Dillon Powers (@powerhour5), the first year midfielder from Notre Dame, didn’t expect to start every match in his rookie season with the Rapids. However, when injuries sidelined veterans he was called upon and has since played more than any other midfielder, starting 12 of the first 14 matches.
Whether its MLS defenses eager to “welcome” rookies to the league, or practice sessions leaving him 40 stitches in the forehead - courtesy of his own teammates - Powers always seems calm and cool in the middle of the action.
The recent college graduate and MLS All-Star nominee discussed his background in soccer, the experiences of collegiate soccer and the Youth National Team World Cup, along with his latest sporting endeavor off the pitch.
Goal: Powers' rocket vs Portland
I know your dad (Mike Powers) probably had some influence, but how did you get into the game and continue it?
Dillon Powers: "I grew up watching my dad play. Some of my earliest memories were him dropping a ball for me and doing bicycle kicks on my back. I was brainwashed a little bit I guess. He never pushed me into anything because I got to play other sports but soccer was my first love and still is. I didn’t play football that’s the only thing I didn’t do.
I got some good experience with the U-18s and U-20s so that kind of made me have some greater ambitions and play professionally. I was lucky enough to commit to a great college because I valued the academics as well, and found myself in a great place in Notre Dame."
(NOTE: Dillon's father, Mike, was a popular player for the Major Indoor Soccer League's Dallas Sidekicks).
What were some things you learned at Notre Dame and who were some influences along the way?
"Bobby Clark, the Head Coach, is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He’s such a good mentor off the field as well. He’s played at the highest level and he’s just so wise. He made me value what’s important and was a big factor in finishing my education which was in the end a great decision. (Dillon was a NSCAA Scholar All-American and just received his degree from Notre Dame)."
What was the experience like at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup?
"It was crazy. I got to start the first game and the level was high. I learned a lot of lessons there. I stepped in and was able to contribute and the coaches were helpful and I gained a lot of confidence.
I got to go in two different cycles. I got to go to the earlier cycle when I was 18 and learned how to be the younger guy on the team. When the next cycle came I was the older guy and experienced which is a whole new set of challenges. When you’re the younger guy you don’t have as many responsibilities and can get away with some things. But you’ve got to be a leader the second time around, and especially at Notre Dame I think I learned to be good leader.
Having the international experience when there is a lot of pressure is very beneficial because I can refer to that coming in here."
Goal: Powers gets one through Columbus
Coming to Colorado, what were some of the challenges both on or off the field?
"I wanted to come in and earn the respect from my teammates and the coaches. Earning the respect from your teammates is the first thing-working hard in practice, being a good pro and not being cocky. Off the field I’m still trying to find my feet, make some new friends out here, but it’s been a challenge being so busy the first three months. At college or when you’re at home you have a huge support system so when you come out here for the first time you’re by yourself."
Speaking of new friends how did you and Deshorn Brown end up as roommates?
"We roomed together at the hotels in pre-season and I thought it would be nice to have a roommate the first year and stick together. We decided we’d go in together and split the cost a bit so it’s been good. We get along well and it’s a pretty simple dynamic."
Were you surprised with anything early on this season?
"I think I was able to adjust to the pace of the game eventually but the thing I learned quick, and I had to, was once we got into games and the start we had you learn it’s our jobs to win games. There’s a lot more pressure to do that. I think after a few losses we learned what it took, from a personal level I learned what it took, to win games.
Going forward what would you like to make improvements in or work on?
"I finally got healthy my senior year (in college) so I was really able to work on my athleticism and I’ve gotten some speed back. Oscar (Pareja) wants me to be a more dynamic, and I do too, on the ball, play quicker and move quicker.
Right now I’ve just been going through games and working my way through but I had gotten to a point in college where I wanted to dominate every game and be a bigger force in every game. I’m no longer satisfied with just getting by. I want to push it to the next level."
Away from work what do you do in your spare time?
"I really picked up golf a lot. Pablo (Mastroeni), Tony (Cascio), and I go out quite a bit so that’s the new hobby I picked up. In college I did a lot of producing music on my computer so that’s another hidden hobby I have. I’m looking forward to the summer getting out to the pool and taking in some rays."
* Brian Jennings has covered the Rapids for Soccer365.com since 2002. Feel free to comments or fire questions to Brian Jennings via twitter @MLSfrom5280 and be on the lookout for the next installment of "Know Your Rapids" coming soon.