Bradley: "First XI With Rapids 'Keeper Joe Cannon

WESTMINSTER CO (By Jeff Bradley for MLSnet.com) -Following an offseason of surgery and trade rumors goalkeeper Joe Cannon is back in net for the Colorado Rapids. In this week's First XI column he talks about his club's quest to be more solid defensively their X-factor and his dream job.

11. You were the subject of trade rumors it seemed all offseason. Did you take those rumors seriously?

JC: "I took it very seriously. There were discussions with other teams. It got to the point where I was even contacted by another team. It was a long offseason and I was a little jittery."

10. Jittery? What do you mean?

JC: "It seems things were a little crazy. It was hectic. Two surgeries and on top of that for the first time in my career I really had no clue where I was going to be. For almost a month up until mid-March I wasn't sure. But now it's back to normal."

9. Did you want to stay in Colorado?

JC: "Yeah of course. I know this organization has a history of guys leaving. As far as I'm concerned I'd like to stay here as long as it takes to make this team competitive and a team that can really push to become one of the better teams in the league."

8. You guys from the end of last season until this year have a lot of new faces. How do you feel about all the changes that have been made?

JC: "To be honest the one thing that was out of our hands was the loss of Nat Borchers to Norway. No one can be blamed for that. I empathize with him. He was a hometown kid like me and the fans loved him. And in Colorado he was a rock for us. Losing him is a tough loss for us. But I think all the changes that Fernando Clavijo has made have been good. I like what I've seen in practice. In Clint Mathis and Jovan Kirovski and Pablo Mastroeni we have some guys who can play some good soccer and just now they're starting to click. I feel this team can be very good. Defensively we have to get on the same page and solidify things but obviously the thing that will spur this team are the things our big guys can do to create offense. I think we'll be a tough team to defend."

7. Speaking of Clint how tough a blow was it to see him go out with an injury just 15 minutes into the first game?

JC: "None of us will know how tough a blow it is until he's 100 percent and playing the way he used to play. I know just watching him in practice he's enjoying himself. He can do things that no other player on our team can do. He's the X-factor I believe."

6. How about yourself personally. How do you feel about your start to this season?

JC: "Houston was a tough start. I thought to myself I wasn't going to be ready until Week 2. Physically I wasn't 100 percent. But I'm not pleased honestly. But you know as a 'keeper there are going to be times when you're not your best. It's been difficult so far. We've given up early goals. This past week Greg Vanney hit a great free kick. The game before Columbus scored on a set piece. The second goal I gave up last week (to Roberto Mina) I'm at fault; it was a great shot but any time someone scores from more than 20 yards I blame myself."

5. It's early but the West looks like it will be a lot more competitive this year. Do you sense that as well that making the playoffs will not be as easy as 2005?

JC: "Definitely. It's going to be much more competitive. But in saying that I think at this point last year we'd just lost to Salt Lake and we had only one point. So we were at the bottom. I think our team this year is much different. And I think once we start playing like we can we'll have improved as much if not more as the entire conference. Our coaching staff is working hard to find the answers. You're going to see a lot of improvement."

4. Do the Rapids have one main theme for what they want to improve this year?

JC: "Everyone knows we're tough at Invesco. We have to start showing we can play on the road as well. Giving up five goals in that first game at Houston was not a good start. We know as a group that we need to prove we can play better away from Invesco."

3. You're a San Jose native. How difficult was it to see that city lose its team and to play that first game in Houston watching what used to be your old team in a new city?

JC: "It's bittersweet. I don't get to go home anymore. I'm still a little upset. It's one of the best markets in the country. My dream job is to be the GM of the Earthquakes because that fan base is incredible and I think once someone comes out there with a plan and shows the passion for the Bay Area and soccer you're going to see great results. The location of Spartan was not ideal but they still drew some nice crowds. That said I'm excited for Houston and I think they'll do well there I hope anyway. I just hope it doesn't get too hot for the fans there."

2. You think Houston could be the toughest place to play in MLS? What are some of the places where it's especially tough on an opposing goalkeeper?

JC: "I've never had much success in Kansas City. That's one of the teams I do not like playing. And The Home Depot Center. I have not done well there. New England and New York the fans there are also tough. But after just one game I think Houston is going to be a very tough place for goalkeepers. The field plays wider than Spartan. It doesn't have those high walls right up against the sign boards. Those games were like cage matches. Being on both sides of it you realize what a special place that was."

1. Is there any particular player who keeps you up at night? A guy who you hate to see bearing down on the goal?

JC: "I've always hated Ronnie O'Brien's shot. You never have any idea where he's going to go. Same with Landon Donovan you just have to wait and wait because you can never tell where he's going to go with his shot. Same thing with Dwayne De Rosario. I don't think they even see a goalkeeper in there. They just whack it into the net."

Jeff Bradley is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Send your comments and complaints (200 words or less please) to Jeff at jbradleyespn2003@yahoo.com and he promises to read (but not respond to) all of them. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's and not necessarily those of the Colorado Rapids Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.