Major League Soccer is expanding. The league, which started with 10 teams in 1996, currently has 14 and will have two more by 2010. Indisputably, MLS’s popularity continues to grow. To find out more about what it’s like to play professional soccer, we sat down with Columbus Crew standouts Alejandro Moreno and Frankie Hejduk.
STACK: What’s it like to play in MLS?
Alejandro Moreno: To play in MLS is a very good experience. It’s something that is pretty rewarding. I put a lot of work into it growing up, and [I’m in] my seventh year here. I think it shows [in] the kind of work I put into soccer and the kind of sacrifices I made in my life.
Frankie Hejduk: The fan base compared to Europe is growing. I think every year it’s getting better, especially here in Columbus. The little corner section we have [at Crew Stadium] is rowdy…it’s crazy. The bongos and drums are going the whole game. The atmosphere is fun, the fans are into it, and that pumps the players up.
STACK: How important is team unity?
AM: Team unity is critical. Some people may argue that you don’t have to like each other both off and on the field. But, even though we are professionals, it’s a far better environment when you like the people that you are playing with.
FH: We always say before the game, “Battle for the guy next to you.” Because if you’re playing for the guy next to you, he’s playing for the guy next to him, [and] that team unity is going to come together and make the team better. I got into soccer because that’s what I like about it. I like the team unity, because at the end of the day, for most professional athletes, we’re on the move so much that your closest friends are usually your teammates. We consider ourselves an extended family.
STACK: When you were growing up, who were your role models?
AM: My older brother. Because he was playing and I always wanted to be doing what he was doing— and certainly beat him in what he was doing. I think competition between brothers is something people can relate to. When I realized I was better than my brother, that was a pretty satisfying day. But his influence is a positive one.
STACK: Have you ever been sidelined by an injury?
FH: I tore my ACL about two years ago. It was probably the most difficult time in my life. I never really had extended time off like that. It made me appreciate the sport much more. It actually gave me more motivation to come back. The way to do that is keeping up with regimens that your coaches, trainers and strength and conditioning coaches give you. The older you get, the tougher it is to stay with the younger guys. But if you’re doing the work and you’re doing a little bit extra, it’s going to extend your career much more.