Waibel upbeat about new-look Quakes
On Friday, January 28, veteran MLS defender Craig Waibel re-signed with the Earthquakes for a third season. Over the past two seasons Waibel has been one of the most consistent and dependable Quakes, starting in 23 games in 2004 and appearing in all six of San Jose's playoff games over the past two seasons. The 29-year-old returns to the club after scoring his first two MLS goals in 2004, and he is looking to help the Quakes back to the MLS Cup Final, a place he has been three times in his six-year MLS career. Prior to the opening of preseason training on Tuesday, Waibel discussed his thoughts on the upcoming season.
After playing in San Jose for two seasons, what are your feelings on returning to the club for the 2005 season?
Craig Waibel: "I am happy to sign with this team and return to San Jose. It gives me a chance to help this team that has the potential to return to the MLS Cup. I think we have brought in a lot of new, exciting players like Ronald Cerritos and Ricardo Clark, and with these additions and some others, this can definitely be an MLS Cup team."
You spent a good portion of the off-season training with several teams in Germany. What was that experience like?
CW: "It was awesome. It was very educational for me and just a great experience. I think as we grow up as American soccer players we often wonder if we can play and compete internationally, and I found out that I could. Everyone knows that the German First Division is an incredible standard, but I found that the German Second and Third Division could be a good place for me to play, and it was great for me to see that I could play there and hold my own. I would say it was a confidence builder, but it was also incredible to see the way the game is approached, respected and loved over there by the coaches, players and fans."
There have obviously been a lot of changes with the Quakes in the off-season. What do you expect from this year's squad?
CW: "I think that with the new players we have added and the players from last year, the things that stand out to me is our youth and energy. I think the biggest difference will be the energy that will be brought to the field every game. This team is shaping up to remind me of our team in 2003 with the energy and the way we pressured people. This team has a lot of potential, and that potential comes from the youth that I see. Hopefully we will be able to come together quickly, but I think we can. In this league, everyone is technically sound and can play good soccer, so if we are able to bring that energy to the field, we are going to have a good chance of winning."
Throughout 2003 and 2004, the Earthquakes defense was one of the best in MLS. With several new faces competing for spots, how do you feel the defensive group will come together in 2005?
CW: "I think that once again it is going to be a strong defense. Some of the moves that were made can make us better, and with the addition of Wade [Barrett] and Chris [Aloisi] and the draft picks, we have a lot of very capable defenders. I think it has been proven that the team that defends the best usually wins the championship. I think our defense will be tested this season, especially early as some of our new players up top get adjusted to each other, but I think this is going to be another strong group of defenders."