By Jon Levy
Our Jon Levy sat down this week with USMNT and Brondby center back Clarence Goodson, who recently returned to training after a month on the shelf with a broken toe that incidentally caused him to miss the two March friendlies. They talked about his health, the upcoming Gold Cup, the future of the American defense and more in the following interview. Enjoy.
First off Clarence, can we get a health update?
I broke my toe in the first game, and it’s just like any other injury. Really, I didn’t think there was much wrong, I continued playing. I had an x-ray just as a precautionary (measure), and found out it was broken. So I was surprised with it myself, and I think everyone else was as well. I’ve had to stay off this for the majority of the last month, and probably last week I’ve really been able to get out and do some running. Today was my first full training session, just got through with that, so I’m certainly on my way back. Right now the biggest thing for me is trying to get my way back into football and not get injured in some other way.
(At this point the fire alarm went off at Brondby’s facility and Goodson took a second to save the lives of many young children and puppies. That, or it was a false alarm and it shut off by itself. I forget which.)
So anyway, just trying not to get a muscle injury or anything like that. My fitness is still relatively high from the biking and everything, keeping the fitness level up, but obviously the bike is very different from the game. Just trying to get back into that, be smart about it, and hopefully be back starting and playing quite soon.
With today being your first day back, how did the toe feel?
The toe itself feels strong. I feel good with the toe, not really too big a concern for me. It’s really everything else I’m trying to be smart about getting back into.
When you left IK Start and signed with Brondby you cited life in Scandinavia as something that you enjoy. Can you give us an idea of what it’s like for any American over there?
Everyone here speaks English. All the television programs are in English; everyday we can watch Friends, Seinfeld, King of Queens, whatever it may be. The normal blocks that are on in the USA are on here. It’s very Americanized in many ways; an easy transition. Everyone’s really friendly, there’re lots of things to do, it’s a beautiful area. It’s very welcoming to foreigners, especially Americans. That’s really what made my wife and I want to stay in Scandinavia. The lifestyle and the quality of life are extremely high. The cost of living is high, but it’s worth it for what you do.
Tell us a little bit about the Brondby/Copenhagen rivalry, and what you’ve seen of it.
The club itself is a big club, the most well supported club in Scandinavia. Obviously now Copenhagen has had a lot of success; they’ve done quite well in the Champions League as well. That’s a big club and they have a lot of good players, and they’ve been able to hold onto a lot of that talent too, for a number of years. It’s the biggest rivalry, and there’s almost as bitter a rivalry between the fans as between the teams. On the field it seems like more of an international game, it’s a little more cagey. People don’t want to make a mistake because a goal could give away a huge match. I hope to get a chance to play in a lot of those games here soon.
We hope so too. As far as your presence with the national team, I wanted to find out about your first opportunities with the squad. I mean we were used to seeing center backs like Gooch and DeMerit, these guys that look like they could bench press a truck. Then you come onto the scene. Thin guy, really tall, and we didn’t know what to think of you. Six months later, we not only knew that you could score goals on set pieces, but that your positioning was exceptional. What were those first camps with the team like for you?
Hey, thanks for the compliment. My first cap for the national team was January camp, which of course is a stepping stone. I was trying to work hard, make the team and establish myself. That first camp , that’s the deal. It’s a chance to show yourself to Bob, and try to impress. I was able to go in there, and show Bob I’m a guy he can rely on, a guy that’s gonna work hard, and a guy that’s gonna make the guys around me better. I think that’s something that Bob resepected, and of course I made the team for the next camp.
The way into the national team is always through the club team. If you’re playing well with your club team and you’re an important element with your team, you’re gonna get more opportunities with the national team. It’s tough to contribute to the national team the way Bob would want, if you’re not already playing and on form.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2009 was the first extended run you had with the USMNT, and both you and Chad Marshall made a lot of fans on your way to the final, before the run ended there in disappointing fashion to say the least. Does the way the 2009 tournament ended motivate you more to play in this summer’s Gold Cup?
Yeah certainly. It was difficult not being able to take part in these last friendlies with my injury. Had to get myself back and ready though. For this coming Gold Cup it’s a chance to get the full squad back again really for the first time since the World Cup, for an extended period of time.
