The 2011 Major League Soccer draft will be held at noon today on ESPN2. I recently caught up with top prospect and former UNC All American defender Jalil Anibaba, who also happens to be my cousin, as he wrapped up his time at the MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale and prepared to head to Baltimore for the draft.
Here is a transcript of our discussion:
What's your earliest memory of playing soccer?
I started playing soccer as soon as I could walk. I think I started playing organized soccer at the age of four and have played all the way through college.
How many positions have you played over the course of your career?
I've played every position on the field except goalkeeper.
How would you describe the range of emotions you're feeling right now as the draft approaches?
It's been a mind-boggling experience, it's surreal, and didn't really hit me all week because we've been pretty busy but realizing that I'm this close to fulfilling my goal of becoming a professional soccer player is an amazing feeling.
You competed on the U.S. men's U-18 and U-20 national teams, what was that experience like?
It was a tremendous experience that lent itself greatly to my maturity as a player. The opportunity to travel and compete with with the top talent in your age group in the U.S. and across the world—you also start to understand the demands of a rigorous competition schedule.
You were a team captain while at Santa Clara and many draft experts and evaluators have described you as a vocal leader on the field. How would you describe your leadership style?
As a player, I'm very calm and unemotional. I try to engage my teammates by talking myself and them through the game. Communication is a huge part of the sport and I feel like I'm at my best when I'm able to communicate with my teammates on the field.
Draft experts have you going anywhere from 5th to 13th in the first round. What are your thoughts on that?
To be honest, it's essentially useless for me to pay attention to mock drafts. What's meant to be will be.
How would you describe your dad's influence on your life and style of play?
My dad's influence is everything in my life. He taught my brothers and I about character, etiquette, and responsibility. When it comes to the game of soccer he's a passionate player and coach. He's taught me so much about the game of soccer but my approach to the game is slightly different than his because I'm more calm and tend to channel my emotion inward as a player.
What are your long term goals as a professional? Do you want to play overseas in Europe for instance?
I like to keep an open mind and this is the first big step for me but like every kid who's ever stepped on a pitch, I aspire to play at the highest level possible.
Check out what else I've got to say on my blog.
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