Off the Pitch sits down with Jeff Cunningham


Photo Credit: 
Rick Yeatts

With the 2010 season now in full swing, continues our “Off
the Pitch” series, where we highlight one player and give you the chance to get
to know them better away from Pizza Hut Park.

Our series this week features forward Jeff Cunningham, whose 17 goals
in 2009 propelled the clubs’ second half run and netted him the Golden Boot
award for leading scorer along with placement to the MLS Best XI. Cunningham
has already notched four goals this year, including the game-winner last
weekend against DC United. I know
you’re originally from Jamaica. How often do you get to go back?

Jeff Cunningham:
Usually once a year I try to get back, but the last time I’ve been there has
been almost two years now. The offseason’s been kind of busy so I haven’t had
much down time. And I
know you have a new baby girl. How old is she? Do you feel fatherhood has
changed the way you’ve approached the game?

Cunningham: Twenty
months going on 20 years! Obviously there’s more responsibility. I think it’s
definitely been helpful for me both on and off the pitch. I’m able to go home
and have that down time and be able to get away from the game for a little bit.
And on the pitch, patience to help me deal with situations when things aren’t
going well. To stay calm and still work hard and things will fall into place.
So it’s been good for me, it’s been good for my career. You
had a great season in 2009. Did you change your approach physically, mentally,
anything that made a difference?

Cunningham: No.
Well, I got an opportunity. When Kenny (Cooper) left that opened up a place for
me, and I know that we’re still looking to fill that void so it’s important for
me to show the coach that I can score goals. You
also spent some time with the men’s national team earlier this year. What was
that experience like for you?

Cunningham: It was
great. I’d been out of the picture for a long time and to be called back in was
very rewarding. And in my experience there I feel like I learned a lot. Let’s
say you’re going to take your wife out for a nice dinner. Where would you go?
It’s an anniversary dinner.

Cunningham: Anniversary
dinner? Wow, well we like sushi so we would find a nice sushi restaurant. What
about the last good book or movie that you saw?

Cunningham: My
favorite book is the Bible. I’m reading this book now called It’s Your Time
by Joel Osteen. He’s a pastor based in Houston, and that’s a very good book.
Most recent movie? Law Abiding Citizen,
with Jamie Foxx. You’ve
been in the league several years now, what’s your favorite MLS city to visit?
Which one do you really look forward to?

Cunningham: Honestly,
I enjoy the atmosphere in Toronto. I really do. I feel like the fans are very
knowledgeable about the game and the stadium is very intimate, and it creates a
good environment and good atmosphere to play in. That’s also one of my former
teams so I’m looking forward to that visit. But I’m learning to appreciate and
enjoy every game because you don’t know how long you have to play. So my
approach to this season is to enjoy every game and every training session, and
just have fun.