KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen isn't one to laud his performances. In fact, the veteran goalkeeper downright avoids talking about himself most of time.
A few days after winning his fourth MLS Save of the Week award, MLSsoccer.com sat down with the “White Puma” to talk about the first half of the season, Peter Schmeichel and what it will take to turn the Wizards' fortunes around.
MLSsoccer.com: After half a season in Kansas City, how do you think your expectations have measured up to what has actually happened?
Nielsen: I think we started very well with two great wins. The level I saw in those two games was a lot higher than I was told the level was here. Overall, the level here is very similar to where I come from, just a different style. Here, you've got heart and you are fighting 100 percent every game. Not so much tactical and boring stuff like in Scandinavia. I think both … Danish and Scandinavian soccer can learn from [MLS], and the same with the opposite. So far I'm pleased with the level.
For the team, I think we've played well and deserve more points than we've got. We've been chasing the luck for a while now. Hopefully, it will turn around a little bit for us now. We are fighting for everything. You can't just sit back and relax and wait for the luck. You have to chase it, and we are doing that everyday in training. We are trying to get better. It's the only way, and I'm impressed that, after a very bad period, we still have high morale.
MLSsoccer.com: How did you push through that bad period and come out of it to play well twice on the road in one week?
Nielsen: That's where it comes back to the training ground. You have to push yourself and push your teammates every single day to develop yourself and the team. Every single day has to be like a game. You have to get out there and want to win everything you're doing. I think nine out of 10 times we are doing that on the training ground.
MLSsoccer.com: How has Kansas City been for you personally?
Nielsen: I am very happy here. My family is very happy here, so that's perfect. My wife and my kids are very settled here. I couldn't ask for better; it's perfect for me. The only thing [the Wizards] need now are some more wins.
MLSsoccer.com: I have to assume Peter Schmeichel is a guy that you looked up to as a young 'keeper. What does it mean to you to play against his former club, Manchester United?
Nielsen: Of course, it is huge to play United. It's exciting. It will be fun to play United [and] we will do everything we can to get a good result when we go out there. Of course, Schmeichel is something special in Denmark. He played [with Man. United] for so many years and was probably the best goalkeeper in the world for many, many years at Manchester United. Everybody where I come from knows all about United, but, then again, [Man. United] are world famous.
MLSsoccer.com: Kansas City just agreed to terms with Nikos Kounenakis. He has been here for a few weeks already. What have you seen from him?
Nielsen: He is a very calm defender. He talks to his teammates and he is great with the ball. You can see he is an experienced player. I hope he is ready to play for us soon so there is even more competition in the starting 11.
MLSsoccer.com: There are 14 games left for you guys to turn things around, and you need wins. What has to happen to turn things around and put yourselves in a position to fight for a playoff spot?
Nielsen: We have to focus on the next game, not thinking about it as [us needing] 10 points from the next five games. Now, the next game against Toronto, we need three points. We have to work very hard to have a great game plan as each [game] comes.
MLSsoccer.com: How would you rate your own performances this season? You just won your fourth MLS Save of the Week, so something has to be clicking.
Nielsen: That's not up to me. It's your job and the coaches' job to [rate my performances].