YA BEST XI: CONOR O'BRIEN
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Sunday, December 2, 2012
SønderjyskE attacker Conor O'Brien is far from a household name - even by YA standards - despite his fine season in the Danish top flight. The New Yorker wants to change that and has answered your Best XI submissions.

I) You must have an extremely regimented diet even when you are back in America. Any eating advice for young athletes?

No matter where I am, I do try to watch what I put in my body. I try to stay away from candies and sweets, but to be honest, I find that it's better to eat things you enjoy because it will encourage you to work out harder. I've told my brother and sister this for years and they will be the first people to tell you how much I truly believe that.

I do eat out at restaurants and go to many places that maybe other professional athletes do not go to, but I am also the first person in the gym the next day and the last player to leave training every day.

II) What really can I do to become a soccer player?

To become a soccer player takes a lot of hard work and dedication. You have to be extremely fit, able to control the ball with every part of your body.

I think the most underestimated part of being a soccer player though is playing other sports as well. I played every single sport I could as I was growing up. Sports such as baseball helped me judge a soccer ball in the air, skiing helped me see the lanes ahead of me as I'm moving at speed, golf helped me learn how to put spin on a ball and how effective that can be.

So I would encourage anybody who wants to be a soccer player to play all sports if they can.

III) What is the best thing in your mind about Denmark, both playing and living there?

The best thing about playing in Denmark is that the teams are all so close to one another location wise. This creates so many little rivalries. And the league only has 12 teams so each game is so important.

The best part of living in Denmark has to be the women! It seems like every where you look there are beautiful, blonde, Danish girls.

IV) What do you think you could bring differently to the team USMNT and for all us US viewers who don't get to see you play much, who in the current US player pool does your play resemble the most?

I think I would bring a more creative role to the central midfield and a nice shot from distance.

I know there are a lot of talented players who can do cool tricks with the ball out there, but I try to get rid of the ball as fast as possible and keep it moving. This way I can include everybody into the game and bring the best out of my teammates.

Most people don't notice, but everywhere I've gone, my team has won championships and I've certainly never played for the most talented team in any league. I don't know if there is anyone in the US pool that I would compare myself to. I try to be different from most US players.

V) Who is your favorite athlete?

I'm a fan of so many sports that it's tough to find just one athlete to call my favorite, but if I had to choose, I would probably say LeBron James.

I think he is extremely talented and completely professional. Most people only watch him in games and see how good he is, but I also try to find articles and videos about how hard he works off the court to become the player we see. It seems like he has a never say die attitude and will not give up until he becomes the best.

VI) Without sugarcoating the answer, what's the worst part about Europe for an American player?

I'm sure it depends on where you live in Europe, but I would have to say the worst part is living so far from my family and friends.

Almost everybody I've grown up with and even most friends I went to college with are all living in the New York area. It's always tough to see them together and not be a part of it. But playing professional soccer has always been a dream of mine, and many young athletes, so I'm happy to do it right now.

VII) What is the embarrassing thing that you have had happen to you during a professional game?

I think the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me in a professional game was when I was subbed in late in the game in order to help our team preserve a 3-1 victory.

I was only on the field for maybe a minute or two and I went to defend a player on the other team as I was running at full speed. Because the field was a little wet and I wasn't used to it yet, I slipped and went sliding several yards right into the player with the ball. I completely took out his legs and he flipped over.

The ref called a foul and we had no choice but to laugh about it because it looked so funny. But the foul was far away from the goal we were defending and we won the game so I was very happy.

VIII) How hard is it to communicate with your Danish teammates on the field? Also, from what you hear other players speak of or from your own observations, is the playing pace similar to MLS or quicker possibly?

I really don't find it difficult at all. All of my teammates can speak English, and some of them are really good at it. This way they can translate anything that I can't figure out on my own. Plus, now that I've been here for just over two years I can understand a lot of the football terms in Danish.

From my own observations I think the style of play is completely different in MLS. MLS seems to have a lot of really athletic players who have speed and size, whereas the Danish Superliga is extremely tactical and technical.

I also think that due to relegation in European leagues it becomes more about choosing which games to go for three points and which ones you should settle for a draw. In the MLS it seems like most teams try to win every match in order to make the playoffs.

IX) What do you still need to improve on as a player both tactically and skill-wise?

I try to work on all parts of my game each day in training, but one thing I work on the most is playing stronger. I like to be technically sound and efficient with the ball. I also run all over the field because my fitness level is so high.

So, in my perfect world I would rather play around tackles instead of encouraging them. One thing I've worked on since being in the Superliga is my strength, in and out of the weight room. I would still like to be even stronger though.

X) Flæskesteg? Frikadeller? Medisterpølse?

Definitely Medisterpølse!!!!

XI) Tell us about the weirdest thing that has happened to you during your soccer career.

I think the weirdest thing to happen to me is also one of the best things to happen to me. After college I came over to Denmark for a trial with Vejle, who were in the first division and trying desperately to get back up to the Superliga.

After almost two weeks there we didn't agree on a contract, so I went and signed with a second division club called Blokhus [who] play in northern Denmark and have a really small fan base. Every time I went for an interview the first question was always how does a New Yorker end up in a little town called Pandrup, Denmark. The more I thought about it, the weirder it seemed.

Here I am from this big state in an enormous country, and now I'm playing soccer in the second division of Danish soccer with a coach that doesn't speak much English. Most people would have been able to understand me signing with Vejle, but I'm pretty sure I was the first American to sign with the tiny Danish club, Blokhus.
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