Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein has had quite the ride in 2007, starting and scoring in his first game for the United States, winning a Gold Cup title, and facing one of the best teams in the world in Argentina. Already with nine caps to his credit, his next appearance this year will make him the first U.S. player since Claudio Reyna to earn 10 caps in his first calendar year with the full team. Through it all, the left back remains composed, confident, and hungry.
ussoccer.com: First of all, what has the experience in Maracaibo been like so far?
Jonathan Bornstein: Maracaibo has been a lot of fun. We haven’t really gotten to go out on the town much, but we when we drive through the city on the bus, all the town folks are very open for greeting us and waiving at the bus. The city is a whole different experience than anything I have ever seen before. The lifestyle that they live here is much different than what we have in the United States. It makes me really appreciate what we have in California and the rest of the United States.
ussoccer.com: Just over six months ago, we were talking to you about playing your first game with the national team. Now six months later, you are nine games in, through a Gold Cup championship and in the middle of Copa America. What has the experience like for you?
JB: “Honestly, I can’t think of anything other than it’s been a dream come true. Six months ago I was sitting in a hotel room nervous and awaiting my first cap with the United States. That turned out to be quite the experience. I got my first goal, and it turned out to be the game-winner. The experience has only gotten better since then. I got to play Mexico twice, two victories. I’ve experienced a Gold Cup final, and I finally got to play against a huge powerhouse being Argentina in Maracaibo. It’s been great. It’s been building up for something I hope much bigger than this in a couple years. I just have to keep telling myself to take everything in stride and keep learning from everything that I experience.”
ussoccer.com: Through all these games that you have competed in, with the different atmospheres and different pressures, how do you think that have you improved?
JB: “Basically everything has been leading me up to the type of games we are now playing in. The Denmark game [in January] wasn’t as big of a crowd. I got to play in front of my family, so the comfort level was there. I didn’t have to step into a game in front of 60,000 people right away. The Mexico game was a little bit bigger, and the crowd was pro-Mexican, but you just have to deal with that, then switching notes to the Gold Cup, where you are playing in front of mostly American fans, minus the games against Guatemala and Mexico. The Argentina game was the biggest shock where it’s like ‘wow, we really are not at home.’ I think I’ve dealt with it well. It gets me pumped up to see so many people in the crowd.”
ussoccer.com: One of things that people would say about you is these types of challenges haven’t phased you.
JB: “I try to tell myself not to let those kinds of things get to me. My UCLA college coach called my in the locker room before my first MLS game and told me that I’ve been doing something right to get yourself to this point, so why change your style to suit someone else. I’ve basically told myself over the last couple of years. I just want to play my style of soccer and the way that I can, and hopefully everything works out.”
ussoccer.com: Have you had to make any adjustments to your game based on the opponents you’ve come up against?
JB: “Definitely. Just take to take the Argentina game. I had to play against Lionel Messi, who I’ve watched on tv. He’s a great dribbler, and one of the best players in the world. Going into the game I told myself that I had to be strong and fast and try to keep him in front of me. Definitely I have to change my mentality depending on the individual player I’m going to be going up against, but overall I just tell myself if I do the things I’ve learned, and hopefully I will win the one v. one battle with my guy.”
ussoccer.com: You mentioned playing against Messi, then 60 minutes they make a switch and you are playing against Crespo. Obviously you have a lot of respect for those guys, but at that point in the game are you even thinking about that?
JB: “Not really. I’m more involved in the game. They are just another player to me at that moment. The names aren’t going through my head, or it’s not like I’m scared because I’ve seen this guy play in the World Cup. I just try to stay focused and do the job at hand. It’s the same responsibility. You don’t want to let that guy score.”
ussoccer.com: It is Argentina, one of the best teams in the world, and in Copa America. As a player, are these the types of games you look forward to?
JB: “I knew before the game even started that the game meant a lot, not only to me personally but to the United States. It was a chance to show ourselves on a bigger scale. We hadn’t played a top five team since I’ve been here. It was definitely a time where – as Bob says a lot – we were raising the bar, trying to get to somewhere we haven’t been yet. We got to play against one of the best national teams in the world. Although the score doesn’t show it, I thought we did well for the first 60 minutes. If we could have held our lead a little bit longer in the beginning, who knows what the outcome could have been. We just have to keep getting better and learn from the experience. Next time we go up against a team like Argentina or Brazil, we’ll know what to expect a little bit more.”
ussoccer.com: Going back to the Gold Cup, your first international tournament and a successful one for both you and the team. What type of confidence does that bring to you and the team as a whole when you are able to complete a six-game tournament and come out as champions?
JB: Confidence wise, it makes me feel great. I haven’t lifted a trophy in a while. I think the last time I did it was the national title boys under-17. Over the six games, we battled hard as a team and fought every game in and out. Personally it was the greatest feeling ever being in front of a lot of fans in Chicago. My family wasn’t there, but they were watching on tv. To have that feeling of accomplishing something as a team and personally for me as an individual was great.”
ussoccer.com: We don’t think anyone would argue at this point that you have earned your place. You’ve been a consistent starter throughout these games, but is there still a special feeling inside every time you see your name on the starter’s sheet?
JB: “Oh yeah. Every time we have that pre-game meal and the meeting afterward, you know you are going to look at the board. I see my name up there, and I see it next to whoever I think I’m going to be playing against. I’m just telling myself ‘man, here’s another game and another chance to show myself on a bigger scale than what I normally get to in MLS.’ So it’s very exciting seeing my name on the board, but I also tell myself that I have to keep working at it to keep my name up on that board. There’s always another player who can replace me or take my spot, so I’m fighting for a job and a spot on the team.”