U.S. men's schedule, results
Q&A: Hahnemann has found a home in Reading.
Back home in England for the holidays, he sat down with Reading's American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann to get an update on his season thus far, his plans for the future and his opinion on a variety of topics.
Draper conducted the interview after Reading's 3-0 home loss to Crystal Palace last Saturday, the second of three straight 3-0 shutouts Reading has suffered through yesterday. Reading is 11-10-4 with 37 points, ninth in Division One, but only four points behind sixth place which brings a berth in the promotion playoff.
Hahnemann, 31, joined the Colorado Rapids in 1997 after graduating from Seattle Pacific University and played 66 matches in MLS. In 2000 he joined Fulham and played twice in league matches before being loaned to Rochdale in 2001.
Hahnemann moved to Reading and Madejski Stadium on loan in December 2001 and the move from Fulham was made permanent in August 2002. He took over the number one spot from Phil Whitehead soon after he arrived at Reading and made 46 appearances for Reading last season, including Cup competitions. This season he has appeared 26 times.
With an American flag tattoo on his arm, Hahnemann has played four times for his country.
Draper: Marcus, first of all, your reflections on today's game?
Hahnemann: I don't know what's going on. . . but they're getting in behind us too easily. Too many high percentage chances for them. We're just letting them shoot. The goals, I probably couldn't have done anything on. You're obviously disappointed when you let a goal in, no matter what, but it's not something where you can say I should save that. But you let in three goals. . . what's going on? We're still the same team we've always been. We've got the same players. Everything's the same, We're just not getting the result. Maybe we're looking a bit too deeply into things. Maybe you could say we're just unlucky, that would be fairly easy to say. But I think we've just lost that little bit. We played Chelsea and then we had a great result at Wigan. Then, all of a sudden, we've been really flat. But with such a long season you're going to have bad games. We just don't normally have two in a row. We usually bounce back straight away and now We've had two games. . . and it hurts.
Draper:Away from today's game, how has the season been from a personal point of view? I know that you made a great start to the season, but then came in for some heavy criticism not too long ago.
Hahnemann: I got a lot of criticism, maybe a bit undeserved, I think. One in particular we had a game live on West Brom and watching it afterwards -- just went through and looked at the highlights and stuff -- and listened to the announcers, and they were just killing me. There was a cross that had come in and the guy is wide open, I thought I've got to come for this, I've got to get something on this. And because I've come for it, the guy couldn't attack the ball where he wanted to, he had to take it earlier and he hit it wide. You know, if I don't come, he takes a step forward and picks his spot on the goal. And the announcers saying, 'Look at him flapping it' and I'm thinking if I don't come, it's a goal. I guess you have to take the good with the bad, which is one way of looking at it. In general, the season's gone pretty well so far, we've only slipped up a few times and we've got some good results too.
Draper: In your opinion, how does playing in the First Division compare to playing in Major League Soccer?
Hahnemann: I think the biggest difference is just the intensity. It comes from mainly the weather, I think. I mean, if you play at Dallas and it's 125 degrees on the field, you can't play the same kind of game. Because you play here in the winter, it's so much quicker. It's like watching international football -- the game has to be different because it's played in the summer.
The game's also a lot more physical over here. What's considered a foul over there (in MLS) is not over here. It's kind of like that compared to Europe as well. So a lot of players come over here because it is a more physical game. And there are a lot of long balls. You go to a place like Stoke and you can't pass the ball because the field is so bad. It's not so much the crazy tackles because they're getting stomped out everywhere. It's like challenging for a header. In the States, if you go up for a header and you win it, and someone touches you it's a foul. It's as simple as that and it's not here. That's a big difference.
Draper: So have you settled into the British lifestyle?
Hahnemann: Yeah, it's great here. I mean we have a great house with great neighbors and everything here in Reading. I've got friends, obviously with the team and everything, but I've got friends outside of football too and they help you settle and everything.
Draper: So how does life over here compare to life in the States? Tim Howard recently said that life in the UK isn't too dissimilar to life in the U.S. Would you agree?
