WHAT IT FEELS LIKE . . . to go from third-division soccer to MLS in the same season.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Defender Greg Janicki, 24, began his first season as a pro soccer player with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who play in USL2, the third tier of the U.S. system. He was acquired on loan by D.C. United last month and quickly earned playing time.

I was home in Michigan for about two weeks after the USL2 season and my coach in Pittsburgh, Gene Klein, who knows United General Manager Dave Kasper pretty well, called and said, 'D.C. has had a lot of injuries and wants you to come in and play in some reserve games to fill spots. Maybe something will come of it.' I didn't really expect it to happen, so my first thought was that maybe I should have been running more during those two weeks so I could've been in better condition for it. But it is what I always wanted, so you have to take it when it comes and do the best you can with it.

My goal was to start in the reserve games, do the best I could, and hopefully make it into first-team games. I didn't expect it to happen this year; I was really playing for next year to see if I could earn a spot on the roster. My first game against [Mexican club] Cruz Azul was pretty nerve-racking, especially the first 10 or 15 minutes. I was a little unsure of myself with the ball at my feet, but once I made a few tackles, it got my blood flowing and it wasn't too bad. . . . I was a little more confident in the second game, but playing at Saprissa [in Costa Rica] didn't make it easy. It's a tough setting for any player.

Playing for an MLS team, the speed of play is definitely faster than in USL, but nothing I couldn't handle. . . . My first MLS game was at Houston [on Oct. 12], and I knocked heads with one of their players. I had a little cut and was woozy for a while. It figured, my first MLS game on TV, I had to wear one of those funny headbands. He got the worst of it, though.

-- Interview by Steven Goff

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