INTERVIEW: GARRY HAYES
After moving to the USA as a youngster, former Norwich City academy product Dom Dwyer is lighting up MLS this season with Sporting Kansas City, scoring 14 goals already and torturing defences in the Eastern Conference. But could he be tempted to turn out for the United States national team?
Image: Gary Rohman
“It’s weird as people don’t realise I’m English until I do an interview on TV,” says Dom Dwyer, speaking down the phone from his adopted Kansas City home.
If his goalscoring form for reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting KC continues, there is no doubt that will change very soon. From rookie to one of the hottest properties in MLS right now, the 23-year-old is enjoying his first full season of action at Sporting Park after being recalled from a loan spell last year to make a considerable impact on his team’s road to success.
Indeed, Dwyer’s rise has been so rapid these past 12 months it has led to calls for him to switch allegiance and be fast-tracked for a place on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster with the USA national team.
Taking note of his rise to fame in Kansas City, we got in touch with the former Norwich City youth product to ask about goals, his international prospects and the art of taking the perfect selfie…
Dom, first things first, tell us about that recent selfie goal celebration against Chicago Fire – what was your inspiration for it?
Nothing really, it was just something that came up. We’re always talking about different goal celebrations and someone mentioned there would be a phone in the corner if anyone wanted it. I just grabbed it after I scored and one of my team-mates jumped in with some of the fans.
Did you expect the reaction? It spread like wild fire across social media.
Not all, but the reaction was unbelievable. I find it funny that people are still asking me about it. Hundreds of my friends back in England were texting me saying that I was on the news back home. I’m just surprised that nobody else before me has done it.
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) July 6, 2014
A major positive from the celebration is that fans in England are beginning to realise who you are. Your form has been impressive this season and now people are beginning to take a little more notice…
It’s good in that regard, although it wasn’t my motive. I was just having fun, but I can’t deny I’m not happy for people to know my name. It’s weird as a lot of people don’t realise I’m English until I do an interview on TV, so to have English fans taking a bit of notice is nice for me.
How are you finding MLS this season? You’ve already scored 14 goals and your form shows no sign of abating…
I wasn’t playing at all last year. I went on loan at Orlando, scored a lot of goals and made the most of it, getting recalled to play more here. As a striker, if you get the service, you’re always going to score goals and right now I’m playing in a team that is giving me the opportunities to do that.
It’s proving a vintage year for English strikers in MLS. Jermain Defoe is performing well at Toronto, while Bradley Wright-Phillips is the league’s leading goalscorer, earning himself an All-Star call up to face Bayern Munich.
I like Bradley a lot. He’s a very good player and the guy can finish. I was training with him at Charlton in the MLS off-season, so got to know him. I chat to him whenever and always like to see him scoring goals. Some people ask me why as he plays for a rival, but it’s nice to see a fellow Englishman hitting the goals. So long as Sporting KC are winning games, I want others to do well also.
Reflecting on your career, explain how you arrived in MLS…
I was at Norwich City as a youngster, being released when I was 16. I sort of bounced around from club to club for a while, got a bunch of injuries and didn’t really know what to do. I eventually went to a company called Soccer Icons, which is run by Joe McLaughlin who used to play for Chelsea. They send kids over to the States on scholarships, which I did. From there I did well at college and was offered a contract here in MLS, which I couldn’t turn down. I did expect to go back to England, but it’s turned out to be a good decision for me. I’ve made my home in America now.
How do you find soccer in the US? In England there’s an element of cultural ignorance within the media, where the impression is that only since the World Cup have Americans realised football actually exists…
It’s totally different to that. It’s my third year here now as a player and the amount it has grown is unbelievable. People know football and the fans are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable. Some people are still learning, but the game continues to grow. The league is getting more exposure, too, especially when some of the European teams come here in pre-season.
What was it like during the World Cup?
Amazing, absolutely amazing. There were fans celebrating everywhere and they really got behind their country. It was a brilliant atmosphere. I was right in there cheering on England and some of my teammates were playing for their countries, too, so it made it an even better experience for me. Americans really bought into it.
Can we expect to see you in US colours come 2018? There’s gathering momentum for you to be fast-tracked and made eligible for selection…
Every player wants to play on the international stage and let’s be honest, with the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney in my position, I don’t think I’m going to be getting a phone call from Roy Hodgson at any point soon. I’m only 23, so you never know, but being realistic, I don’t think I will get the chance to play for England. I don’t want to make out the US would be a second choice, as I’d be honoured if they gave me the opportunity. To get the problem of having both countries wanting me would be a good problem to have. We’ll have to wait and see. There’s talk there, but nothing to suggest I’ll be playing for the US.
Do you see your long-term future as being an MLS player?
Right now I’m just focused on this season. It’s all up in the air, with some interest from elsewhere. If offers come in, it’s up to Sporting KC to make a decision. I’ve had some interest from various places, but I’m enjoying my football with Kansas City. I’m playing well and just concentrating on that. If there’s other things I have to deal with, I’ll do that when the time comes.
You’re in a unique position as a player who has experienced youth-team football in the UK and also come through the system in MLS. What are the cultural differences you’ve seen?
They don’t have academies in the US. Players go to college instead, so it’s a bit of both – you get an education and train as a player as well. The better players turn professional in their early 20s, whereas in Europe it’s much younger. I didn’t turn professional until I was 21, so I’ve only got two years under my belt. Right now, I feel like a 19-year-old kid who has only just started playing. I feel fresh, I feel young. I think my peak may come a little later because of that, so hopefully I’ll have more time left in my career.
What is the standard like at college level?
It varies. It was actually a lot better than I thought. I can’t lie, when I first arrived I thought it was going to be easy. I played really well and scored a lot of goals, so the stats may suggest it was, but it really wasn’t. I played against a lot of good players, with some of them turning professional and playing in MLS now. There’s so many players who get drafted every season and go on to become key players for their teams. It’s a different league and culture to what we have in Europe and with the bigger names coming over, it’s always improving. Just recently I played against New York and had a good chat with Thierry [Henry] in the tunnel, which was surreal as I grew up idolizing him. He was a good guy and even though we were playing against each other, he gave me a lot of encouragement. Moments like that make you realise MLS is a pretty cool place to be.
Can you explain the rivalry between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake? We understand you don’t like them…
Haha! That’s a funny story actually. I always like to have fun with the media and during a radio interview I was asked how I felt about playing Salt Lake as we had a game coming up. I started by saying it was going to be a good game and that we don’t get along very well. I sort of laughed when I said we hate them very much and from there it got picked up. There’s a rivalry between us simply because we’re two of the better teams in MLS, so we’re always competitive. From that comes a strong rivalry between the clubs as we both want to win and we’re the guys stopping them at the moment, so it’s fun for us.
You’re a brave man when you say you hate a team that has Kyle Beckerman on it!
Maybe, but I’m not fearful of them. I have a lot of respect for them and Kyle’s a top player himself. I’m the type of guy who isn’t going to get along with you during a game, but afterwards when it’s done I’ll always make an effort. I remember one game against Kyle when he kicked me and I smashed him back. He had a bleeding nose, I cut my face, but we helped each other up and got along with it and shook afterwards. That’s just how it goes, which is funny.