Q & A with Brian Perk
First, congratulations on being named Pac-10 Men’s Soccer Player of the Week for your performance in UCLA’s 2-0 victory against defending champion Maryland on Friday, Sept. 3. How’d it feel to go across the country into College Park and earn the shutout against the defending national champions?
Brian Perk: “Thank you. It felt great. It was good to get a bit of revenge after losing to them last year, but I was just happy to be able to play that well for the team.”
ussoccer.com: With both you and Michael Stephens being selected for the U-20 national team, how will UCLA adjust with you guys gone?
BP: “Well, it’ll be an adjustment for them, for sure. Michael and I are two of the team’s leaders, especially vocally, on the field. I think our absence will definitely be noted, but they’ve got some great players who will fill in just fine. I think they’ll be good.”
ussoccer.com: As not just a regular student-athlete, but also one who spends time during the year away with the national team, how do you balance academics alongside all your playing time?
BP: “We run on the quarter system, so our classes haven’t started yet. They’ll actually begin during the time we’re in Egypt, but it’s not too bad. You just need to talk to your professors, e-mail them, explain to them your situation. All of them understand, especially when they know what it’s for. Even while you’re away, remember you’re only there to play soccer. There’s nothing else you should be doing off the field besides resting and preparing, so I take that time to do any reading or work that needs to be done. It’s not as difficult as some people might think it is.”
ussoccer.com: You mentioned the leadership that you bring to the Bruins. You played in the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, earning the win for the U.S. against Uruguay. What experience can you bring from that and how will you use it to help this team, especially the players who haven’t been there before?
BP: “I learned a lot at that tournament, but not everything can transfer over. The biggest thing I got from it and that I’ll try to convey to these guys, is that we can beat anybody. We were one of the highest scoring teams in that tournament, and while that was partly because of some very special players, it still showed me that as a country, we do have the ability to play with the world’s best. Whether that’s Brazil, or Germany, or whoever, I believe we can compete with and beat those teams.”
ussoccer.com: What’s different about this team compared to 2007?
BP: “There’s a lot that’s different. That team had a few great players, like Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, and they’re obviously not playing with us this time around. It was a great team in terms of skill, but I’m not sure it was the best team. Everyone got along, but it wasn’t like we were all great friends. I feel like this team has more camaraderie, we all really enjoy each other’s company and like getting together to play. I’ve lived with some of these guys, I think we’re all friends, and I think that shows when we play. We all want to do well for each other.”
ussoccer.com: You traveled to Egypt earlier this summer with the team to play a couple of friendlies against the host nation as well as learn a bit about what you can expect when you arrive for the World Cup. What was that like?
BP: “In terms of expectations, I didn’t really have any. All you ever hear about Egypt is the pyramids, so beyond that I didn’t really know what to expect. It was a great trip though, I felt like we played well against Egypt. That trip really did a lot for me, and a few of the other guys too, just to get us focused, knowing that we’ve got a job at hand when we return.”
ussoccer.com: We know that you’ve been compared to Oliver Kahn quite a bit because of your looks, but you’ve also said Michael Ballack is a player you like to watch. With those things in mind, how excited are you to play Germany in the first match of the tournament?
BP: “I’m really looking forward to it. Yeah, I like German soccer, my family heritage is German. It’s also one of the few major teams I’ve never played against. I’m definitely excited for it, I hope we play well.”
ussoccer.com: As a California native, but someone who spent time in Residency in Bradenton, Fla., we figured you’d know: Who has the better beaches?
BP: “My heart’s in California, so I think I’ve got to stick with that. The sand was nice, and the water is warmer in Florida…but the beaches are nicer over here.”