Conor Doyle practiced with D.C. United for the first time since being acquired on loan from English club Derby County last week, via MLS lottery. He is a 21-year-old target forward who rose through the same Dallas youth club as another recent D.C. signing, midfielder Jared Jeffrey.
When the English season ended, Doyle trained with the Colorado Rapids for almost two months. The connection was Rapids President Tim Hinchey, a former Derby executive.
Because Doyle is a U.S. youth international, though, he could not sign directly with an MLS club. Instead, he was exposed to the lottery.
Did you expect to end up with the Rapids?
“I don’t know. I was given a lot of mixed signals. I was told I would. And then they were like, ‘We have to go through this [MLS process].’ And then I was told I would still [end up with Colorado]. Then I actually signed the papers [with MLS] and they were like, ‘Well, there are three teams in the lottery, so you are not going to end up here.’ ”
How did you feel about the process?
“It’s so different in MLS. It’s so different than over there: You sign a paper and you are there. It’s how MLS runs and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.”
Were there signals United would claim you?
“I had no idea. It happened pretty quickly. [After signing with MLS], the next day I found out about three teams being in the lottery and D.C. had the best chance. The next day I found out I was coming here.”
The loan is through the end of the MLS season. But would you like to remain in the league permanently?
“With the loan move, I go back [to England] in January. They might send me back on loan, but it’s up to them at the end of the [English] season [when his contract expires]. And then it’s up to whoever wants me.”
United, though, says it has an option to purchase your contract this December. So you could end up staying here.
“I would be happy, especially if I am playing games and gaining confidence. If the coaches are happy with me and they want me to be here, that is what matters most.”
Why did you decide to pursue an opportunity in MLS?
“I wasn’t getting games. All I want to do is play and I thought I would get a good opportunity. Hopefully it turns out that way.”
How long will it take to adapt?
“Probably a game, maybe two. Just to get the pace of it, how the game is played here and the difference in style of play.”
What is the coaching staff expecting from you?
“In training today, it was communicated quite often the things I need to do to be able to play –holding the ball up, hopefully scoring goals, just being a striker. … I’ve been a back-to-goal kind of guy. In the last year or so, I played more in the middle of midfield with the [Derby] reserves. I like playing up front. … Talking after today, I think they would like to have me as high as possible in that No. 9” [position].
You have played with United midfielder Perry Kitchen on the international level …
“We played a few games together with the Under-20s. Obviously we went through that unfortunate [U-20 World Cup] qualifying together [two years ago in Guatemala]. We were pretty good friends as it went through and kept in touch.”
Do you know some of United’s other young players?
“I know Jared Jeffrey. He played for the Texans [youth club] as well. He was a couple of years older. My dad coached him. My group was younger and knowing Jared went pro so early [in Europe], he would come back to train, we would all be in awe.”
What do you know about Washington, the city?
“Not much. I know it’s the capital. Other than that, I’ve never been here before. Driving in, I would see a thing here and there. I would be like, ‘Whoa, that’s the White House.’ Yesterday, I was going to get the physical and the guy driving goes, ‘You ever seen the Pentagon?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, there it is.’ I had no idea. It’s going to be pretty cool to live here.”
You still have a bit of an accent from your time in England.
“I will say a few things, my mom will yell at me, ‘Stop it!’ I can’t help it. I lived over there for three years. My first half-year, I got made fun of for the way I talked because I’m American. My dad is Irish, so if he talks to his mom and dad, his Irish accent comes right back out. It’s pretty funny to hear all the different lingos in the house.”
You played for Ireland as well as the United States?
“I played a game for their Under-21s before I went into the cycle with the [U.S.] U-20s. It was an awesome experience. I just felt American. The [Irish] national anthem is playing and I don’t know the words. I felt like I belonged playing for America, if they wanted me. I love Ireland. I’ve been there so many times to visit family [in Dublin]. It’s such a great place and such an honor to be able to put on that jersey.”
Did you ever attend a match at Lansdowne Road?
“I watched a couple Ireland games there. It was a big win one time and it was so cool being there with my dad, uncle, cousin, all standing up. It was so special to see, when the national anthem began, my dad almost had tears in his eyes.”