Q & A With Chris Eylander
Sept. 16, 2004
The Husky men's soccer team is off to a blazing 4-1 start this season despite spending the first three weeks on the road. The meaning of 'home field advantage' has almost been forgotten to them, but with upset road wins over No. 5 U Conn and No. 13 Creighton in the past four games, the Huskies have cracked the top ten and return home this weekend boasting a season best No. 10 ranking. The defensive effort has been outstanding, thanks in large part to junior goalie Chris Eylander. The Sumner, Washington native has already recorded three shutouts in five games and recently sat down with GoHuskies.com correspondent Mike Bruscas to discuss the early season results, the strengths of his game, and his love for 'Gladiator' and ping pong.
GoHuskies.com: How would you say the season has gone so far?
Chris Eylander: I feel excellent about it. It's pretty much going top notch. We've had all our tough games on the road. We're trying to get really hard non-conference games to get us ready for the tournament at the end of the year when we might be playing away. We've been going over to other people's places and beating them. Ranked teams. U Conn and Creighton, they're ranked high and we beat them. The team's playing real well so far. Everything's looking promising.
G.H.: You have three shutouts so far. How would you rate your performance?
C.E.: I'm playing solid but it's definitely a defensive effort. I haven't had an amazing amount of shots coming on goal so I've got to give it all up to my defense. Our backs are playing really solid, playing smart. It's definitely not just me back there, it's all the guys down there working together and being very disciplined and that's why we're being successful. We don't give up easy goals, we keep ourselves in the game. The longer we play in the game, the better we play. That's how it has been going so far.
G.H.: How has C.J. Klaas' shift to defender strengthened the defenisve unit as a whole?
C.E.: He's solid. The guy's really hard to beat and when he gets beat he can pretty much chase them back down and win the ball back, he's so fast and quick. It's great to have him there because he moves up on the flank real well and helps a big part of the attack with our team. So it's just been awesome having him back there. I really like C.J. in the back on the right there.
G.H.: What does this team need to do to go deeper into the NCAA Tournament this year?
C.E.: We're just taking it one game at a time right now but we've done a lot of hard fitness off the field these last few years with Pete, one of the strength coaches, and that's developed a tough mindset and a good, disciplined mentality. That will build that camaraderie up that I think will help us as we go further and go through tough times. I think we just need to keep on doing what we're doing. We've had a good atmosphere with the team. Just keep on playing how we are right now because we're doing pretty awesome. The forwards are playing well and things are connecting up top. So right now things are going good.
G.H.: How happy are you to be playing at home this weekend for the first time?
C.E.: I'm stoked personally. We've never really had this many games on the road, we've been away every single game. You're playing at their crowd and they've got hecklers and all that, which is no big deal, you get used to all that kind of garbage but it's nice to be back finally and I'm looking forward to it. I know everybody's looking forward to having our own crowd out there cheering for us and giving the crowd something to cheer for as well.
G.H.: Are you more confident now that you were able to do so well on the road?
C.E.: Oh, yeah. Definitely. It's a lot tougher to win on the road when you've got that travel, that jetlag and you're in a place where the field's different and the environment's different. Different atmosphere and temperature. We know this place, we train on it throughout the week, we're comfortable with it and we're ready to take some teams on on our pitch.
G.H.: You split time as the starter your freshman year but spent last season as the backup to Danny Waltman. How hard was it to sit after playing your freshman year?
C.E.: It was probably one of the toughest things I've dealt with so far in my career in soccer. I've always played. Freshman year I was duking it out with him, we were fighting for the job. Sophomore year I played well all year round but Danny Waltman stepped in and they gave him the go. He did an excellent job in the back and I give it to him. He had an awesome season, I can't take anything away from him but it was definitely a tough time to deal with just because you're playing well, it could be you, it could be him, but at the end of the day he's playing awesome. So it was just one of those situations that's unfortunately bad for yourself but the team's still doing great.
G.H.: How does it feel now to know that you have the starting job locked up?
C.E.: It feels great. I'm having a blast playing. You have a year where you don't play and you get back in the summer to playing games with the team and you realize how fun a soccer game is. You almost forgot for a little while. But, yeah, I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to everyday training and every gameday coming up and the challenges I'm going to face.
G.H.: What first brought you to Washington?
C.E.: I wasn't quite sure from the start where I wanted to go. I got some letters from different schools and whatnot, but what I finally based my decision off of is UW has an awesome soccer team and an awesome school. And I wanted to do something in engineering. I just got into electrical engineering this last year and that's what I wanted to do. And a lot of other school's I'd gotten letters from had good soccer programs but they were very liberal arts schools, and I wanted something where I could get the best of both worlds. So there's no real better pick than here. If you look at our facilities, they're top notch, you can't beat it.
