Steve Brooks, of Babblin' Brooks fame, recently caught up with MetroStars head coach Mo Johnston to pose a few questions to the Red and Black's boss. From trialists, to draft picks to returning veterans, Johnston covers it all. Find out what the Scotish legend has in store for your MetroStars in 2006.
There are several new players to join the team, including the first overall pick of the 2006 MLS SuperDraft pick Marvell Wynne. I know he has logged in his fair share of minutes for the team in their preseason games. Will he be ready to fulfill his role when we roll into RFK Stadium on April 2?
Mo Johnston: "Marvell has done very well so far and has performed as you would expect a top pick to perform. He will see a lot of minutes this year, and if he continues to make progress, he may well be ready for the opener."
What have Jozy Altidore and Blake Camp shown in their first two weeks with the squad? I know Altidore will be finishing up school and will not be with the team at the start of the season, but is there a chance he will be seeing minutes as the season progresses?
Mo Johnston: "Jozy has looked like a 16 year old; some days he looks very sharp, other days he looks like he needs some more time. Will he see minutes? It depends on when he finishes school. Will I be afraid to throw him in there if I think he is ready? Absolutely not.
Blake has quietly done well. He has worked hard and we are working on improving him. He has shown that he doesn't look like a fish out of water. The professional game is not too big for Blake Camp."
After Amado Guevara joined the Metros again, you said that the team was ready to move on. I noticed he played a good 60 minutes against D.C. United, with an assist to go along with that. With only six more weeks left until the start of the season, how confident are you that Amado will be successful as he has in the past few seasons?
Mo Johnston: "A lot has been said about Amado. When good players put on a uniform, they perform. I have no problems with Amado and I know he'll be in top form this season."
With defenders like Marvell Wynne and Jeff Parke, the average age of your back line is a little under 23 years old. One MetroStars fan, Jake from Clifton, N.J., wanted to know if you planned on bringing any experience to the defensive side. Are you comfortable with a back four if you had to choose from your roster today?
Mo Johnston: "I am very comfortable with our backline. Peter Canero's natural position is in the back, Taylor Graham has MLS experience, was defender of the league in the (USL First Division) and has had a good camp. Carlos Mendes played well at both Rochester and with us last year and knows what it takes. That said, we are still looking to improve in all areas, the backline being one of them."
So far, Tony Meola and Jon Conway have been getting an equal amount of playing time minding the net. I am sure this is common in preseason, but I know Conway would love that number one spot. How secure is Meola's spot as starting goalkeeper?
Mo Johnston: "Jon Conway has done very well, which we knew he would. It will be difficult to dislodge Tony given Tony's experience and what he brings to the team, but I am very confident that Jon can step in if given the opportunity."
Many people call Eddie Gaven one of the MetroStars' most prized possessions. He is young, talented and has the potential to be a great player for the league and our country. Now with a couple years of experience, in your mind, is Gaven ready to step up and be the All-Star we all hope he is going to be?
Mo Johnston: "Eddie Gaven is a very talented young player. He is important to us moving forward. At 19 years old, he is still learning his trade. As you can see from last year, he had eight goals and four assists and had an outstanding year before that. He certainly can get the job done."
Do you have any specific plans for the team in Los Angeles when you guys go over to The Home Depot Center in March?
Mo Johnston: "We will train much the same as we have done in Florida. We will resume two-a-days and partake in a few friendlies. The boys will be working hard and that is expected in preseason. When I was a pro, I was always worked very hard by my coaches in preseason. It is our responsibility to our fans to work as hard as possible to make this team the best in the league."
You scored 30 goals and 25 assists in 138 games during your MLS playing career. You also earned three All-Star selections and a won an MLS Cup championship. You are only 42 years old and I am sure you love to put on some cleats and play with the team. What is the one thing you miss most about your playing career?
Mo Johnston: "I don't actually miss it to be honest with you. My time has come, I'm not a 'frustrated player' being a coach. I thoroughly enjoyed my playing career and I won everything in my country domestically there was to win. I couldn't ask for anything better. It has taken me to all walks of life in different countries. It was magnificent, but it was time to move on from that. I am very happy where I am now as the head coach of the MetroStars."
Celtic FC, who play in your hometown of Glasgow, seems to be running away with the Scottish Premier League. Have you been following the SPL? Any chance on working your magic to get Roy Keane to New Jersey?
Mo Johnston: "I follow all the leagues around the world, but yes I do pay attention in particular to the Scottish league having played there. It is vital to check daily to see what is going on around the world, not just in Scotland. I am always looking to improve the team here and doing that is one way to do so."
Have you been watching any of the Olympics?
Mo Johnston: "I haven't had any time for that down here, Steve. It doesn't particularly interest me to be honest."
The offseason must also mean some downtime for you. Have you been able to do some things you would necessarily stay away from during the season? On the courts? The greens? What else does Mo Johnston have a passion for, besides soccer?
Mo Johnston: "There is no offseason when you are coaching. It's a 365-day a year job. We were in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Scotland and England scouting players. I didn't take any time off. Soccer is my only passion. It is what I do."
Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule. Can you leave us with a message to the fans? Is this the year we make it to the MLS Cup Final?
Mo Johnston: "First of all, we appreciate all of your support and look forward to seeing you at Giants Stadium this year as our 12th man. Sometimes I think fans don't realize how much of an impact they can have on the game. Players feed off exciting atmospheres and raise their level of play when the crowd has them energized and I hope you all can do that this year. "Second, know that the coaching staff, the players and the front office are working very hard to put a successful and entertaining product on the field. I am confident that we are heading in the right direction, towards that ultimate goal of bringing the first MLS Cup to New York."