Work in Sports
O'Brien: I just want to do better than Australia
U.S. Olympic midfielder John O'Brien, 23, left California at age 17 to develop in Ajax Amsterdam's famed youth program. He is now a member of the first team at Ajax and has earned a spot in the full U.S. national team side during World Cup qualifying.
Check in with O'Brien on CNNSI.com throughout the Olympics.
1. Do you feel half-Dutch yet?
Yeah, especially when I come back here.
What's different here?
The sports environment. Especially with the coach we have now [at Ajax]... [U.S. coach] Bruce [Arena] is a lot looser.
2. What does it mean to you to be an Olympian?
I don't know. I'll have to answer that question after the Olympics, I think. Leading up to the Olympics, I've been looking at a lot of the other sports, and what the athletes have gone through to make it there, and you realize how special it is.
3. What would you say are your team's goals?
The team's goal is to get out of our pool play, to get first or second in our pool
4. How do you rate the teams in your group?
I think it's a good pool, with kind of unknown teams. We've got the Czech Republic in the first game. They're strong. I think they were second in Europe in qualifying. Cameroon -- the African teams are always very physically strong and skillful, and Kuwait's also an unknown team. I think we can do well.
5. How do you rate your prospects, not having been together much lately?
I think the last time we were together, we had a good qualifying tournament. The last time I was with the team, at least. We're just looking to improve on that. If we do, we can make it to the second round, if things go our way.
6. What effect will the injuries to goalkeeper Adin Brown and midfielder Chris Armas have?
It changes it up a little bit, huh? I was looking forward to playing with Chris. It's too bad that he got the injury. I think the replacements that we have are very good, so I don't think it will make the team any worse.
7. How tough is the triple duty -- playing with your club team, with the U.S. national team and with the Olympic team?
Well, my club over in Holland doesn't enjoy that too much.
It's tough, but the Olympics only happen once every four years, and a lot of time only once for an athlete, so I'm really excited to go. And the club understands that I want to play in those, but I guess after this, I'll just be only with the full team.
Do you have trouble keeping up with all the cities you visit?
I usually jot them down so I don't forget.
8. How do you think this U.S. Olympic team compares to the last one? Does it make a difference having more professionals because of MLS?
Yeah, I think everyone on the team is a professional player now, so I think a lot of people's attitudes about the game have changed, and I think the players are probably a little more used to playing under pressure circumstances, so that should help us.
9. When Clive Charles announced his roster, he spoke a lot about the positive team spirit. Do you sense the same thing?
Yeah. The team gets along real well. In qualification, we noticed that. It's one group. We can tell each other everything that's on our minds, and everyone accepts each other and tries to progress without being ticky-tacky about things or worried about things.
10. What do you look forward to the most about Australia?
I've been to Australia once before; I love the country. I'm looking forward to it a lot, and I know Australia is going to organize a great event. I have a couple of Australian friends who are going to be on the Olympic team, three Australian friends, so I'm just hoping we're going to do better than Australia.
So you speak their language?
No, not at all. They speak my language.
What occasion did you have to go there before?
I went down there on a family vacation when I was young. I must have been about eight.
What do you remember about it?All I remember is the jet lag we had... I don't have too many memories.
You don't remember the toilets...?
Swirling the other way? No, I don't remember that. I remember wombats and kangaroos.