MIKE ZAHER (SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES)
HOMETOWN: Las Vegas, Nevada
YOUTH CLUB: Las Vegas Premier
INTERNATIONAL: U.S. U-18s
STARTING OUT: My older brother played. My family really didn't have a soccer background before then. There were other sports but soccer was always exciting. It was active and a lot of fun. These days, when you want to get serious, you have to pick one sport. I went with soccer because it was my best one.
EARLY SOCCER MEMORY: In an U-12 regional championship, we went to a shootout with Serrano Premier from Arizona. They had players like my current teammate, Brandon McDonald. Robbie Findley [Real Salt Lake] was on that team, too. We lost 5-4 in a shootout.
FIRST CLEATS: Adidas Questras. They were puffy, like pillows. I think they were black and purple.
CURRENT CLEATS: Adidas Predators.
OTHER SPORTS: I played basketball, baseball and tennis.
FAVORITE TEAMS: AS Roma, UNLV basketball, Michigan football.
FAVORITE PLAYERS: Francesco Totti, Steve Nash.
FAVORITE MOVIES: Anything with Brad Pitt. "Interview with a Vampire," "Legends of the Fall." I also like "Braveheart."
FAVORITE ACTOR: Brad Pitt.
FAVORITE ACTRESS: Megan Fox.
FAVORITE TV SHOW: "Entourage."
LIVING SITUATION: I live in an apartment with Brandon McDonald and Quincy Amarikwa. It's in San Jose's "Asia Town" area.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: I think my old roommate from D.C. will get it, Chris Pontius.
MLS EXPERIENCE: I got to experience three teams in a year and a half. I was drafted by Toronto, traded to D.C. and traded to San Jose. In Toronto, they have a great city and a great crowd. In D.C., I got to learn from Coach Tom Soehn and play with some big stars. They have great fans, too. I also got to play in five Concacaf Champions League games. I'll always look at that as a special opportunity. Now, I'm in San Jose and I get to work with one of the best coaches in the league, Frank Yallop!
COLLEGE: We played for a national championship in 2007 and lost to Santa Barbara in -8 degrees in St. Louis. At UCLA, you get a professional atmosphere. They produce pros there. One side of that is that a lot of guys don't use four years of eligibility. We lose guys all the time. It really is a gateway to the pros. I think I was the 45th player from UCLA to become a pro. Since then, there have been six more. It makes it tough to be an experienced team. We had guys like Chad Barrett, Benny Feilhaber and Marvell Wynne go pro. The good side is that you see so many guys go to the league, it gives you hope. You feel like you have a good shot.
MOST INFLUENTIAL COACH: My youth coach from Las Vegas Premier, Bart Gallia. He helped me on and off the field. He got me to pursue soccer to this level. He was a great motivator. He helped me build character. He influenced me in soccer and in life.
MEMORABLE COACHING ADVICE (from youth coach): Be a difference-maker. Don't hide.
HOBBIES: Bowling. My high score is 266. I like going to coffee shops and reading, too.
MUSIC: I'm listening to a lot of Drake and Lil' Wayne.
READING: I try to diversify. I have two classes left before I graduate. So, a lot of my reading is school-oriented. I do a lot of financial reading, too. I try to learn something when I read to get ahead.
VACATION: Back in college, I went to Cabo for Spring Break. That was my best vacation. I've always wanted to go to Monaco.
FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU'D INVITE TO DINNER: Brad Pitt, Zinedine Zidane and Diego Maradona.