The Girl,” from the two Disney classics, respectively. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.

What would you like to see come out of Major League Soccer’s new CBA negotiations?

I’d like to see a lot of things come out of the current CBA negotiations, many of which I can’t go into detail about out of respect for the process, but the majority of my issues swirl around attaining better rights for the players. I want to see significant progress on that front.

How likely is an MLS lockout on Feb 1?

There’s still a lot of time to negotiate between then and now so it’s hard to say. Hopefully, we can settle on a deal that satisfies both parties before we reach the deadline, however, we’re not going to sign whatever they place in front of us just for the sake of signing something. We need to see movement on the issues we care about.

Can you give us your prediction for Saturday’s friendly with Honduras?

Yeah, I can give you a prediction: It’s going to be cold with a slight chance of rain and there will most likely be more Honduran fans in the stands than Americans, and I’m okay with that. It’ll make for a good atmosphere.