Alexi Lalas #22 needs no introduction. He is
perhaps one of the most recognizable figures in America Soccer if not
international socer to date. With his long flaming red hair he resembles
a rock star more than an elite soccer player. He has made the transition
from American star to international star playing in the Serie A league in
Europe.. He came to prominense in America playing with the USA Team
in America's first World Cup in 1994. He continued his career in the
USA playing for the New England Revolution an (MLS) Major League
Soccer franchise. However as of this writing he has been traded to
the New Jersey/New York MetroStars. He led the USA team in a earth
shaking upset of the Brasilian National team at the recent CONCAF Gold Cup
champiobnsnship held in California earlier this year.
In an exclusive interview below Alexi talks about his new team the MetroStars. He also reflects on his team USA's historic victory over Brasil, and asseses America' s quest for victory in France98.
For his accomplishments La Cancha awarded Alexis with an acrylic block contained preserved grass from World Cup 1994. This same award presented to FIFA President Joao Havelange and nmerous players and coaches who participated in World Cup 1994. Alexi also describes what he believes to be the best type of playing surface.
were you born and when did you begin playing
A: I was born in Detroit and I started playing soccer when I was ten...
Q:How would compare "Serie A" with the MLS (Major League
A: I think the MLS has a great future. Obviously it's not like Serie A, the Bundesliga, or the Premier Division and it's never going to be. It's going to be something unique and different. I'm very optimistic that within a very short period of time we can create something that many people are going to look at as something very special.
Q: Moving from a Boston based team to New York/New Jersey, how would
you assess your new team?
A: I 've been here for a very short time but I think that the MetroStars have incredible potential on and off the field and my teammates here have made me feel very welcome. And I think that we are all committed to giving the MetroStars fans the team that they deserve. The New Jersey/New York fans are very demanding and they deserve a team that will make the playoffs and vie for a championship.
Q: You were brought in to be the back bone of the defense and you have played
with Tony Meola on the World Cup team. How do you feel playing with him again
and but do you think you will have a difficult time adjusting to players
who have not played with you before?
A: Well soccer is soccer and you know Tony is a wonderful goal keeper. We're so fortunate to have him here and as a defender it makes my life easier because I know he's going to make the saves. Plus, I think Tony is the best goalkeeper without a doubt with his feet, his ability to play with his feet which has become so crucial in today's soccer makes him an asset.. It actually makes him our eleventh field player So I think that we have an incredible advantage having Tony in goal.
Q: Would you ike to have Tony on the World Cup
A: I think that one of the wonderful things about American soccer is that we have incredible goalkeeping and the training that starts from a young age. It's not just the kid who can't play on field that they throw on goal. It's players and athletes that want to play goalkeeper, whether it's Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, or Tony Meola, all these players are quality and I'd be comfortable with any one of them on goal.
Q: As our magazine focuses on the playing surface I'd like to ask you if
the condition of the grass surface affects your level of play and what if
any, type of playing surface do you prefer?
A: That's an interesting question one that very few people have asked. The playing surface does affect the level of play. If the grass is uneven the ball will be more difficult to control. It will make unpredictable movements. Players who are not well conditioned will tire more easier on grass which is tall. They exert more energy in movements. Also if the surface is a low cut one, the ball will travel faster and at a event rate of speed over longer a distance. For these reasons I prefer a playing surface where the grass is cut short. America's playing surfaces during our first World Cup were excellent for the most part. The silverdome in Detroit had a temporary natural grass surface installed just for the games which was excellent. From what I understand Giant Stadium also had a wonderful temporary natural grass surface installed over it's astroturf.
Q: What do you think about that win over Brazil in the Gold Cup held in
A: It was a wonderful moment...something that we will always remember but I think that it also showed the maturity of the USA team and how far we've come. When we left the field we agreed that it was a great win but said to ourselves that we have to do something special if not more special in the World Cup. The win against Brazil we can use to create confident and know that we can play against the best in the world. But I think that everybody's focus and energy is towards the World Cup. We know that we have to play a game like that in the World Cup and we know we are capable of doing that. I think many years down the line we'll look back and be able to be as proud but we'll be able to analyse it better but right now everybody's focus is on the World Cup.
Q: What do you think about be matched with Germany for your first game in
A: I think probably our group will be a more difficult group than in 1990 and the fact that only two teams come out and there's no wildcard makes it that much more difficult. We're playing teams like Germany Yugoslavia and Iran we know we're going to have to do something special. But the experience that we have individually and as a team will help us do something special. There is a spirit that exists between the core players in that we've grown up together on the national team and when that spirit is out there we do some incredible things. Our job is to hopefully get some of that spirit and bring it to the World Cup.
Q: What's the biggest difference between Bora Multinovic and Steve
A: Well, Bora's got more hair (laugh). Actually they are totally different people and they have gone about coaching the team in two different ways.. I think Steve has the advantage of seeing what worked and didn't work being the assistant coach under Bora. And also Steve has the advantage of growing up in the American system and understands what the players (American) need on and off the field to get the most out of them. But looking back at the time that I was with Bora, he's the best coach that I have ever played for. I grew up as a player and as a person playing for Bora.