FRISCO, Texas — Life as a rookie in MLS — as is so often in professional sports — can be difficult and, at times, gutting for athletes as they adjust to a new lifestyle and higher level of play.
So when FC Dallas rookie Bobby Warshaw made his second career start 10 days ago at the ever-difficult Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake, one would expect nerves and butterflies. However, he made sure that wasn’t the case.
“[It felt the] same as always,” said a straight-faced Warshaw. “It can’t be a shock, it can’t be a surprise. It’s your job and you go play and help the team win.”
Since being drafted 17th overall in the 2011 SuperDraft, the Stanford product has experienced it all at the MLS level in his first six months. From extended travel to fighting for playing time to carrying the team's training equipment after practice sessions, Warshaw has gone through the ropes of a typical first-year player.
“I don’t think that the soccer and the touches are that different from six months ago,” said Warshaw, who left school a semester early to begin his professional career. “But [it’s] the ability to focus, the ability to think your way through the game — the mental and the focus side is the hardest thing.”
While the mental aspect of the game requires a period of alteration, the Mechanicsburg, Pa., native has more than enough support coming his way.
He regularly speaks with his family and says they watch every game. His family has been to two FC Dallas games in north Texas and even traveled to the nation’s capital when FCD played at D.C. United in May.
Warshaw has also found comfort in a new family: his teammates.
“We have the coolest team around, I think,” said Warshaw. “Leaving college early and missing that experience — to be able to come into this group of guys and hang out in the afternoons and spend time together away from the field is awesome.”
On the field, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman uses Warshaw as a backup to defensive midfielder and team captain Daniel Hernandez. The defensive midfield position is perhaps the most important in FC Dallas’ 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 formation, as Hernandez and Warshaw drift in between the midfield and defense working to keep the team shape and communication between the lines.
“I think it’s one of the hardest positions on the field to play,” admitted Hyndman. “I think he’s made good progress. He’s a good technical player, he has good passing abilities — it’s just that now he has to get caught up with the speed of the game.”
Warshaw credits team veterans Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu, third-year center back George John and Hernandez for his professional growth.
“They’re awesome,” stated Warshaw. “I can’t put into words how great they’ve been for me to grow as a person and as a player.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @FCDallasBeatGuy