Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Frenchman Dabo should help in midfield
By Gus Martins
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Like the majority of his countrymen, Ousmane Dabo was stunned by France’s first-round ouster at last summer’s World Cup and the mutiny against embattled coach Raymond Domenech by several starting players.
But Dabo, who recently signed with the Revolution and expects to patrol in central midfield, said he is confident that former World Cup winner and current coach Laurent Blanc is on the right path to restore France's reputation with recent victories over England and Brazil.
“Yeah, I’m very happy about that,’’ said Dabo, who ended several months of free agency when he signed recently with the Revs. “[Blanc] put very young players with a big future. I trust him and I hope we will have a very good team like 10 years ago.’’
While Dabo represented France only three times in his career, he does have an impressive 318 first-team appearances with varied clubs including Rennes, Inter Milan, Vicenza, Parma, Monaco, Atalanta, Lazio and Manchester City and Roma.
The 34-year-old defensive midfielder is looking for a new challenge. Asked why he decided to come to Major League Soccer, Dabo said he’s heard nothing but positives about the quality of football that awaits him.
“I’ve been told it is a good league and it is improving every year,’’ he said. “I saw Thierry Henry come here, David Beckham, Freddie Ljungberg, very good players who were famous in Europe. So why not? I wanted to discover something else and I think America is the future, so I’m happy to be here.’’
Revolution coach Steve Nicol traveled to Paris to scout Dabo, who was training with a fitness coach to maintain his physical level, and he apparently did more than enough to impress Nicol.
“I saw [Nicol] in Paris,’’ he said. “He came here and we had a good chat and he explained to me how he wanted the team to play. I had to train in front of him and everything went well so I’m here now.’’
While Nicol lauded Dabo’s ability to play simply and not turn over the ball as well as the experience he brings, the coach said the Revolution is still in need of a striker who can score, presumably in the range of 12-to-14 goals, to lead the forward line.
“We’re looking for somebody who can score some goals primarily,’’ Nicol said. “Obviously, if they have some other talents as well that’s great. But our main objective is to get a real goal scorer into the squad.
“I think we’ve got decent choices everywhere. The one thing we probably are looking to finish off with is another striker. But everywhere else I think we are pretty strong and we have competition.’’
Nicol’s said the choices at this point are returning players Kheli Dube, second-year player Zach Schilawski and Euro-veteran Ilija Stolica.
“They’ve done exactly what we thought they could do,’’ Nicol said. “Zach has been busy, but he needs to gain a little bit more experience. Ilija, you know what you are getting. He’s the guy who is going to bring everybody into the play. We need to make him chances. But it would be nice to have an extra one. Kheli Dube is up there as well, but it would be nice to get a fourth one.’’
Nicol said he is hoping Stolica, a Serbian target man whom the team looks to play off, could be a better player for the Revs this year.
“I think Ilija came to us last year after never having a break,’’ Nicol said. “He never had a preseason behind him when he started with us. This year he is going to have a good preseason behind him. So I think we’ll see a lot more from him than we did at the end of last year purely because he’s going to be stronger.’’
Dabo, who has not shown a scoring touch during his career, will have to affect the Revolution in other ways. With another Frenchman on the team in Didier Domi and a fluency with the English language, it doesn’t appear he’ll feel alienated. With time spent at Manchester City, the style of play is unlikely to cause him consternation.
“Yeah, I’ve been told that it is very physical,’’ he said. “A little bit like the Premier League in England. So I will get used to it and I will try to bring my experience to the young guys.’’
Despite his experience, he said he won’t be offering suggestions to his team willy-nilly. He won’t back off it, either.
“Mentor, I don’t know,’’ he said. “I’m quite shy. If they asked me some advice I will give it to them, but I am not the type of guy to go and tell them what to do. I don’t like it. If they need my help, I will help them really with pleasure.’’
With a good first impression of his new teammates, Dabo said he is encouraged by the Revolution’s prospects.
“I saw already good quality,’’ he said. “I think there are a lot of good players. So I’m very confident for the season.’’
He’s also confident that France, 1998 World Cup champions and 2000 European champions, is back on the right track and said the shock of South Africa 2010 is history.
“I was embarrassed and I had a lot of friends in the team so that’s why I was very sad for them,’’ Dabo said. “We had a very bad World Cup, but now it’s time to move on and to support the new team.’’