Victorine in the face of change

you don't know where you're going," said the veteran of five MLS seasons, all with the Galaxy. "I wanted to go to a team that was in a position where they had a good team and were looking to keep building on that [as opposed to] a team that was completely rebuilding.

"I know a lot of the guys on the team here, and I knew my game would fit with Kansas City as well," Victorine continued. "On the days after the trade, I was able to look into it more and realize, as a career move, that it was very positive for me."

With the change in setting, other environmental alterations come -- a move into the Eastern Conference of MLS, where Victorine will be denied frequent visits to his home state, and a new coach to take lessons from.

The latter change is something Victorine experienced last season in Los Angeles as the Galaxy made a high-profile change of managers from Sigi Schmid, who coached Victorine for four years at UCLA, to former U.S. and Costa Rica national team coach Steve Sampson.

"The pressure in Los Angeles of winning and being entertaining at the same time is tough. Winning isn't good enough," he said. "It is difficult for players to be put into that situation where winning is no longer the top priority. It's more difficult for a coach as well."

Even Victorine's -- and his teammates' -- attitude toward being at the epicenter of Kansas City's tenuous ownership and possible relocation situation is upbeat.

"Every time you have to pack up your stuff and move and find a place, it adds an extra burden. And there is the possibility that, next year, we'll be moving as well. Those are tough things," said the Corona, Calif. native. "That should be taken care of by April, and then you have April to November to take care of business. I think that's how the players look at it. We have no control over the situation. We just go out there, try and win, and do our best -- everything else will take care of itself."

However, Victorine has acclimated well to Wizards head coach Bob Gansler.

"With Bob, in comparison to Sigi, the German attributes come in. Sigi and Bob are very hands-on -- they like to be involved in the game and with the players," said the versatile 27-year-old. "Bob has been a very straightforward coach, and I think that is something everybody can appreciate -- understanding where you're at and not having to guess about what needs to be done on your part. It lets you concentrate more on doing your job and performing."

Victorine has been found performing admirably in various spots on the field throughout the last few seasons -- one reason Gansler was interested in him.

"I would say my most comfortable position is in the midfield. You can put me anywhere on the field, and I will be pretty comfortable -- center back, right back, left back, forward," Victorine said. "The only spot I probably wouldn't be comfortable would be goalkeeper -- I'm still working on it.

"I think my best position, in the sense of what allows me to do what I think I do best, is somewhat of an attacking role, [perhaps] an outside midfield position where I'm allowed to get forward, run at people, and make that final pass to slip through to the forward through the defense."

If Victorine ends up manning an outside midfield position, the Wizards will sport a wide midfield similar in speed and ability to the 2000 tandem of current outside midfielder Chris Klein and Chris Henderson that played a crucial role in winning Kansas City's only MLS Cup.

A possible hindrance to Victorine's contributions, hopefully only early on, is his recovery from recent ankle surgery.

"There were bone spurs that were taken out. There was also an accessory bone -- it's very uncommon -- a little smaller than a nickel, and it was lodged between my ankle bone and where my shin bone comes down. It wasn't allowing me to stand on my tippy-toes, extend my ankle, those kind of things, which then lead to not being able to strike a ball," he said. "It happened a year and a half ago, and finally they found what was wrong and what needed to be done."

Once Victorine found a surgeon experienced with the surgery needed, the operation was done.

"I haven't been released yet to play [in matches] from my doctor. The date, as of right now, even though we're not 100 percent sure if it's going to remain there or not, is March 1," said Victorine. "I'm pretty happy and satisfied with where I'm at. I'm pulling my hair waiting until then."

While pulling for his team from the sidelines during scrimmages in Florida, Victorine -- who contributed to the Galaxy's successes in the 2000 CONCACAF Champions' Cup, the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the 2002 MLS Cup -- has seen a change, a fine-tuning, that may be able to raise the Wizards' play a notch beyond their ability to defend well and counter strongly out of subsequent possession.

"What the players on the team have been talking about, and in watching the games myself, I think the change that would help the team the best is in those times when we decide to go and counter or push the ball, if it doesn't show itself [to be advantageous], then to bring it back out and hold possession of it," he said. "In talking to some of the players, that is one of the things this year that will help take some pressure off the defense and create those extra opportunities."

Assuming Victorine can continue to handle change well, he will surely aim to eclipse his finest offensive output, 19 points from seven goals and five assists in 2001, and help the Wizards conquer the Eastern Conference in their first effort.

Robert Rusert 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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