G.H.: When did you first start playing soccer?
C.E.: I probably started at four or five, you forget. I was playing forward until I was about 13, that's when I knew that keeper was my spot. Just because I'm an aggressive type player and kind of have that animal instinct, just all over the place. So they put me back there and I was loving diving around for balls and picking things off, crashing through people. That's basically the spot I was best at.
G.H.: What are your biggest strengths as a goalie?
C.E.: Well, I haven't been super-tested this year so far. I've had some good saves. But I think I'm a very consistent player. I'll play in a game and I won't make a lot of bad mistakes. I'll be in there, I'll stand my ground and if the guy's an amazing player he'll beat me, but if not I won't make a lot of stupid mistakes. So I think what's going to help this team a lot this year is - especially with already a good defense - is just an ability to organize a defense further. Make sure everything's intact. Like if I see something break down I'll coordinate that and sort it out before anything can even happen. So my ability to oversee the whole field and my consistency I'd say are my strengths so far this year.
G.H.: So when was the last time you ever got to score a goal?
C.E.: Scoring goals is the best. But actually as a keeper you'd think you're in the goal the whole time but when you're training with keepers you're always shooting on them. So I think a lot of keepers actually have a pretty good shot because they're always working to beat the other keepers.
G.H.: What has been your favorite Husky moment so far?
C.E.: This year definitely I'd have to say beating U Conn was a big time win for us. It was one of those games where it was tough the whole way out. Just an intense game, a hard game, and we came through with a win against a big team with a big crowd against us. I don't know I just felt that Husky pride going after the game. We showed them who the real Dawgs were.
G.H.: What sports do you enjoy besides soccer?
C.E.: I like playing a lot of sports. I like wakeboarding. I'll do snow skiing. I played a little bit of tennis last year. But I'm really big on ping pong, I love ping pong. There are some good players up here. When I was a freshman I lived in the dorms at Lander. I probably played there every night for an hour with one of the guys on the soccer team, Kevin Murray. There are some amazing players down there. It was cool though. I could hold my own against most of them but I definitely wasn't the top of those dorms (laughs).
G.H.: Did you watch any of the ping pong in the Olympics?
C.E.: I watched a little bit, like the last week and a half. They had a tournament on. It's amazing. One guy's slamming it as hard as he can, the other guy is 15 feet back just flicking it up.
G.H.: Can you serve the ball close into your stomach like they do?
C.E.: Yeah, I don't know how they do that. I was wondering about that. I can't figure that out.
G.H.: Who were your sports heroes growing up?
C.E.: I'd say Kasey Keller. He's the man. This is kind of a cool story. Early when I was growing up training, I was getting trained by one of the best trainers around the world which was Rob Walker. He's Kasey Keller's step-dad. He's top notch out there. And actually when I was training with him, Matt Olson our assistant coach was also training with him. He was trying to get ready to go back over to Europe to play. So the legacy of getting trained with Rob and then I got to train with Kasey Keller once with him in goal. And it was amazing because basically all the things we had been training on we'd basically see perfection at it when he hopped in there. He'd get to everything and it would just look like it was easy, but he's flying so fast it's deceiving because his technique is so smooth. I'd say he was definitely my hero growing up.
G.H.: You mentioned you wanted to do electrical engineering. Is that what you plan to do once soccer is over?
C.E.: I'm not sure. Right now I'm just trying to do my best in both soccer and school and whichever doors God opens up later that will be the way for me. I'm just trying to use all my gifts right now and make sure I don't waste any of my talents or abilities. I'd love to play soccer as long as I can. Like today I woke up and thought, `Man, I'm ready to play.' I was looking forward to it and I'm looking forward to getting back on the road. Soccer's amazing and I'd love to keep on playing that as long as I can but if something else opens up, I like studying and I'm sure I'm going to like studying the field of electrical engineering.
G.H.: What are some of your favorite classes that you have taken?
C.E.: CSE 142 was a cool class. A computer science class, got into some programming. My dad is a software engineer so that was awesome. I like the math stuff, I enjoy that kind of problem solving.
G.H.: What was the last movie you saw and what is your favorite movie?
C.E.: The last movie I saw was yesterday was 'Butterfly Effect,' it was pretty weird. But I'd say my favorite movie of all time has got to be 'Gladiator' because Russell Crowe is just an intense guy. You saw the movie and that guy was the hero. I think of a leader and I think of the Gladiator. He was heroic, courageous, and brave. People believed in him and followed him. It was an inspiring movie to see. It gets me pumped up to see that.