We collected questions for John O'Brien on our web site in April 2002. John answered the first set at the end of the 2001-2002 season, and the second set as the 2002-2003 season was getting underway.
Keith Bundy from Woodbridge, VA asks:
"After moving to The Netherlands, how long did it take you to become comfortable with the culture and language?"
O'Brien: Two years to really get the language under control. After about six months I could understand a lot, though. Getting used to the culture took longer. Or to like the culture took longer, like three, four years. Getting used to it was like the first year.
Michael Carlston from Marin, CA asks:
"Looking back, when you first moved to Holland what was the biggest difference between the players your age there compared to those in the US?"
O'Brien: Biggest difference was the way they saw the game. They saw it as a possibility to fulfill their dreams, and all the weight of the past stood behind it, making it respectable and intimidating. In the U.S. it's still a game. You try to win because your competitive but don't know where it's all heading.
Steven from Ocean City, NJ asks:
"John, you've been away from the country for so long, did you ever feel home sick? Have you ever thought to play for the MLS some day? Thanks, good luck always."
O'Brien: I definitely felt homesick. I figure that's natural so you just deal with it. The MLS is definitely interesting. I'll keep my eye on it for the next couple years to see how it develops.
Andy Booden from Virginia asks:
"Where else do you possibly see yourself playing in the future? Or are you planning on staying in Holland?"
O'Brien: I'd like to play in a bigger league some day.
David Griffiths from Oxford, UK asks:
"Do you realistically think Ajax can challenge for European honours in the next few years, and are the quality young players going to stay?"
O'Brien: We can if the quality young players stay, and if they stay is all up to the accountants and if they can afford it. And [if the players] aren't tempted by the possible big transfers.
Bill Bryden from Bocking, UK asks:
"You have appeared in a number of positions this past season. Which position do you prefer, and which position, if you were the coach, would you select for yourself?"
O'Brien: Center midfield. Think I need time to play that level well at Ajax, but a defensive central midfielder who organizes and sets things up would be best for me.
Jon from San Francisco asks:
"What areas of your game do you think have improved by playing regular first team (and injury free) football this year?"
O'Brien: Vital experience, and my nerves have calmed because of that experience. I'm able to think and play under pressure better. More stability. I've been able to constantly and more easily get myself focused.
Indra Moeljadi from Geneva, Switzerland asks:
"In your years with Ajax, you experienced quite a lot of trainers. Which one do you think is the best for yourself and for Ajax?"
O'Brien: All have been good in different ways and all have believed in me, so I don't have a bad word to say about any of them.
Bill Radcliffe from Sandpoint, Idaho asks:
"How rigid is your Ajax system of play? Are you free to go forward if the situation permits, or are you expected to stay in your assigned position?"
O'Brien: It's gotten more free in the past year. We are starting to attack from almost any position, and people are expected to defend from any position. Modern football.
Part Two: answered September, 2002
Jeff from Las Vegas, Nevada asks:
"Hello, I am sixteen years old, and next to Rafael Van der Vaart, I look up to you as a role model. How would you contribute your extra time (if you have any!) to the youth of the USA in developing the youth of the future? "
O'Brien: I think it would be good to watch a lot of soccer so a lot of soccer camps with good trainers and watching and learning from the best players in the world.
Darren Stone from Salem, OR asks:
"How did it feel to go to your first World Cup?"
O'Brien: Great. You really feel like everything and everybody in the world is focused on you.
Jason from Austin asks:
"What position do you prefer to play on the national side?"
O'Brien: Central midfield.
Jay from Vallejo, CA asks:
"You said after the Italy friendly that the U.S. seemed to lack a "killer instinct." Has your time at Ajax helped you develop your own killer instinct? And did the US team find the killer instinct during their great run through the tournament in Japan/Korea? "
O'Brien: It's helped me recognize a killer instinct (Italy's specialty) and I think we learned to get the most out of a game possible, Germany excluded.
Big Dog from NY asks:
"What do you think of Sam's Army?"
O'Brien: Rockin! It's good to see enthusiastic and sometimes over-the-top supporters.
Chris from Walnut Creek, CA asks:
"Did your performance at the World Cup change things for you at Ajax? What was the impact of the USA's success on your status at your club team?"
O'Brien: It did the club well to have someone play well and be successful at the World Cup, since the Dutch team didn't participate.
Jim McGough asks:
"The Dutch press are tipping Ajax as favorites to repeat as champions. Does that have an impact, positive or negative, on the mentality of the team?"
O'Brien: Expectations are always negative. Hope is better. I don't think it's affecting us much so far. We've been able to feel free on the pitch and off, so the mentality and atmosphere is good.