The Chicago Fire's Davis Paul was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him recently. I was interested to hear how this San Diego born, LA area raised player was adjusting to a new city and a new position. Paul played a withdrawn forward in college but as discussed in an earlier formation post, coach Carlos de los Cobos is playing him on the left wing so far. Paul's high up on the depth chart at the LM position and there's a chance he might even be called on to play LB in a pinch. His development will be crucial to the Fire's success this year because the left side of the field is looking a little thin.
We chatted briefly about how that day's practice went and about his snowboarding past before officially starting the interview. We ended with Cubs and White Sox and talked Wesley Sneijder, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, sushi and the mysterious fog in Peoria in between. The first question is below and keep reading for the entire interview after the break.
TT: How are you adjusting to Chicago? Not necessarily the team, but the city itself being that you are from California.
DP: I've actually adjusted pretty well to be honest. Because I've always been around the snow and cold situations at times too, it didn't actually bother me to be here during the big snowstorm or anything. It is a little different bundling up to go out casually just to get food as opposed to going to the mountains. Berkley prepped me for it out here because San Francisco was in my backyard so I was always hoping to end up in a big city somewhere. Lo and behold, I ended up in a great one out here.
TT: With it being great, do you have a favorite part of the city so far?
DP: Yeah, I really like downtown, roaming around. I really like Old Town/Lincoln Park area for sure. That's actually around where I got my apartment and everything. I just love going to restaurants where I've never been before and the food is fantastic and it's definitely been a fun ride.
TT: Do you find there to be a big difference in the personalities between Chicagoans and Californians?
DP: I definitely feel like the pace of life out in California seems to be a lot more quick and a lot more individualistic. Out here, I'll just walk on the street and people will say hi for no reason. It just seems like a friendly, borderline Midwest small town feel just in a bigger city.
TT: I would say those are kind of the stereotypes, it's interesting to hear that. Chicago is often referred to as the biggest small town.
DP: I would confirm that. Southern California and Northern California are different in a lot of ways and yet Chicago is completely different than both of those. I'm liking it though.
TT: Now since you grew up near Los Angeles, does that mean that you grew up a LA Galaxy fan?
DP: You know, I did grow up going to games. I'm about 30 minutes inland from downtown. I always went to Galaxy games, always played in the Home Depot Center, we always had ODP out there. It's kind of crazy in my first game at FC Dallas, I remember going to those Galaxy games and here I was at a MLS stadium and down on the field.
TT: Did you have a favorite player then, maybe not just from MLS but any soccer player growing up?
DP: When I was growing up, a lot of people with my club said that I resembled [Landon] Donovan to them so I always looked up to him because he was a smaller kind of a guy but here he was making a big difference on the national team here in the United States. I was definitely like him. As far as a favorite player, I've always been a big fan of Wesley Sneijder and David Villa because they are smaller guys making big waves in the soccer world.
TT: Right now Carlos de los Cobos has you playing out left in the 4-4-2 and the 3-5-2. How are you adjusting to that after being a withdrawn forward in college?
DP: To be honest, I think the transition is relatively easy compared to other transitions I've made in the past. I think being a withdrawn forward you are constantly moving, constantly finding space, constantly under pressure with guys on your back. When I drift out wide now, I just find myself with tons of space and it's a lot easier to find touches and to find pockets. I think playing as a withdrawn forward in Division I soccer has prepped me well for this move out wide.
TT: What do you find to be the biggest difference between the college and the pro game?
DP: Right off the get go there was a bit of a learning curve. The college game compared to pros, pros is just a step ahead in every aspect. It's a little quicker, everyone's a little faster, everyone's a little stronger, everyone is more technically gifted and smart in terms of the tactics. It's no longer just about raw talent. In college you can get away with being a raw player but here you have to be the whole package and encompass all of the aspects of the game.
TT: Speaking of those different aspects of the game, right now you are slotted to sub in for Gonzalo Segares on the left wing in the 3-5-2. Are you ready to take on some of the defensive responsibilities that Segares' role entails?
DP: Yeah, I've have had the privilege of being paired up with Gonzalo and we are definitely two different players but he is brilliant as a left back. I've got to pick apart his brain in terms of the defensive side of things and he has definitely talked me through it. Even in the Open Cup game he was letting me know what pockets to block and things like that. Defensively now, I'm as comfortable as I'm ever going to be. Even in a 4-4-2 if they needed me to slip into an outside back position, I would be comfortable doing that and still attacking and using my fitness to get forward as well.
TT: Given that you do have a forward background, you probably can't help pick some things from Gaston Purerari and Diego Chaves. Not necessarily one-on-one, but just by observing?
DP: The good thing is even in the Open Cup game I felt like I was able to combine well with those two. Being a converted forward, I understand where a forward wants balls to be played and what kind of moves the forward wants to make. Playing with those guys it's cool to see the creative that they have and the way they are able to connect with one another and bring others into the game. It is just a matter of combining well and getting on the same page as them.
TT: I listened to the Jeff Crandall podcast you did and I was wondering if you got a Section 8 scarf because you did so well on the trivia. Have you received the scarf yet?
