Dom Dwyer interview: Englishman in KC – The MLS champ who’s ‘Born To Do It’
Last December, Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer was celebrating Major League Soccer glory and just as the English striker is flying the flag of St. George on the field he is proving he can mix it with his multi-national teammates when it comes to the sound system.
Despite all the possible sacrifices and endeavour, the dream of making it as a professional will not come true for so many aspiring players. There are a limitless amount of reasons why this could be the case and when Dom was released by Norwich City as a youth he then had to contend with a broken foot on three occasions.
He could have easily taken it as a sign to throw in the towel and pursue an alternative career route but thankfully his determination was to meet with opportunity. A trial arranged by Soccer Icon led to him winning an athletic scholarship in the US and he was a standout player for the Tyler Apaches (at Tyler Junior College) in Texas and subsequently the South Florida Bulls (at South Florida University).
Dom was chosen by Sporting Kansas City in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and as a Generation adidas player he was able to earn a salary higher than the league minimum without counting against the team’s budget. He had to bide his time for an opportunity with Peter Vermes’ side and it was an explosive loan spell with Orlando City last year that ultimately broke the door down.
The 23-year-old from Cuckfield, West Sussex made a starting place with Sporting his own in the final months of 2013 and he notched the winner against Houston Dynamo to send them into their first MLS Cup final since 2004. He started the game as Sporting beat Real Salt Lake on penalties and it capped a magical year for Dom.
Now in the midst of pre-season for the 2014 campaign, he is excited at the prospect of his first full MLS season as Sporting defend their crown. One aspect of the team’s unity is how music brings them together. There is however only one man for the job of locker room DJ at present, as Dom explains.
“I’m definitely in charge on game days. The guys are always like ‘Dom, do you have your iPod?’ – no one ever brings theirs, so I’m definitely in charge.
“I try to balance it out to be fair. At training, sometimes we have country music on Mondays but I’m in control and that definitely doesn’t play regularly or on game days.”
It would be a dull scenario if everyone liked the same bands and artists and the more unorthodox music tastes can bring a locker room to life in their own way. Sporting have two Haitian internationals in the squad. One is midfielder Peterson Joseph and the other is a defender who Dom names for some pretty unconventional sounds coming from his playlist.
“Some of (Mechack) Jerome’s music is really weird. I don’t even know what it is, I don’t even know what genre it is – it’s just like weird noises coming out of the phone.”
As Dom mentioned, the track can change quite drastically on Mondays at training and a former Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC forward in the ranks is one of those who champions it.
“Jacob Peterson is really into his country. I don’t mind a little bit of country, but his is like, really country.”
Due to family involvement with the Royal Air Force, Dom got to change location on more than one occasion growing up. He has lived in Norwich and London along the way but it is a guy from Southampton who he tuned into in his younger days. As followers of Dom’s Twitter will know, he still goes for the Craig David vibe regularly and his debut LP was the first Dom ever bought.
“Craig David’s album (‘Born To Do It’) or Usher’s album ‘8701’. I was ten.”
The remix to Craig David’s ‘Rendezvous’ paid homage to a former Portugal international who at the time was playing for David’s boyhood team Southampton. The line ‘known to score in more ways than Luis Boa Morte’ can be heard on the track and maybe one day Dom will get a similar shoutout from one of his favourite artists.
He has a couple of possible candidates in mind and considering the first artist he brings up included Italy striker Mario Balotelli in one of his songs who’s to say he won’t be namedropping Dom when he makes it with the England team?!
“Drake – I like that kind of music, words that are very deep and meaningful. Drake and Wiz Khalifa.
“The beat’s important too. It has to be a good mix with meaningful lyrics and a fresh beat.”
In September 2011, Leicester City midfielder (now on loan with Bolton Wanderers) Neil Danns was on this site talking about his music love. The one-time Crystal Palace man has written and performed his own songs for a number of years and collaborated with an ex-Arsenal youngster who was with Kansas City until 2011. Dom explains how their track was thrust upon him when he first joined up with Sporting.
“There used to be a player called Ryan Smith here in KC, he had his own song. Because he was English, they wanted me to sing that, so me and another player that used to be here, we both sang that song.
“’Summer Flowers’ is what it was called. It was good, people still talk about it now and say it was the best performance by a rookie.
“We really got into it and went for it because it’s much more fun that way. A lot of the guys just go through the motions with this kind of stuff.”
For some players, the thought of having to stand up and sing for their teammates can be akin to the long walk up to take a penalty in a shootout! One of the players who was with Dom on loan from Sporting to their affiliate team and soon-to-be MLS addition Orlando City was Christian Duke.
The 22-year-old midfielder took it back to the 90s with his initiation track. Anyone who loved this song will have the melody in their mind as soon as they read the opening line – ‘it’s seven o’clock on the dot, I’m in my drop top cruising the streets’.
