Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One on One with Tommy Heinemann of the Columbus Crew

Photo: MLSSoccer.com
Tommy Heinemann was good enough to take an interview on short notice. There’s an interesting story to be told here. Here is a player who has taken an interesting path on his way to Major League Soccer. Heinemann is now a striker for the Columbus Crew, but he is a newcomer this season. A newcomer who is out to earn a starting spot and make a name for himself in the league.


However, his time before being on the roster with the Crew held some impressive moments. His college years were spent playing soccer at Rockhurst University where he received honors by being named to the NCAA Division II All America Team twice.

Heinemann’s first professional contract was with the Charleston Battery of the USL-1 during 2009.  After a successful stint with the Battery, Heinemann went on loan to the Carolina Railhawks  in 2010 where he made an immediate impact.

Tommy scored the game winning goal in the Railhawks 2010 semifinal victory against the (then) powerful Montreal Impact. Heinemann became a fan favorite in Carolina with this goal scoring attributes and notable hair; he was not one to forget.  Carolina fans though were met with bittersweet sentiments after Heinemann was signed to the Columbus Crew of MLS on January 6th, 2011.

Gone was the fan favorite of Carolina. Fans were saddened to lose his goal scoring prowess, but perhaps more sad to see someone who was becoming a face in the powerful franchise.

I can from personal accounts recall Tommy Heinemann receiving a gift from two young fans and their father. They gave him a picture he had taken with them earlier in the year. Around the picture frame was a headband one of the boys had worn in his recreational tournament the weekend before, a tribute to Heinemann.

Heinemann’s hair has surely drawn attention in a way that tends to resonate with fans. Personality and flair, recognizable in the most fun way.  Even Tommy gets a good chuckle out of it, “A couple people call me the caveman, with the nicknames. Hahaha.”

Robb Kinnan Photography
It’s that kind of character that won over so many hearts in Carolina. It’s that personality that will likely win over so many fans in Columbus.

Much in the vein of some previous interviews, I asked the former Carolina Railhawk to compare his experiences in the NASL to his recent experiences in MLS. “I feel like the speed of play is alittle bit faster [in MLS] with less time on the ball. I think overall, the quality of decision making [in MLS] is alittle bit better.”

And so looking forward, where is Tommy looking to go? What is he hoping to accomplish? “I’m someone who believes in short term goals and long term goals.” He mentions long term aspirations of the national team, as any ambitious player does. Though he seems content to focus on the present and build the future.

“I’m taking it one day at a time; I’m trying to fit into the system that Robert has here, trying to focus on earning a spot in the team. Working on my individual improvement, all things that make me a better player.” 

Much of Heinemann’s role this season has been off the bench. I posed the question of what his intentions are when he steps on the field and he had this to say, “When I come on I’m really trying to bring the level up, to give the guys a boost.”

When asked how he was fitting in to the Columbus team, Heinemann states “I feel like every week I’ve been here so far, I’ve been getting more and more comfortable. It’s kind of two ways for me. I’m adjusting to MLS and adjusting to a new team.” Already though, he sees an improvement in himself, “Coming into a new team, trying to adjust to those guys, the system and how Robert wants us to play…I feel like I’ve learned this and am already growing as a player.”
Rob Kinnan Photography
Tommy Heinemann is a hard working, Brian McBride like forward. His aerial attributes will serve the Crew well and his blue collar ethic will create chances aplenty. “I just focus on contributing what I can to the team.” Now that is an attitude an good fan can appreciate; it’s also a perfect fit for the ‘hardest working team in MLS’.

 Keep an eye on this one folks.

Oh and here’s an interesting little tid-bit for Columbus fans. Your new striker played in a band. That’s right, Heinemann is a guitar player and his old band, Stones Cry Out, has even put out a CD. Sample the music, it’s pretty darn impressive.

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