Q&A: Catching up with George Josten

Forward George Josten finished last season as one of the Timbers leading scorers. He’s back for a second season in Portland, and ready to build off of his successful 2009 campaign. The Northwest native talks about the things he learned last season, his personal goals for 2010 and what he thinks the team can achieve this season.
 
You finished the 2009 season among the team’s leading scorers, what are three things you feel you took away from last season whether on the field or as a professional?
 
GJ: First of all, last season was my first professional season where I saw the field on a consistent basis. On the field, you learn how to develop relationships with players. You learn how to be consistent. You learn that every game counts. You learn how to take care of your body day-to-day; the basic “ins and outs” of being a professional.
 
At the same time, all those responsibilities can wear on you. It's important to stay positive and remain confident. If you aren't enjoying playing the game day-to-day, it’s never worth it. Probably the most important thing I found last year was my competitive drive. Playing for the reserves in Columbus, it was hard to get into games that motivated you. I basically love playing because I love feeling that competitive drive. As an added bonus, the crowds we play in front of with the Timbers Army are unbelievable. I hadn't played in front of a crowd bigger than 5,000 people before I came here. That game day atmosphere and adrenaline is why a lot of guys play the game.  
 
The third thing that I learned last year was that biking is the best way to get around Portland. I could make it to the stadium for practice faster than if I drove. I'm a little disappointed that I had to move up over the hills on the west side this year. It doesn't seem like a lot of fun trying to bike uphill after practice every day. I'm still working on a route, so if anyone knows an easy way to get from PGE Park to Beaverton without going uphill, let me know.
 
What was your personal highlight of the 2009 season?
 
GJ: It’s tough to choose my personal highlight. I really enjoyed scoring against Burnley. It’s a lot of fun watching them in the EPL right now knowing that I scored on their goalie, Brian Jensen.
 
I think the best highlight was the final regular season home game; I scored two. We won the game. We won the league. I got a banner of myself as a Simpson's character. I got to celebrate with the team and the Timbers Army in the stands. The atmosphere was something I've never experienced, much less been a contributing part of. It felt good to be a part of something bigger than myself; something that was an entire year in the making. I only wish we had finished things all through the playoffs.
 
Looking at the upcoming season, what are some goals you have set for yourself?
 
GJ: I want to be better than I was last year - that’s the bottom line. Specifically, I think I improved a lot all around last year, to where I could keep possession and contribute on the attacking end. Now, I have to become more of a goal scorer. I need to work harder to put myself in the right position at the right time.
 
Personally, I have a number of goals that I would like to score, but it’s a secret ... I'll make it public when I reach it. I also want to be more of a leader. That's a role that I've taken on almost every team I've played on. This is the first time in my professional career that I've been on the same team for two years in a row. I feel more comfortable and more confident returning to a team I know I already enjoy.
 
We are into Week 2 of preseason, how do you personally approach preseason and what is it like to get back into the swing of things?
 
GJ: Approaching preseason is different for everyone. It’s really the most difficult part of the year because you are training hard every day, sometimes twice. Especially in the first few weeks, fitness is a large part of the work. It’s definitely a necessary evil though. You hate doing it, but you love that feeling of being fit in your first game. Personally, I think it’s an opportunity to work on your game and make the changes necessary for the upcoming season. I know when the first game is, so I have to put myself on a schedule to be ready for that. It’s also important to develop good relationships with teammates on and off the field. For example, last year, it took a while for me to develop a relationship on the field with Keita, but eventually we figured it out. It’s the same thing this year with the new players. We have to incorporate them and develop a style of play because they can help us improve and get over that championship hump.
 
While it is still early, even in preseason, what are the aspirations of the team in 2010?
 
GJ: I think the team's aspirations are similar to mine. Be better than last year. We had a great year last year. We had a long unbeaten run and a regular season championship, but we lost in the semifinals of the playoffs. That's something that stings, especially for the guys who are returning and it will push us all to be better. Along with that, we have added a lot of quality players that will push for spots and increase the level of competition in practice. It would be pretty cool to send the USL Timbers off with a championship and kick start things for MLS. I don't think you could write a better script than that ...