If you have been a long time reader of HTIOT, you have seen an occasional interview pop up on the site. We did a few interviews with various people and players involved with the Chicago Riot of MISL. And I personally had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Fire legend Peter Wilt. Interviews are always a way to have a little fun and find out more about the person on the other end of the conversation. In the case of the Fire, it is our chance to get to find out all sorts of things about our favorite heroes in the Quaker shirts. It's an opportunity that the average fan does not get so we are happy to introduce to you the HTIOT Interview Series.
We have been talking here at HTIOT recently on new topics and ideas we can introduce on the site. This not only keeps things fresh, but allows us to look at the Fire from different angles. I personally enjoy doing interviews and I think this new series will bring good information to everyone from your favorite Fire players. The Fire front office (a big shout out to Brendan Hannan) has been very gracious in granting us these opportunities and we are very appreciative of that. We are looking to interview Chris Rolfe for the next segment in the near future.
Mark O'Rourke and I had the pleasure to conduct our first interview with newcomer Sherjill MacDonald. He has fit in very well with the team so far, showing skill on the pitch and a love for the team, city, and fans off of it. It seems like he is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Chicago as well. Being a newer arrival, we figured this would be a great time to find out more about our new #7. For this first interview, we gathered up questions from the writers at HTIOT and compiled a list. We hope to take questions from the site in general as well as the Twitter account for future interviews so everyone has a chance to have their questions potentially asked.
Join us after the break for the interview. We hope you enjoy it, and there will be plenty more where this came from!
I first started off by asking Surejill about the correct pronunciation of his first name. I had heard it pronounced a few different ways and figured the best plan was to get it straight from the source. For all those wondering, the correct pronunciation is "Sure-Jill".
HTIOT: How are you enjoying Chicago so far? What do you think of the city? Have you ever been to Chicago before you came to the Fire?
SM: No I have never been before. You know, I have been to LA before but I like Chicago, I like the city but because I am training a lot I didn't see everything yet. I'm just taking my time to learn the city more. I'm having a good time so far.
HTIOT: I know you said that you haven't gotten a chance to check out a whole lot of places yet. If you had to pick out a favorite landmark that you have seen so far, do you have one that sticks out in your mind?
SM: Yeah, I've been to the zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo and I really liked that. It was a nice day.
HTIOT: Do you have a favorite Chicago food yet or place to eat?
SM: I've been to a good restaurant called El Valle. I don't know if you know it but it was good. It was like South American food.
HTIOT: So far, how would you compare you time overall in MLS compared to some of the other leagues you have played in? You've been all over in Europe, how would you say the style of play compares?
SM: The style here is really physical. It's a physical league. That's the most different thing that I see now. I have to get used to that but I think the quality of the league is good. The physical part is really different.
HTIOT: Are you starting to condition and train yourself differently to adapt to the physicality of the league?
SM: It has taken some time to get used to it, but for me I am fine with it. I like to play physical.
HTIOT: What has been the most challenging aspect of moving to a new city and a new league for you personally?
SM: For me personally I still don't know my teammates yet on the point that we can really play together and have everything flowing smoothly but at the moment I am also trying to adjust the style of my own play. I am just trying to get adjusted to everybody and the style of play we are trying to have. The training is difficult because it is different from the feeling of a game. With the exception of the last game I feel like we had a good connection with the team but it can get even better. (Ed. Note- this interview took place after the 4-2 loss to DC United).
HTIOT: We all think you are doing a great job so far and are really impressed. Every minute you get under your belt will help with the cohesiveness with the team too. How much are you looking forward to the game Sunday (Ed. Note- again, this refers to the Houston game that we just won 3-1).
SM: Yeah, I am also looking forward to the game, especially after the bad game we had. I am looking forward to doing a good job here at home.
HTIOT: If you had to pick a favorite part so far of being with the Fire, what would you say that is?
SM: I love the way the guys have accepted me here. Everybody has tried to help me, I like that. I really feel like it's a good team spirit. That's definitely the best thing I like so far. Even some guys that don't play now because of me, they still support me. And that means a lot to me. I think with those players sometimes when you don't play or another person is playing in your position it's difficult. But on this team everybody is helping each other so that's a good thing. That's why I feel I have quickly adapted here, because of my teammates. That's the most important thing I think. Whether you play or don't play, you have to support each other.
HTIOT: Of all the leagues and places you have played in over your career, who would you say is the best player you have played with?
SM: The best player I have played with? That's a tough question. I think the best player I have played with is Aruna Dindane. I personally feel he has been the best. Maybe he is not the best like other people see it, but I used to play with him at Anderlecht and this guy for me was incredible. He didn't make it to the top but to me he was one of the best players. Maybe there was other players that got bigger than him but for me the quality of play was very high.