“I liked Christian Duke’s. He had to sing his like three or four times and he sung Usher ‘Nice and Slow’ which is a really difficult one to sing in front of a bunch of guys.
“But he’s done well and he’s sung it quite a few times. It was kind of awkwardly funny.”
The time Dom spent on loan with Orlando City last year seemed to epitomise his character. Although his coach at Sporting, Peter Vermes, is a great believer in his ability and once said he’d stick his nose on someone’s boot to score, he challenged Dom. It was up to him to go out and show that he deserved his chance back in Kansas City.
He went to Orlando and joined up with a fellow Englishman in manager Adrian Heath. There were British players at the club in midfielders Luke Boden and Anthony Pulis and Yann Songo’o, C.J. Sapong, Kevin Ellis, Jon Kempin and the aforementioned Christian Duke also played for the Lions on loan from Sporting in 2013.
Dom broke the USL Pro record for goals in a season, hitting 15 (in just 13 games) along with Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ Jose Angulo. He scored 22 in total including four in the USL Pro Championship game as Orlando beat the Charlotte Eagles 7-4 in front of 20,886 at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
He had been recalled by Sporting in June and started in the win over Colorado Rapids before returning to Orlando for that final game. Back in KC, he started the last six regular season matches and of course won the big prize at the end of the play-off run.
Dom has a Latin tattoo of a lion which roughly translates to ‘tell me I can’t, I’ll show you I can’. He takes huge motivation from being doubted and looks back on those who told him that going to the US would end his hopes of making it as a professional.
He was at a crossroads in his life but with the belief in what he could do, he went for it. Dom describes the feelings as he prepared to move to America and also the people who have helped to make it all such a success.
“(My thoughts were of) going for an adventure, trying to do something new and experience new stuff. I took a leap a faith…I still haven’t adapted to the cold.
“My family and friends and obviously my teammates (have made it possible). It’s a very successful team that I’ve managed to be on and we have managed to do well for ourselves.”
During the off-season, Dom has been keeping in shape with plenty of spinning classes as well as ballet and gymnastics. His acrobatic goal celebration owes much to the latter from his younger days and he has also been spending time taking part in street dancing with teammate C.J. Sapong. The 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year, Sapong was one of the shootout scorers in the MLS Cup win over Real Salt Lake and he is also a strong music lover.
Dom had to include the two-cap US international when asked which career teammate he would choose to record a cover version of a song with. It is perhaps indicative of the Sporting squad’s chemistry that he selected four others to join them. With the exception of forward Teal Bunbury who was traded to New England Revolution just a few days ago, all of the players Dom names are still with the club.
“I would choose C.J., Soony (Saad) might make it – he would probably have to stand in the background or something because he has not got the best rhythm.
“Krony (Eric Kronberg) and (Matt) Besler, and (Graham) Zusi, and definitely Teal (Bunbury). Definitely C.J. and Teal.
“We wouldn’t record a cover version though; we would make our own hit.”
While with Orlando City, the variation in Dom’s finishing was shown as he scored with his head, left foot and right foot, as well as his free-kick against Wilmington Hammerheads for example. It looked likely that he would secure a January loan move to the Championship back home but despite training with Charlton Athletic and manager Chris Powell’s desire to complete a deal it was scuppered as the club was taken over.
Pre-season has been progressing nicely for Sporting and they are currently competing in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Florida. They have so far beaten New York Red Bulls as well as Fluminense Under-23s and Dom is set on doing all he can to help the team keep the MLS Cup at Sporting Park. When he is not hunting down opposition defenders these are the activities he likes to get up to.
“I like to have fun and mess around and be mischievous. I’ll pretty much try anything.
“I like to play golf a lot, but I’m sure people already know that through my Twitter. I love to tweet and I love good banter.”
The last question on here sees the interviewee put on the spot as they are asked to name the four teammates from their career they would select alongside them in a 5-a-side line-up. Threading the intricate pass through for Dom to score that winning goal in the Eastern Conference final with Houston was Benny Feilhaber.
When the US international midfielder featured on here in June 2012 he selected a very strong quartet of past colleagues to join him in his 5-a-side team – Tim Howard, Vincent Kompany, Rafael van der Vaart and Clint Dempsey. How would Dom’s team measure up?
He sneaked a special guest into his selection as his striker – the Arsenal legend who is the reason he wears the number 14. Dom introduces his team:
“Jimmy Nielsen (goalkeeper) – he might not move that well in a 5-a-side because he’s a little bit older but he’s a legend, so having a legend, that would be good.
“Matt Besler (defender) – you have to have Bes. Mr. America.
“Graham Zusi (midfielder) – Zusi as well, Mr. America!
“Thierry Henry – of course, the biggest legend Thierry Henry and myself up top.”
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