Hahnemann: Well, for one, you don't have the language barrier. So it's automatically like home. You get NASN where you get college football, baseball, hockey, and Sky (does) a lot of NFL (games) and stuff. That helps. I mean, things are changing all the time. We've got Starbucks, I think we've got two now. You can go there and hang out and things.
Draper: Do you keep in contact with other American players playing over here?
Hahnemann: Yeah, me and Eddie (Lewis) because we played at Fulham together. We talk to each other all the time. But, the other ones I don't really talk to that much because I don't know them that well. It's difficult because they're so far away. I used to see Eddie almost every day and we'd be out to dinner at least once a week. We're that close to each other, we'd always being playing golf or whatever. And at Thanksgiving, he was always coming over. A couple of years ago, when Gregg Berhalter was at Palace, he came over, we had Eddie over and another couple that lived in Wimbledon came over, which was a nice an all-American contingent. We had them all in our teeny little house.
Draper: What are your long-term career plans?
Hahnemann:You know, I'm 31 now. The end is getting closer. You never know how long you can play. I have this year which, knock on wood, will be good. I don't know, can you play until you're 40? I could easily play another five years. When I go back to the States, it would be nice to coach and to maybe help out some kids and help them achieve their dreams -- if it's getting a scholarship for college or playing in the pros. And generally cheating life, seeing how long you can avoid working.
Draper: With you, Kasey (Keller), Brad (Friedel) and Tim (Howard) all excelling in British football, there seems to be a disproportionate of goalkeepers (to the number of field players) coming out of the U.S. Have you got any idea why America's producing such talented keepers?
Hahnemann: There's way more goalkeepers than outfield players. I think we all grow up playing basketball, American football and baseball, which all require hand-eye coordination. Over here, that's not the case. There's cricket, but not everyone plays cricket. I mean you look at basketball and a lot of things translate to goalkeeping. It's basically cross training. I mean we don't have the structured, professional leagues (in the U.S.) where 16-year-olds, like they do here, can come in and train everyday. I was always wondering how good you'd have been if you'd had that opportunity. I was at college until I was 21. You can only train with the (college) team three months out of the league and then you were playing on men's teams and just playing. So, actual training is a difficult part, so you rely on playing sports like basketball to keep you fit. And I mean taking a cross is very similar to taking a rebound.
Draper: How do you see the (U.S.) national-team picture at the moment? Do you think that you'll get more opportunities to play for your country?
Hahnemann: We obviously have a lot of good goalkeepers right now so getting anywhere near the squad is going to be difficult. And there's a lot of good young goalkeepers that are playing in the States now. I mean Tim Howard's come out from nowhere and he's been unbelievable this year and he's only 25 or 26 now. And I think MLS has helped that. It lets kids watching TV realize there is a professional league and something to aim for.
Draper: Are you confident the MLS will last?
Hahnemann: There's just so much competition. That's what kills MLS. At the beginning of the season, there's still basketball going on and, at the end, hockey and you compete with that. Sometimes it's difficult just to get soccer fans out to watch you. They want to see the best and the best are playing in Europe because that's where all the money is. All that competition is difficult, whereas here it's just football. I'm going to an ice hockey game tomorrow and they struggle to get support just because there's so much competition from football. Everyone here always goes to football. Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) games, people always go. Whereas almost every American goes to a baseball game at least once a year, even if you don't like baseball. We never miss a game when we go home. It's just different traditions.
Draper: How do you see Reading's season shaping up?
Hahnemann: Well, obviously, we've haven't had two very good results. It's not over.
Draper: So promotion is still a realistic target?
Hahnemann: I think so. All we have to do is get our heads up. And if we just get back on winning ways and it's not that difficult. You just need one lucky goal and all of a sudden you're back in it. It's just that confidence thing. If you're a striker, goalkeeper or whoever, and you get a little bit down on confidence, they're no good until they get it back. But once they get it back, they're flying again. We need our confidence as a team.