Jimmy Nielsen spent the better part of 15 years tending goal in Denmark before coming to the United States as part of the Wizards roster shakeup. He has allowed only one goal in 270 minutes so far, and he has made an immediate impact with his leadership and veteran presence. MLSsoccer.com caught up with Nielsen before Saturday's game against the Galaxy.
MLSsoccer.com: First of all, we're hearing a lot about the "White Puma" nickname. Tell us about that.
Nielsen: It started 12, 13 or 14 years ago at a shooting session back in Denmark. I was flying and diving around, and one of strikers said I looked like a white puma. They’ve been calling me "White Puma" since.
MLSsoccer.com: That save with your face against the Rapids got some people talking.
Nielsen: When I started playing soccer, I wanted to play goalkeeper so I didn’t get the ball in the face. But this is the position where you get the ball the most in your face. I’ve had the ball in my face a hundred times, and that’s maybe why I’m a little crazy.
MLSsoccer.com: You were minutes away from three shutouts to start the season. How does it feel to come into a new team, a new country and a new set up and have some success early?
Nielsen: I think it’s very important to all of us, especially with so many new players, that we get the confidence with each other straight away. We lost in Seattle, but it still a loss where you can go from the pitch with your head held high. I think we had a good performance and were a little unlucky.
MLSsoccer.com: I take it you are becoming pretty comfortable with your teammates, coaches and surroundings then?
Nielsen: We feel very confident, but we are not satisfied. We don’t have to be satisfied yet. We have to want it more, and we have a very important game on Saturday against the Galaxy.
MLSsoccer.com: What are some similarities and differences that you’ve noticed between the Danish Superliga and Major League Soccer?
Nielsen: I think they are very similar. Over here it’s a lot of attacking, defending and attacking, defending. Where I come from it’s a little more about possession, having the ball and keeping the ball so the opponent runs. I think it’s more direct.
MLSsoccer.com: Tell us about the atmosphere in Seattle last week.
Nielsen: It should be like this every week. It is fun. It is soccer. It is game day, party day. Our crowd makes that good atmosphere, too. We’re looking forward to the new stadium, and we think our crowd can do that very well there.
MLSsoccer.com: You spend half the game at CAB with the Cauldron right behind you. Is it nice to place on that side with them supporting you?
Nielsen: I like when there is a good atmosphere at the stadium. It gives the players good energy, positive energy. You want to fight for yourself, the team and your supporters.
MLSsoccer.com: Denmark is in the World Cup after winning its qualifying group. How do you think the squad will fare?
Nielsen: I think they have a very good team. First of all, it’s all about getting through the group stage, and I think they have a good chance with Holland to come through. When it comes to the knockout, anything can happen.
MLSsoccer.com: What do the people in Denmark know about U.S. soccer, both MLS and the national team?
Nielsen: Not much. I don’t think the MLS gets the credit that it deserves. I think they don’t have that respect from Europe yet, unfortunately. This league is very similar to most of the Scandinavian leagues. This league is a very good league.
MLSsoccer.com: How has Kansas City been so far?
Nielsen: I like it. I liked it from day one, and I still like it. The people here are very friendly and help me so I can keep my focus on playing soccer. They make my life easy away from the pitch and my family is very settled here. I’m just looking forward to my kids picking up the language and going to school. That’s very important.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you miss anything about Denmark?
Nielsen: No, I have everything I need here. I have my family. I have soccer. That’s the two things I love most in my life