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Greenspan Ready to Step Up After Successful Loan

by on 9 June 2017

Center back Joe Greenspan recently returned from a loan stint with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the USL. After playing 720 minutes over 8 games, he was nominated for USL Player of the Month in May. With multiple defenders on the team likely to miss time due to international call ups and the possibility of multiple U.S. Open Cup matches on top of the MLS schedule, Greenspan may be called upon to play his first significant minutes for Minnesota United FC in the coming weeks. We sat down with him to learn more about his loan, how he approaches the game, and what he hopes to bring to the field

FiftyFive.One: A big challenge for this team, in its first season, has been having so many new teammates all in a new setting adapting to a new system. But you’ve had to adapt to those kinds of changes more than almost anyone. Coming to Minnesota, then getting loaned out to Pittsburgh, now coming back. What’s it like to have to make those adjustments so quickly, especially considering you played such heavy minutes right away on your loan?

Joe Greenspan: It depends on the situation. For me in Pittsburgh, it was a dream because I was playing for Dave Brandt, my coach from the Navy. So going in, we had a really clear understanding of what he wanted from me and what I need to get from them. So we were on the same page in that aspect. And I already knew a couple of the guys on the team there through college and other teams I’ve been on. It was pretty seamless for the most part other than a couple hiccups in the first game or two when we were just getting our rhythm down together as a back four. After that, once we really started getting to play together, we put it together pretty well so it was really fun. I enjoyed it.

Obviously, the loan paid off. You were nominated for USL player of the month right off the bat coming in cold on a loan. What does a loan like that do for you form and your fitness – when you’re able to get those game minutes as opposed to just putting in work in training?

JG: I think the biggest thing is getting some of those game situations and getting that rhythm. Because as important as it is to train hard every day at a high level, you can’t really replicate game minutes except for playing a game. Being able to get in those situations late in a game, up a goal, when you know you need to be stay sharp with your footwork and how you’re positioning yourself on the field. It helps build confidence and you kind of start to believe in yourself a bit more. Getting those eight or nine games in helped me hone in on those things so I’m ready to go when I’m called upon here.

It seems like the timing kind of worked out well, too. You go and get consistent minutes and come back at a time in the season when there are going to be some guys missing time because of international call ups and the U.S. Open Cup is starting. You might be called upon to play some significant minutes.

JG: I think it works out perfectly. For me, as an individual, it’s big for me to get games in so I can get my confidence and get my rhythm as I said. And then for the group, it’s also big for me to be out playing games instead of being here and maybe not dressing – and now when they need me for a match I’m coming in cold. Whereas I go there, I’m doing what’s good for me individually, but also what’s good for the group because now I come back ready to step in and contribute.

You’ve been through a lot of these transitions in your career. In Colorado, you’re signed with the Rapids but you also have responsibilities with the Navy. Now you’re signed with Minnesota and you get loaned out to Pittsburgh for a few weeks and now you come back. What’s it like mentally to adapt to that? Fans and people in other fields might not really go through those same dramatic changes.

JG: It can be a little mentally taxing but I love it because I love America. America is such a big diverse place. I grew up on the East Coast, but being able to travel to different places and play with different people lets me take things away from each of those experiences. I think it helps me not only as a soccer player but also as a person to see different parts of the country, meet new people from different walks of life, and play with different players, coaches, and systems. It’s all just part of the experience and I think it ultimately helps me become a better player and a better person.

When you were working for the Navy, in particular, you had to balance really different responsibilities that don’t necessarily overlap. Did that other work help give you a sort of release or did it just add a different element to your day?

JG: I think it’s nice to have a bit of diversity to my day. I can go on the soccer field and be fully committed and focused on soccer. And then it’s a good switch for my brain to go from that to my active duty on my ship or doing recruiting in Denver. Now I’m in the Naval Reserves so I have those responsibilities. I’m a soccer player, but it’s nice to be able to get a release from it and focus on other things. Because that can really free you up when you’re back on the field because it hasn’t just been soccer crammed into your head the entire day.

And aside from that strong mindset, what’re you hoping to bring to the field now that you’re settling back in with the team?

JG: I want to be a leader. I think that’s what everyone expects of a center back. You’re a bigger guy, you’re vocal, and you’re a little bit of a warrior out there. It’s one of those positions where you can try to look good, but it’s really even more important to do the little things right. Sometimes it also means being tough, being physical, and take a foul when you have to and be a little gritty. You can look at all the American centerbacks to have made a living by playing that role for their clubs. Brent [Kallman] has done a great job just being that kind of guy on the field and really helping the club out. So I think stepping in and epitomizing that role is important and that’s what I want to do.

Once you’re on the field, it won’t be hard for people to tell you’re standing head and shoulders above a lot of the team. Especially as a center back, do you also feel like you need to use your height and your size to impact the game in the air?

JG: Yeah, I think it’s a responsibility just because I am tall and in a way it is automatically my job to make an impact that way. For me as a big guy, it’s on me to win every ball I can.

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  • Jacob

    Good stuff.

    I’m really trying to keep my expectations low for Greenspan because he’s unproven in the league and I can’t convince myself that the whole “not playing soccer for a year” thing isn’t a red flag (in business terms, at least–he sounds like a well-adjusted and admirable guy). But what am I supposed to think after a loan like that? I get not wanting to start him last week when maybe he could use another week with the team to get situated, but I do hope we get a good look at him sooner than later. If he’s solid, we could set at CB for a long time.