What did it mean to you to sign with D.C. United after being selected 36th overall in the MLS SuperDraft earlier this year?
“It's a complicated feeling to describe because my story is very different from the other guys. I came from an Academy where it didn't work out, and I had two difficult years where I didn't know if I was going to achieve my dream. So signing that first contract meant the world to me. I always told people the only thing that I wanted to achieve, the most important one, was to have a jersey with my father's name on the back and being able to do it with D.C. United after a good time in college, which gave me my chance to showcase my skills, was everything. There's no better feeling than this one. I remember calling my father that day. It was a good day.”
How has the transition been for you from college soccer to MLS?
“I think it's an everyday process. I'm learning every day, and that's what I really like. After a couple of years in college, you saw everything, and got into a routine, while here, everything is new. Everybody is very professional about their job, so the transition was difficult the first few weeks because there were many things to think about and adapt to, such as a new style of play and new teammates. But all my teammates have made that transition smooth. They were always there for me when I had questions, to help make sure I was in a good spot at the right time. And now, I truly feel a part of the group.”
You are the only rookie for D.C. United to play in all three games this season. How does that feel?
“It's amazing to feel involved, to feel like you can help the team. Being in that position is great and everything I've been working for and dreamt of. It's definitely a great feeling, but my mind is towards the team and how much I can help. When I get minutes, I give my all for the team and make sure I do everything I can to put the team in the best position possible. It's a great feeling, but there's still a lot to do, like I said. There's a lot of room for improvement individually and as a team, but that feeling of being involved and being part of that special group is great.”
On Saturday against Chicago, you had your first MLS career start. Can you tell us about it and what it meant to you?
“Because of the circumstances, I noticed that I would be a starter over the week. I had many discussions with my closest friends and my brother about the game, trying to picture it, get my mind into it, and get ready for it, knowing that it would probably happen. At the beginning, you're in between excitement and pressure, but I try to see it in a positive way. I felt like I had nothing to lose, and it was a great opportunity for me to help the team and showcase what I could do. And like I said, I put the team first and go for it, don't be scared, and be yourself. And during the week, all my teammates put me in the right spot mentally to make sure I wouldn’t let the opportunity get away from me. And as soon as the whistle blows up, you get your first touch, and after that, 90 minutes feels like 15.”
“It was an amazing feeling at the end of the game, when you just realize, ‘Okay, I had my first start,’ and then you look at your phone a little bit later that night, and you have like 600 messages. Obviously, disappointed with the result at the end—I would have traded it for a win—but it's a night I will personally remember.”
Did you do anything during the offseason that has helped you have such a great start to your rookie season?
“I felt like I was ready for that day. I was ready mentally and physically. I knew what I was getting myself into, and it was always on my mind that my goal was to be ready. I decided not to go home and see my family over the break to make sure that I'd be ready for it. Oregon State treated me well for three-and-a-half years, and all my teammates pushed and challenged me every day. I had a lot of extra training sessions to ensure I was in the best position possible when the chance came and felt like I came already in a good spot going into the preseason.”
“Still, it's always difficult feeling that you have something to prove because you come with no contract and have to show what you can do because I hadn’t shown anything at that level yet. But, after having that mindset to give everything 100%, and having great examples in the team that showed me how to do it, it got better. I believe that people lead by example, and when you have good people around you that are showing you the way, it feels really easy. At the end of the day, we have the best job in the world, so I have no reason to complain. I have no reason not to go hard every day to do my best, showcase myself, and help the team as much as possible.”
How are you and the team preparing to face Toronto this weekend?
“Personally, I think I’m prepared, and I believe the team is really excited for another opportunity to go there and win the game. We all want to bounce back from the negative result last week but felt that last week we still had a lot of positives coming out of that game. Now, we want to show it on the scoreboard. We want to have a full game of 90, 95 minutes—if we have to—compete on both sides, with or without the ball. And, whenever we have our chances, we just take them and come back from Toronto with the win. I feel the team is confident and moving forward [from last week’s result]. We're ready to compete again.”
What can we expect from Sofiane Djeffal this season?
“You guys will see someone who wants to compete. Someone who hates losing, but also someone with a big smile, confidence, who enjoys his situation, and loves to have the opportunity to represent a club like D.C. United, and will give everything every day to give back to the team.”