DP: You know, I haven't and I'm actually really bummed about that. I had a lot of guys send me some things on Twitter and Facebook and I was really excited to get a scarf. Maybe it is my own fault because I didn't go over to Section 8 around game time but I'm definitely still in the market. I'm even thinking about framing a Section 8 scarf and throwing it up on the wall along with some other pictures of Section 8 just so I could bring that home with me everyday as well.
TT: I think that can probably be arranged. Speaking of Section 8, what is it like to play in front of Section 8, not just at home but also in Peoria and you probably even saw some in Dallas.
DP: Regardless of whether or not players want to admit it, we do this for the fans. So to have the support of the city and all of these guys every game screaming and yelling, it definitely helps push us and it helps keep us honest in terms that we are working and what we are working for. Even out in Peoria, to me it is amazing to see the dedication of people driving out there, waving the flags, and causing a ruckus behind the goal. As a player it makes me more excited to go out and do my best.
TT: There was a mysterious fog that took place in Peoria. Did that effect your play at all or get in the way?
DP: No, anything can happen. We were talking about it on the bus. There's a Chelsea game where a beach ball went onto the field and a shot actually deflected off of it and it turned out to be the game winner. As a player you have to play through any condition. It doesn't matter if it is hail, rain, fog or smoke bomb lit by a fan group. It was thick in the beginning but nothing we couldn't handle and nothing that really altered the game. I will say I think Jalil switched me a ball one time and I might have lost it for 10 or 15 yards there in the middle of the field. To me it's cool though, it's just the ambiance of playing in a professional atmosphere. You never know what you are going to get.
TT: Moving onto some personal interests besides soccer, a lot of fans are familiar with your infamous 'For Ur Love' video you did with your teammates at the University of California. Do you have any future plans or has Chicago been inspiring you in photography or short films?
DP: Chicago is such a beautiful city and I love photography. Once the weather clears up, I want to get out there with my camera. There are a thousand things I want to shoot already that I have seen. With videos, there are some ideas on deck that I've been talking with the marketing team and even the President Julian [Posada] about implementing. I've got some good ideas and that's what a marketing and advertising degree from Cal will do. Hopefully I'll get to drop something a little higher quality than a music video with your team.
TT: Are you excited about any of the upcoming films that are going to shoot in Chicago or do you have a favorite movie that is about Chicago?
DP: I heard some rumors that the Dark Knight was filmed in Chicago and the more I was walking around downtown, I was recognizing little areas. In terms of just a favorite city movie, it has to be hands down, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. If that's not a cinematic, Golden Globe nominee kind of film. I love watching that movie and the feel you get for the city. I'm kind of starting to get a feel for where those places are and I think that's the first movie I watched when I got to Chicago too.
TT: Do you have a favorite 'touristy' thing that you have done? Do you have a favorite Chicago spot so far?
DP: I haven't really had a chance to do any of that. I would love to take a tour on the water and just take a look at the architecture. I hear on a clear day that going up the Hancock or the Willis Tower would be phenomenal. In terms of a favorite spot, a few of us on the team have been going to this place once a week to Sushi Para II. It's an all you can eat sushi for like $18. It's already hopefully becoming our tradition weekly, which is a pretty phenomenal thing to look forward too.
TT: Does this have anything to do with their being a couple of different Californians on the team? This strikes me as a California thing.
DP: Ah no, let's see we had Alec Dufty, Mike Videira, Corben Bone, so we've had a diverse group attending. It's open to the whole team. I am a big sushi fan being from California and luckily there are a bunch of other sushi fans on the team as well. That's been fun and I must say I enjoy the drive to practice everyday going down Lake Shore Drive. I can't wait to see the trees in bloom.
TT: Couple of lighting round questions if you will. On a hot dog, ketchup or mustard?
DP: I learned this one. I'm only getting mustard. I went to a place called Devil Dog with my realtor when I was looking for an apartment. I asked the lady what would happen if I got ketchup and she said she would take my picture and pin it up to the wall. I learned my lesson right there never to get ketchup on a hot dog out here.
TT: Well it sounds like you prefer ketchup though.
DP: If it were up to me, I would love ketchup and mustard to be honest but I have no problem sacrificing the ketchup for the betterment of myself and Chicago.
TT: Sounds like you will fit in just fine. Now pizza, deep dish or thin?
DP: Definitely deep dish. I mean, you don't have to be from Chicago to enjoy a Chicago deep dish pizza.
TT: I believe you were closer to Anaheim growing up, but in baseball, Dodgers or Angels?
DP: This is tough because I have so many friends on either side. I'm just trying to remain neutral but if I had to pick one I would definitely go with the Angels. The thing though is if we could get even further, I'd probably go with the Padres over both of them. I was born in San Diego and spent a lot of time there. I love the city down there and my parents have a long history. I've always just kind of gone back and forth quite often.
TT: So this means you wouldn't be making a decision between the Cubs and the White Sox yet?
DP: I don't know if I can even answer that. I don't want to cross any lines. I will say that I'm closer to Wrigley Field and I love the history there. You will likely catch me catching some Cubs games but if any of the guys have tickets, I'm happy to go to both.
I thanked Davis Paul for his time and we concluded the interview. Thanks again to No. 17. Fire fans wish you well and I'm sure the Section 8 scarf can't be far behind. The plan to frame it sounds like a great one.