If Major League Soccer ever got around to creating an annual all-rookie team, then Corey Ashe would have been the undisputed starter on the left wing on this season’s freshman roster. His six assists during his rookie campaign with the Houston Dynamo is only the tip of the iceberg – his quickness, creativity, and symbiotic relationship with the ball in the middle was a key reason why his club was able to punch its ticket to another MLS Cup Final.
Needless to say, 2007 was quite a year for the diminutive (5-6), yet dizzying Dynamo rookie. The beginning of his veritable movie-script season began with the MLS defending champion selecting him in the second round (26th overall) from the University of North Carolina in the 2007 Super Draft. He starred on the reserve team during the early part of the season, before making his impact on the first team, where he appeared in 20 matches (six starts) for the Dynamo. Just as the summer began to wane, the speedy midfielder caught fire against Real Salt Lake on September 8th, when he sparked the Dynamo attack by recording assists on all but one of the four goals poured in by his club in their high-octane 4-3 victory.
Then, as if things couldn’t possibly become even more unreal for the former Tar Heel, he and his teammates capped off the 2007 campaign in grand fashion, by hoisting the MLS Cup trophy with their 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution.
With an opportunity to finally catch his breath after such a whirlwind season, the 21-year-old speedster graciously took the time to check in with Revsnet’s Brian O’Connell on his remarkable year.
Brian: I've talked to a few rookies this season about the comparison between college soccer and MLS, and they all remark how vastly different NCAA soccer is compared to MLS. Would you agree with that assessment? How much different is it, even for a player who comes from a traditional soccer college like UNC?
Corey: I would definitely agree with that assessment. With the MLS the ball moves faster, the technical ability the players posses is better than that of college, the players are smarter, and the level is higher.
Brian: Talking with ACC guys like Wells Thompson, Adam Cristman and Kyle Helton, it seems like the ACC is the premier college soccer conference in the nation. In your opinion, what is it about the ACC that makes it so competitive year in and year out?
Corey: The ACC is competitive year in and out because of the recruiting classes that each school receives. Most people are under the impression that this is the best conference so that attracts skillful players and players that want to make it to the professional ranks. Furthermore, I think the players that are recruited have either National team experience or have played on a regional team and if those players are in the conference it creates a more competitive atmosphere.
Brian: You were drafted earlier this year by a team that had just won the MLS Cup the year before. How much of an honor was it to be selected by a championship side?
Corey: It was a huge honor simply because they were the defending champs and because I heard a lot of good things about the coaching staff and the team. So it was an honor to know that Dominic and John thought I would fit well into their program.
Brian: What were your first impressions of Houston, with respect to the coaching staff, players, and management?
Corey: I thought that everything about the program was professional. The players and coaches were serious about winning and on the field they meant business. Off the field the players are your friends and if you need anything they have no problem with giving advice or assisting you.
Brian: Was there any player or coach you gravitated to that helped you along through your first season in the league?
Corey: Both coaches helped a lot but I gravitated towards John Spencer the assistant coach. He provided a lot of advice and worked with me one on one.
Brian: What was the most difficult aspect of your rookie season?
Corey: The most difficult aspect was adjusting to the speed of play. The ball moves so much faster so you usually have to have an idea of what you want to do with the ball before you get it.
Brian: What were your expectations for your first season in the League? Did you have any specific personal goals, whether it be getting a certain amount of first team games, or scoring a certain number of goals? Was there any additional pressure to achieve these goals because you were drafted by a team that had just won a championship?
Corey: Honestly I just wanted to play and develop as fast as I could. I obviously wanted to get some playing time with the first team but I knew it would be hard. So I didn't really set any goals except to just develop as fast as I could.
Brian: Back on September 8th, you recorded three assists in the 4-3 victory over Real Salt Lake, which was unquestionably the best game of your rookie campaign. Tell me a little bit about how big of a game that was for you, and how you hope to build on a performance like that.
Corey: It was a huge game because my older brother came that weekend before he left for Iraq so I wanted to play hard for him and make him proud. So not only was it huge that I recorded three assists but I was happy to make him proud. It also did a lot for my confidence. It showed that I belong in this league.
Brian: Obviously, Houston did quite well this year, earning its second consecutive championship. What was it like to be able to celebrate a championship with your teammates in your very first pro season?
Corey: It was awesome to know that I contributed in my first season to a championship team. I helped get Houston to the finals and win. Also, I take away from this experience what it takes to be a champion. I understand the work that goes into making it to the finals and winning. So it was awesome celebrating.
Brian: Somewhat off-topic, but I looked at your MLSnet.com player profile, and it states that you enjoy rap and R & B music. As a fellow hip hop aficionado myself, who's the better MC: 50 or Kanye?
Corey: They are both good but I would say Kanye simply because he is more creative with his lyrics unlike 50. He makes you think about what he is saying and his songs have a message that he is trying to get across to the listeners.
Brian: Is there a pre-match track that you like to listen to before kickoff? If so, which track?
Corey: Kanye West- "Champion."
Brian: Lastly, with your first full pro season now under your belt, what can we expect from Corey Ashe next season?
Corey: More goals and assists and more of a complete and consistent player.