In advance of next Thursday’s 2011 MLS SuperDraft , we caught up with our first round pick from the 2010 SuperDraft, Michael Stephens, to see how his life has changed over the past 12 months.
Stephens saw a lot of action in 2010, leading all MLS rookies with eight assists and finishing eighth on the club in minutes played with 1,884 while appearing in 25 regular season games and making 21 starts. The 16th overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Stephens scored one goal in his first season as a pro, tallying the game-winner in his team’s 2-0 win in Columbus on May 29. (WATCH)
As you will find out in this Q&A, he’s hungry to do even more in 2011.
LAGalaxy.com: Thanks for making the time to talk to us. How were your Holidays?
Michael Stephens: They were good. Spent it with my family. We went to Mexico for Christmas and New Years and they were very, very relaxing. It was pretty laid back. We were staying in this, kind of a, jungle area. It was pretty interesting just to wander around and go for hikes. It was a lot of fun.
LAG: Any New Years resolutions?
MS: No!!! I’m not big on resolutions, but obviously I want to make this year better than the last.
LAG: Given that you were preparing for the Combine and SuperDraft at this time last year, how was your Holiday season different this year compared to last?
MS: It’s funny. We were actually talking about this while we were on vacation. Last year I skipped out on my vacation. We always go down there as a family, but only went down for two days because I was very stressed out about the Combine and wanted to really make my mark there and spent a lot of time preparing for that.
LAG: What was it like preparing for the SuperDraft? Take us back, if you can.
MS: It’s a whirlwind. You’re trying to figure out where you’re going to go and there is some crazy talk going on. It’s nerve wracking. I was just sitting there waiting and hoping.
LAG: Was it tougher emotionally or physically?
MS: Emotionally, for sure. You have no idea what’s going to happen.
LAG: More difficult, the Combine or SuperDraft day?
MS: The draft day. When you are playing you can forget about all that, but when you just have to sit around and wait you’re mind can start racing.
LAG: What was the Combine like?
MS: You don’t really know what to expect. You’re playing with guys you’ve never played before and it’s definitely a nervous situation. Some people have good weeks, some people don’t. I don’t think it defines you as a player but obviously all those guys get stressed and it’s a tough time for sure.”
LAG: When not playing, or talking to coaches and trainers, what would the players do?
MS: Mostly chill out and eat meals together. You make friends and there’s a lot of different cliques going on, whether it be from universities or youth national team stuff. It’s actually a good environment to hang out and catch up with guys you haven’t seen in awhile.
LAG: If you were to talk to any of this year’s Combine participants, what advice would you give them?
MS: I would just say to relax. It’s stressful, so just try to relax. It didn’t’ define me and it’s not going to define any of these guys.
LAG: You did not attend the SuperDraft last year, what was that day like for you?
MS: From the moment I woke up I was thinking about what was going to happen. I was staying at my girlfriend’s apartment, in Los Angeles, I wasn’t with my parents which was a little bit tough. I had many talks with my agent.
LAG: Where were you when you found out you were going to be selected by the Galaxy?
MS: Funny story, my girlfriend’s TV broke right when tried to turn on the draft. We went down to a restaurant in Westwood to watch it.
LAG: Did you take that as a bad sign?
MS: I was freaking— definitely not being the best boyfriend, at that time. But it all turned out OK.
LAG: What was your first reaction to being selected by the Galaxy?
MS: Joy—I was going crazy. That’s where I really wanted to go, so for it to actually happen was very, very, very exciting to me.
LAG: It wasn’t mentioned by many media outlets, but UCLA had a big day that day with five players selected. Did that make the experience that much more special?
MS: It was cool. We had five guys drafted, including four seniors. Too see all of us make it was pretty cool and we all got together and had dinner and celebrated.
LAG: From the last day of classes, to the Combine, the SuperDraft, and your first training camp. Did it feel like it was happening too fast?
MS: In a way, yeah. I don’t think I was completely overwhelmed. I think since I didn’t have to change locations that made it a lot easier for me.
LAG: When did it hit you that you were a professional soccer player?
MS: Probably when I got my first pay check. Definitely not on draft day.
LAG: If you could sum up your rookie season in one word, what would that word be?
LAG: Do you have a favorite highlight from the 2010 season?
MS: My first start. I remember that game pretty clearly. It was against Salt Lake. It was a good win for us and a pretty exiting game. It was a good game to be a part of.
WATCH: Highlights - Galaxy vs RSL
LAG: How have you been preparing for the upcoming season?
MS: I’m trying to get stronger. I’ve been working out three times a week, out here in Chicago, with former NFL wide receive Kevin Kasper at Xtreme Speed, a training facility out there. It’s been really good and I’ve been making a lot of progress out here.
LAG: Are you excited for the new season to get underway?
MS: Very. I’m looking forward to it. I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable knowing what’s in store for me, what preseason brings. I think I’ll be a smarter player with a year under my belt and hope to be more productive next year.
LAG: Will you try and mentor any of the rookies that join the club this year, having been in their shoes just a year ago.
MS: I wouldn’t say mentor, but I’ll definitely help them out. When I came in all the guys were amazing to me. I think the thing I can help them out most with is logistics, help them out with the little things.
LAG: Now, if one of the rookies comes to you and says, “hey, what’s the best place to go eat in Westwood,” you would be able to mentor them with that one, right?
LAG: What’s the best spot in Westwood then?
MS: Ooh. That’s a tough one, they’re all so good. Headliners, a breakfast place. That’s my spot.
Michael, thanks again for making time to talk with us. See you later this month for the start of training camp.
The Galaxy will open the 2011 MLS season on Tuesday, March 15 when they head to Seattle to take on the Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field in MLS First Kick 2011, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. That game, which will kick off at 6:30 p.m., will be shown live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, as well as online at ESPN3.com.
The Galaxy will then host the New England Revolution in their home opener at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 20 at The Home Depot Center. Tickets are available to that match through the Kickoff Pack, which includes four tickets and two Galaxy blankets, starting at $96. BUY NOW