Player Profile: Christo Michaelson
I ran into Christopher Michaelson the other night on my way out of a Portland Timbers match, the former Jesuit High School and Gonzaga University soccer standout was there as a fan – because he loves soccer as much as the rest of us do. However, there are many of us who recognize his mane of blond fury from his time on the pitch while playing for… well, you name it. The first time I saw Christo play, it was for the USL League-2 two side, Timbers Under 23s, who play in Salem, Oregon. However, you might have seen him playing for the EPLWA’s Vancouver Victory, or UPSL’s Des Moines Menace. Most recently, I caught him on ESPN+ playing for FCM Portland of the NPSL in their round one USOC match then a week later, back in the Timbers U23s 18 for their friendly match hosting PDX FC. I asked if he could take a few minutes to answer some questions and he obliged.
Back-to-back OSAA State Player of the Year, lettered at Jesuit High School in Portland, All WCC Second Team, All Far West Region Third Team, Honorable Mention, All-WCC in 2016... the list goes on—you play like a man on fire, what drives you? When did you start playing soccer and have you always given 200%?
I honestly think my “drive” in soccer comes from an absolute pure hatred of losing. Growing up the only think I ever wanted to do was play soccer. It was my favorite thing in the world. I also have to give my dad a ton of credit for shaping me into the hardworking soccer player that I am today. My dad is incredibly supportive and cares about me and wants me to succeed, but from a very young age I was expected to compete and be the hardest worker. I have a specific memory of when I was playing youth soccer, I was probably around 10 years old. It was a random league game where my team won 3-0. I scored 2 goals and really felt like I played well. After the game my dad took me to a random field by our house and told me we were going to run. He told me that “just because you can score 2 goals against a bad team doesn’t mean that you can have a bad attitude and not be hardest worker.” He ran my ass off. I did sprints over and over again at that field. I think that moment changed who I was as a person. It made me recognize in order to succeed you can never take a game or play off. From that moment on I pride myself on being the hardest working player on whatever field I step on. I take each individual battle super personal and I always make sure nobody out works me. Overall my drive comes from an intense hatred of losing and a pure love for the sport.
You've played in High School as well as in ODP and West Side Timbers, how do you balance regular life, academic responsibilities and a budding athletic career? Was it any different when you got to Gonzaga?
To be completely honest I don’t really view my life any different than what a regular everyday life is. I guess that’s probably because my whole life has been soccer and it’s my favorite hobby. Regular to me is getting up every day in the morning to train and play and do it again the next day. However, when I got to college, I did struggle a bit academically at the beginning of my career. I have really bad ADHD and have always struggled paying attention in school, but was able to get by in high school. In college I was dealing with an injury and I carried it over into my everyday life which made school very difficult. By my sophomore year I had it all figured out and school got easier but I really did have to adjust to be a collegiate student athlete.
Des Moines Menace, Vancouver Victory, Reno 1868, Timbers U23s, and FC Mulhouse... where else have you played? Are there noticeable differences in the level of play from NPSL to EPLWA and USL League 2 and up to USL Championship?
I really haven’t played any place else notable besides many Mexican leagues and the OPSL here in Portland. I really haven’t played any matches at the NPSL level I was only with Mulhouse for the open cup so I can’t really touch on the NPSL too much. However, that Mulhouse team has some really talented players that have played at high levels which makes me think that the NPSL is probably pretty quality. The EPLWA is very hit or miss in my opinion. I think it really depends on the team and year. My two years spent with Vancouver Victory was a ton of fun and actually was very competitive. However, I do think that it’s a step below the USL League 2 but is a great level for young college players who are trying to develop. USL League 2 is a really fun league for many reasons. I love how diverse each team is and you have all these great players from top level D1 schools around the country. I think it really it is the highest level of soccer you can play before reaching the pro level. Games are always fun and you never get those weak teams that you can guarantee 3 points from.
The biggest jump in level I ever made was from the USL league 2 to the USL championship. I really wasn’t expecting it to be nearly as difficult as it was. I kind of had a big wakeup call in Reno and I probably wasn’t ready mentally. It’s a funny feeling playing the game like it’s an actual job. There are pressures and expectations that I was never aware of before. For a lot people it’s a dream to play pro, but in reality, it’s much more challenging than it may seem. Everybody is good and everybody is focused, you can’t afford to take any plays off.
As a player, how important is atmosphere? Drums, chants, fans... does it make a difference? Even at the grassroots level? Maybe without saying who is "the best," which supporters stand out has being the loudest or showing up most consistently?
Atmosphere is incredibly important. I don’t think soccer is really soccer without a quality atmosphere, it adds so much to the game. Not only for fans, but for players as well. The amount of energy and passion a good atmosphere can bring to a game is beautiful. I would say the best atmosphere I have either played in front of was down in Salem with the U23’s or in front of the BBB (Battle Born Brigade in Reno).
What do you listen to pre-match? What fires you up? Lastly, it's been a contentious conversation around here, but Chewy Chips Ahoy or Classic?
I honestly don’t really listen to music before games. Whatever is playing in the locker room is what I listen to. Most of my motivation comes from proper mental preparation and reflection.
PS: CHEWY FOR SURE.
- Joshua Duder