Q&A with Columbus' Tony Sanneh

especially my mother. Columbus is pretty close to Minneapolis [Sanneh's hometown] and it has the same type of people and climate.

I didn't want to be (in Germany) anymore unless it was a very special situation. I'm older now. Obviously, it was more money, but there are disadvantages too, like the cost of living. If I would have found a position that was perfect I might have said that's what I wanted to do, but there was no perfect situation. There wasn't a reason to make me stay. I'm also starting a foundation in the Twin Cities and I wanted to have a more hands-on commitment to that. When you're younger it's exciting to be in a big city, but I think I'm passed that age now. There's a new coach (at FC Nurnberg) and there were a thousand factors why I chose not to stay.

MLSnet.com: Were you at all influenced by the return of other player who were abroad and decided to come home, including your new Crew teammate Frankie Hejduk, who also had a successful career in Germany?
TS: No. Actually, everybody pretty much told me the opposite - to enjoy it while you can. Obviously, when I was (in MLS) I was here in a different situation from most of the players in the league because I was with D.C. United and we were at a level above most of the other teams in the league. For me it was a very positive experience. Everyone is at a different stage in their life and it was important for me and my family and friends to come back. I'm putting myself in a position for the next stage of my life.

MLSnet.com: What are your best memories from Germany?
TS: When I was in Berlin (with Hertha Berlin) we played in the (UEFA) Champions League. That was incredible. My first game was against Chelsea at home and there were 70- 80,000 fans. It was on another level. Then when I went to Nurnberg I came in as a leader to help the team stay up. On the second to last day of the season we played against Bayer Leverkusen, who were playing for the Bundesliga championship, but we beat them and they didn't get the trophy and we stayed up.

MLSnet.com: What did the people in Germany think of your great performance at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan?
TS: They were very impressed by it. They see you play on another level. I think we don't give ourselves enough credit as Americans. We tend to think that because people are from other countries that they are better somehow. They were actually surprised, but I think we have a lot of great players, especially when we play in our comfort zone.

MLSnet.com: What do you look to bring to the Crew this season?
TS: I think I can bring a lot in the long run. In the short run they don't really need me to do much because of how well they're clicking as a team. I want to be a spark and help them maintain that level. They're peaking and hopefully they can carry that into the playoffs. I would hope that I could provide a little more competition in the team to help them carry the level to the next step.

MLSnet.com: Have you followed the league at all this season?
TS: Somewhat. There's a lot of parity in the league that I noticed and there are not a lot of surprises. Some teams are more organized than others. There are a lot of good players.

MLSnet.com: What do you think of the influx of talented young American players into the league?
TS: I think it's great for the league and it just goes to show you how many great young talents we have. We have so many players that are just waiting to step into those shoes. The problem with being a somewhat small league is that not as many players will get that chance. DaMarcus (Beasley) and Bobby (Convey) will be missed, but they'll develop more playing in the international game just because of the lifestyle. The way soccer is looked at in Europe will bring them a lot of confidence.

MLSnet.com: What are your thoughts on the league's expansion in 2005 to Salt Lake City and the second team in Los Angeles?
TS: I think it's great for two reasons. Chivas will bring some uncertainty, but excitement because of the way the team is being set up. It will be interesting to see how they mix and develop their fan base of transplanted Mexicans. The fact that the owner is Mexican and will bring that to it will help the league and I think it will help the way we're looked at and how visible we are in Mexico.

For Salt Lake City I think it's great because it sets us up for more success in a small market. We're a small market (in Columbus) but they've been very successful here.

MLSnet.com: How much did you think about your availability to the national team for World Cup qualifying when deciding whether or not to come home?
TS: I knew that when I was injured long flights weren't the best for me and my new coach made it clear that he didn't like the idea of me going back for World Cup qualifiers, while my old coach was fine with it. He was like, 'Do whatever you want.' It's really important to me to play in the 2006 World Cup. The travel isn't good for me and I don't think I'm at a position in my career when I'm going to get a lot better. I played very well at the last World Cup and I pretty much resumed that level. At this point it doesn't really matter where I'm playing, as long as I'm maintaining my fitness and staying sharp, but I knew being here would give me a better chance of playing.

MLSnet.com: How is your back?
TS: I have to watch it. I do physical therapy and core strengthening, which keeps me in OK shape. I don't have to do something every day, but if I do monitor it, it becomes a non-issue.

MLSnet.com: How long do you plan on playing in MLS?
TS: I intend to play through the World Cup and maybe a year after that.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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