At age 24, Nate Jaqua has it pretty well figured out. The quiet 6-foot-3 Chicago Fire forward knows what he wants to accomplish and is working hard on the field to meet those goals. He played impressively in the All-Star game last August and is currently the Fire’s top goal scorer for the second year in a row. Last month, Nate talked to The Heckler about Chicago sports, Fire fans and his desire to play in the World Cup.
The Heckler: You’ve been in Chicago for a few years now and are currently a Lakeview resident. What do you think about the city?
Nate Jaqua: I grew up in Oregon, so I’m kind of used to the outdoors. Moving to Chicago was a little bit of an adjustment, but it’s a great city with a great energy and always something to do.
TH: How does Chicago compare to your hometown of Eugene as a sports town?
NJ: For professional sports, all we have is the (Trail) Blazers, and I didn’t follow them much. People follow college (the University of Oregon Ducks). People are really supportive of football and basketball games, but it’s nothing like here in Chicago with the Bulls, Cubs, Sox and Bears.
TH: Is it difficult not to have the fan support enjoyed by some of the other sports teams in the city?
NJ: Yeah, a little bit. I think we get a good deal of fans too. At games, we have a great bunch of fans. They get rowdy and support us. But it’s tough to break into (the city’s sports culture).
TH: How did it feel to be the only Fire player selected for the MLS All-Star game?
NJ: There were a lot of good players. It was a bit of a surprise for me (to be chosen). Obviously, with the All-Star game being held in Chicago, everyone was really supportive.
TH: What are your favorite sports teams outside of soccer? The Redskins, I imagine.
NJ: Obviously. But I’ve never been that crazy about any (other) sports. The Mariners I’d follow, and the Washington Redskins. My dad (former Washington Redskins defensive back Jon Jaqua) and brother watched football every Sunday and I’d be doing something else.
TH: Was there any pressure on you to follow in your dad’s footsteps and take up football?
NJ: No, not really. My dad got really beat up playing, so my mom steered us away from football right at the beginning.
TH: But soccer isn’t exactly injury-free either.
NJ: I’ve had quite few injuries. It’s definitely not injury-free by any means.
TH: What do you do to get pumped up before a game?
NJ: I don’t do a lot. I take it easy during the day. When game time rolls around and there are a lot of fans cheering, I just try to feed off that energy. Usually it’s not difficult to pump up for it.
TH: Do you listen to any specific music to help you prepare for the game?
NJ: Dave Matthews sometimes. Actually, I do listen to Bob Marley. It gets me in a nice mellow zone. (Before a game) I kind of need to relax. I’ve got enough anxiety in me anyway.
TH: Being one of the tallest soccer players around—do you think you’re breaking through that stereotype of soccer players being short?
NJ: Yeah. I think its changing all over the world. Just watch the World Cup. On a lot of teams, guys are 6’4, 6’5. I think it’s definitely changing, especially for front runners.
TH: Do you have a favorite soccer player?
NJ: As a kid, I always wanted to be a No. 10, a playmaker, a Ronaldo. (In soccer, a No. 10 shirt is reserved for the most creative player on the team and is associated with being the best). As I got older, I realized that I’m not going to be that player and I started watching taller players. Those are more of the players I emulate.
TH: In the World Cup, what did you think about Zinedine Zidane’s head butt?
NJ: I was disappointed to see it. I’m a big fan of Zindane, so it was kind of sad. It wasn’t something I expected, especially at that stage, but for his last World Cup, it was sad. By the end I gained a lot of respect for Italy. In the beginning (of the World Cup), I wanted a team more like Brazil or France to win. A little flashier.
TH: What do you think the future of soccer is in Chicago? How do you feel about the new stadium and its location?
NJ: I think soccer is going to continue to grow and be up there with other sports. The new stadium is an awesome venue. It’s not too far of a drive. I haven’t explored Bridgeview much, but it’d be nice if there were a few more things right around (the stadium).
TH: Ever aspire to be a Beckham-type soccer pin-up?
NJ: No, I do not. I just wouldn’t want to be as famous as Beckham is. I think he’s got a tough life with that much fame and a bunch of people following him.
TH: What do you aspire to become in your career?
NJ: I don’t know what aspire to be. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. Hopefully I’ll win a Major League Soccer championship and get on the national team and play for the World Cup. That’s my big goal. Other than that, I don’t know what exactly I aspire to be.