Q&A: Danny O'Rourke
Cody Sharrett: First of all, congratulations on re-signing with the Crew. It seemed like there was never any doubt of you returning in 2013. Could you really imagine playing anywhere else after all you've accomplished for your hometown club?
Danny O'Rourke: I love this team. My family is here and they're able to watch me. My sister is moving back here, which is great. At the end of the day, I always wanted to come back. Obviously, you can think of other opportunities and where you want to be a couple years from now or whatever. But at the end of the day, Columbus has always been the right place for me.
CS: What's the best thing about playing for hometown team?
DO: It's like you win or you lose, and you have extra emotion for it. You have people you grew up with in the community. You have coaches you grew up playing for or against. You have the same club teams that you played for or against, and the kids are coming to watch you. Or there are kids coming up through the Academy that weren't there when we were growing up. We always went Crew games. When you win, you feel that much more excited for your city. When you lose, you put that burden on your shoulders. You want to bring championships to Columbus because we don't have a lot of sports teams, especially with the Blue Jackets locked out. You want to bring pride to your city. Outside of Ohio State, there aren't many sports teams that can do that.
CS: You're a leader on the field and in the locker room. With so much turnover on the roster year after year, how do you take it upon yourself to build a cohesive unit every year?
DO: It's difficult. It really is. I feel like it's a double-edged sword in this League. Obviously, you want to get the best players and you want to find a group that best fits the system and gets the best results for your team. You want to keep as many players as possible, but you want to bring in the best players in the offseason. Obviously, there are people I wish we could've kept. Hopefully we can get some of those older guys back that were a good presence in the locker room and on the field. But you never know. We've got some young guys along with myself, Chad [Marshall], [Andy] Gruenebaum, Eddie Gaven and Milo [Mirosevic] that will have to be better leaders next year. There were a lot of injuries last year and a lot of turnover, so maybe the leadership wasn't always there. I think I can speak for those guys that we need to bring more leadership.
CS: Both Brian Bliss and Robert Warzycha have said that the defense needs to improve over the offseason. As part of the defensive core of this team, where can you guys improve the most ahead of the 2013 season?
DO: In my own opinion, I think the best defenses are the ones that play together the longest. The more and more people get together and learn tendencies, the better. Chad and I had a full year together. We played every game in 2008. Frankie [Hejduk] played every game that he wasn't called into U.S. camp and Gino [Padula] played every game with us that he wasn't injured. The more games you played together, the better the unit was. This year we had different left backs until Josh got in there, and he's not really a left back. He's more of a centerback or better on the right. Seba [Miranda] was always in there. Chad was injured a little bit. Whether it was Julius [James], Carlos [Mendes] or whoever, we never had a cohesive unit. Regardless of the players, we never played that much together. Some of that is luck, whether it's guys not getting injured or getting called-up [to national teams], stuff like that. You need that consistency. Whether I play in front of those guys in the midfield or at centerback with Chad or outside back-- wherever, the defense needs to be better. We need to take that pride and go into every game looking to get a zero and starting again the next week. It's not really working harder so much on the field, it's just understanding one another, really talking and trusting the person next to you.
CS: The Crew finished one point out of playoff contention. Given that you'll have Federico Higuaín and Jairo Arrieta for a whole season in 2013. How are you feeling about the team's chances of returning to the MLS Cup Playoffs next season?
DO: I'm not really thinking about playoffs right now. It's obviously the goal. Right now the most important thing is to gel during preseason, not just on the field, but off it too. We've had a lot of turnover. We had a really good locker room last year. It was definitely better than 2010 and it kind of compared to what we had in 2008. I think that is far and away the most important thing. Look at teams like Houston. They've made it to the [MLS Cup] Final two years in a row because they probably have one of the best locker rooms in the League. New England back in the day when they were successful had a good locker room. Whoever had good locker rooms with guys who are willing to battle for each other and fight, those are the teams that are going to be successful. We need to focus on that in preseason and really blend together. We'll take it game by game. If we're successful, we'll start talking about playoffs.