HTIOT: Who is the best/toughest player you have played against?
SM: Let me see. This is difficult, difficult. The best player I have played against is playing now for Fulham. Dembele, Moussa Dembele. Very good player. I love this guy, he is fantastic. Also, Axel Witsel. He played for Benfica I think. He used to play at Standard Liege in Belgium too. He is also one of my favorite players I played against.
HTIOT: In terms of MLS defenders, who so far has been the toughest matchup for you?
SM: So far? I would have to go with the guy I was up against in San Jose. (Victor) Bernardez, who also used to play for Anderlecht. The quality of his defending is very strong, and if I had to pick guy who has toughest so far, it would be him. The guys from D.C. were also tough. I think (Brandon) MacDonald is also a tough player. He had a good day. But it's difficult to say, I've only played everyone one time, you know? Sometimes you can have a bad game, sometimes you can have a good game. I haven't played enough games to really say who is good.
HTIOT: Also, I wanted to ask a little bit about Section 8. They're a pretty famous group around Chicago. How much do you love those guys, what are your thoughts about them? Also,in general, how do MLS fans compare to other places you've played before like England and Belgium?
SM: I think the biggest difference is that everyone in here in the MLS is very positive. The fans are very positive here, so I have to get use to that. Like, even if you lose they are very happy. You know, they support the team. And I think that's a good thing. I think its easy to stand behind the team when everything is going good, and it's difficult to stand behind the team when you loose a game or have a bad day. I like the positivity of the fans. At home, the atmosphere is fantastic due to Section 8, so I'm very positive about it.
HTIOT: Are you getting to know some of the members of Section 8?
SM: Yeah, I get some messages on Twitter. And all of that is positive. And I think that it's nice to hear that the supporters are behind their team no matter what happens.
HTIOT: Myself and most fans think you've acclimated very well to the team and to the league. What sort of training routines do you follow to get yourself ready for game day? Especially coming in to a new league, is there anything that you do that's different from what you normally do? Is there a set routine that you follow?
SM: Well, for me, the only thing is, the situation that I came here with was that I didn't have any preparation. So now I'm training and, it's like, sometimes you feel very good and sometimes you feel very bad. It's like you feel the same effect when you're in preparation, you know? You have good days. You have some very bad days. You have days were you cannot move. I try to get through it, and I try to work very hard together with Tony (Jouaux). For example, when the other lads have three days off, I try to train a little more with him. I try to do as much as possible to be fit in the game. But it is a difficult situation because the other guys are in (good) physical condition and are a bit ahead of me, so I try to keep up with the other guys. But, you know, I'm staying positive. I think the start was good, but I want to keep going and keep doing good, but, you know, it's not easy all the time.
HTIOT: Yeah, I definitely think you've gotten off to a great start and gotten off on the right foot.
SM: Yeah, and it's just a case of keep on going; keep on staying positive; keep on working hard and doing things to improve.
HTIOT: If you had to describe just the soccer culture in Chicago, what would you say? Chicago actually has a rich history of culture. What were you expecting to experience and what have you found? Does it go into other places in the city? Does it feel to you that soccer is really a part of the Chicago atmosphere?
SM: Yeah, when I came, I didn't expect that there was going to be a lot of people in the stadiums. The big show before the game. I have to get use to that because in Europe, it's very simple. You know, it's a good atmosphere. Before the game, people are partying. I love the atmosphere. Everybody is so positive. I didn't expect that at all. It was a good surprise.
HTIOT: What was your first impression when you heard the name Chicago Fire? Had you heard of us in the past?
SM: I had a good impression because my manager used to play for the Sting in Chicago. Obviously he told me a lot about Chicago and that Chicago is a fantastic city and all these things. So the first things I heard about Chicago was through my manager. Then I met the staff here and the people in the office, and I had a good feeling. Then I see the facilities here and they're fantastic. But the first things I heard about Chicago was through my manager because he used to live here.
HTIOT: Okay, very last question, and this may sound weird, but it's something that fans ask pretty commonly. What do you put on your hot dog?
SM: What do I put on my hot dog?
SM: Uh, I didn't eat a hot dog yet. I don't know.
HTIOT: Oh, you haven't had one yet?
HTIOT: I say it because it's kind of big thing in Chicago that ketchup is a no-no. You get a hot dog in and it's no ketchup. It's mustard, and you can get peppers and what not, but no ketchup. It's almost like an inside joke kind of thing.
SM: Okay, okay, but no, I'm sorry I did not have one yet.
HTIOT: Well, the next time you have one, then you'll know the ropes.
SM: Okay. I'll let you know.
HTIOT: Okay. Sounds good. I think that's all I have for you, Sherjill. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to do this today.
SM: No problem. It was a pleasure.