This is our biggest championship in CONCACAF, and it’s something none of us take lightly. It’s even more important because it determines who goes to the Confederations Cup in Brazil. It’s a big tournament, and it’s something that I want to be a part of. I need to get back playing on a regular basis here (at Brondby), hopefully show bob that I’m ready to go, and hopefully play an important part in winning that Gold Cup.
You’ve shown a knack for scoring goals on set pieces, not just with the national team but for clubs since you made the move to Scandinavia as well. Is that something that you work on regularly?
It’s something I certainly work on in crossing drills all the time, getting up in the box and trying to score goals. Really I think it’s something that goes back to when I was younger. I was a forward, and it’s something I’ve always prided myself on, being able to score goals, even at this level now. I don’t get as many opportunities playing at the back. But I try to make the most of my tall frame. Get my head on the ball, score, or knock it down and help my teammates score.
We’ve started to see a gradual changing of the guard at the back for the US, with established national team veterans like Boca, Onyewu, and DeMerit still being relied upon, but young players like Tim Ream, Timmy Chandler, and Eric Lichaj being thrown into the mix as well. You seem to occupy the space between these two national team “classes.” How do you see yourself fitting in?
First of all, we have a lot of players in this, and age is just a number. Whoever is on form is going to play. It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are. If quote-unquote older guys are still good enough, if they’re still best we have, then it doesn’t matter how old they are.
I thought that Steven Cherundolo had a fantastic World Cup. Seems like some of these guys are just ageless.
Bob has always brought in young players, no matter what stage of the cycle we were at. There’s always been younger guys in and out of the team. Obviously some have stuck around longer than others. But it’s important for the national team pool to get them in and see how they perform. It’s a big difference between the January camp and playing with the full national team. The pace is so much faster.
As far as my role, it comes down to me, and how I perform.
In regard to the younger guys, and in your last couple camps with the team, who have been the young players that have caught your eye as possible future mainstays with the US.
There are a lot of good young players, it’s difficult to judge, especially when you come in with the “A” team, you’re coming into a very established team. The players are very welcoming, but it can be tough to find your niche on the field.
I think everyone’s quite high on Juan (Agudelo) at the moment. I think Teal Bunbury is a phenomenal player. I think he’s got a bright future and is a very good young man. So is Tim Ream. I mean we played together in South Africa and I think our performance speaks for itself. We locked it down in South Africa, in a hostile environment, to get a quite good result there. He’s a good player as well.
And we’ll see who else comes along. I’m sure there are going to be plenty of guys on the next US World Cup roster who don’t even have their first cap yet. We’ll see who comes through.
Which player or players did you look up to growing up, either to model your game after or just players you enjoyed and rooted for?
I was always a big fan of Brian McBride. Quite the player, tough guy. A bigger, thicker guy than me, but I saw myself in that role, trying to win headers, playing up top. At the back, there were plenty of options. Robin Fraser, Eddie Pope, Greg Vanney, those guys were all very good role models and good people. They set the bar really high for American defenders.
Ah, Brian McBride. And now all your goals off set pieces make sense.
That’s right, that’s right.
Okay, favorite stuff time. If we hit your playlist, or if you hit the jukebox, who’s you favorite musical artist, who’re you putting on?
That’s a good question. There’s a lot. My wife and I listen to a lot of Hillsong. It’s a Christian rock band, more of a church thing, from Australia. My playlist is pretty wide, pretty random. Man what else? You really hung me out to dry here! I like a lot of classic rock, you name it I like it.
I didn’t think I’d get you on the favorite artists question, you knocked down everything else.
Well it’s tough because you look at my playlist and I’ve got 25 bands on there, and it’s one song from each band!
And finally, you’re out for the night, what’s your drink?
My drink is Corona.
With a lime?
With a lime.
Jon Levy is Co-Founder and Associate Editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @TYAC_Jon, where he’ll likely talk West Ham relegation battles, the USMNT, and for at least a few weeks, the Stanley Cup playoffs. Feel free to ignore that part, but seriously—follow the guy. He’s rad.