Exclusive: Mike Chabala back with the Dynamo
Mike Chabala was drafted by the Houston Dynamo in the fourth round of the 2006 MLS SuperDraft and spent five and a half seasons with the team before being traded to the Portland Timbers in July of 2011. During his time in Houston he became a fan favorite thanks to his work on the field and his charity efforts off of it.
After a season and a half playing for Portland and DC United, Chabala was released by United and has joined the Dynamo on a preseason trial hoping to earn a contract and return to the team where is professional career began.
I spent a few minutes talking with Chewy about coming back to Houston, how he's changed as a player and a person, if he was worried about the future of his career after being relased by DC, and about his experiences in Portland playing in front of the Timbers Army.
ZW: Are you happy to be back in Houston with the opportunity to try and rejoin the Dynamo?
MC: Yeah, I’m really excited to be back, just like everybody else here. I'm just excited to be playing and having the opportunity to be here.
ZW: What’s the most exciting part of being pack in Houston besides not having to deal with those Robertson Stadium locker rooms anymore?
MC: I just think it’s being back with this group. Some of the best moments in my career have been here in Houston. I’m happy to be able to have the opportunity to come back here and my focus is on the field and on my play. The facilities have changed a lot since I was here, the club deserves that and all the players and staff. It’s quite enjoyable, a good locker room of guys and a great facility and pitch to perform and train on everyday. I'm ust trying to make the most of it right now.
ZW: How have the players who were here during your first stint with the Dynamo treated you so far? Have they been busting your chops?
MC: There’s always banter, I don’t think that’ll ever change in my career with the relationships I have with the guys I’ve played with before. It’s nice and it’s comfortable but at the end of the day I don’t have a contract. I’m here to earn a spot and and just try and make the squad and be with the Dynamo for the 2013 season. It’s obviously nice to laugh and have some jokes, but I’m here for a purpose and a reason and it’s all business.
ZW: Talk about how you see your chances of earning a contract and making this season’s roster.
MC: It’s way too early to say anything about that and it’s not even really my place to even try and assume anything. I just have to worry about myself at this point, do the best that I can and get myself as fit as possible and to make the most out of the games that I play in. I’ve played other positions for other clubs and this one too. I’m a versatile player that can move around the park and fill in. If i can add depth to a team that’s already had success over the past couple years, then great. If that works for Dominic, then that works for me. I’m excited for the future but I haven’t done anything yet, just two days in, so I'm just working away and we’ll see what happens.
ZW: Do you feel like you're a different player and a different person since your first time with the Dynamo?
MC: Oh my gosh yeah...I’ve grown up. I think maturity is a big factor, and you know, it’s just time. Obviously you come in 21-years-old and now you’re 28, it’s a big difference. You go through a lot as a player. In your career you have ups and you have downs, you have opportunities, good and bad. This is a new chapter, a new part of it and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
ZW: Did you every worry when DC United let you go that your soccer career might be over?
MC: Not at all. Unfortunately I was a victim of timing and circumstance. I had a really good relationship with Ben (Olsen) and I had a really good end of the year meeting with him. He’s been extremely helpful through the past couple months. On paper it doesn’t look good moving teams in the short fashion that I did. The whole Portland transition will probably be a mystery for awhile, but those are things that I can’t really worry about. To answer your question though, I never was worried, there are plenty of opportunities and I just focused on getting myself fit, staying on top of it over the off-season and taking that time to really work on myself and keep myself in shape so that when I did get that opportunity to get in to a camp I could make the most of it.
ZW: We've all see the atmosphere created by the Timbers Army from a far but as a player what was it like to experience that and be immersed in that environment?
MC: It was great. There’s just moments in my career that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Winning championships here with Dominic and the guys and being a part of that experience. Scoring a goal in front of the Timbers Army, the fans, the embrace that the city gave me. Playing in front of those crowds will be something that i’ll never forget, it’s something that just doesn't happen in every stadium in around the league. I think there’s some really good similarities in this Houston organization, in the fans and the support here. I think it’s a great soccer community, so I think it’s a close comparison. The Northwest has has a lot of really good, exciting things going on with soccer that’s bringing attention to our league so I hope it continues.