With USMNT‘s much-anticipated 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Mexico only a day away, Rant Sports had the privilege to interview former USMNT and MLS goalkeeper Tony Meola.
Meola represented the USMNT in the 1990,1994, and 2002 FIFA World Cups and registered 31 shutouts as USMNT goalkeeper.
Moreover, he played in MLS from 1996-2006 with Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) and NJ/NY Metrostars (now New York Red Bulls). Most notably, Kansas City won the 2000 MLS Cup and Meola was named league MVP in the same year.
He was recently inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and co-hosts a soccer radio show on Sirus/XM Ch.94.
Rant Sports: Having been removed from the playing side of soccer for awhile now, how does it feel to be on the coaching side of soccer?
Tony Meola: Definitely fun. Coaching takes on a different perspective compared to playing. Instead of only worrying about yourself and staying fit, you care about the whole group dynamic and how it fits together. As a player, I didn’t always see the big picture developing on the field.
RS: During your USMNT tenure, who was the team’s biggest rivalry?
TM: Mexico. Always has been. The rivalry started back in ’80s, but picked up when the United States started playing well.
RS: With you being the starting USMNT goalie for the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, what was your favorite memory?
TM: Definitely my first game representing the United States. Walking out in Detroit (1994 World Cup) and playing at home, and playing the 1990 World Cup in Italy was great. Both countries are apart of my family’s heritage.
RS: In your MLS career, do you have a most memorable moment?
TM: The 2000 season. The team [Kansas City Wizards] finished dead last in 1999 and there was not much expectations outside of the locker room. We found a way to build chemistry and click from game one and remained in first place all season long.
RS: On the current team, what has impressed you the most about USMNT this year in World Cup Qualifying?
TM: The team is filled with depth with different players stepping up and making a contribution. Regardless of who the United States played in the 2013 Gold Cup, the 12 game win-streak is very impressive. The way Jurgen Klinsmann led the team after their June friendly against Belgium on their 12 game win-streak was amazing.
RS: What did you take away from the USA-Costa Rica match?
TM: It wasn’t a crippling loss by any means. They played a game where they lapsed for ten minutes and you can’t go on the road and play like that. Overall they were the dominant team for part of the match. They played well enough to win, if not tie, this game, but the breaks didn’t go USA’s way. The game aslo showed how USMNT can face adversity head on and battle.
RS: Looking ahead to Tuesday’s qualifying match against Mexico, what does USMNT need to do to earn three points?
TM: It is unfortunate that USMNT will be missing midfielder Michael Bradley. He is the heart and soul and a vital part of team. He also brings a calming factor to the squad. Multple players will have an opportunity to step up. In Bradley’s absence, Jermaine Jones should see playing time. If Jurgen goes with a four man back line, Kyle Beckerman will see the start. He has become one of Klinsmann’s favorites this year. Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud will earn an opportunity to step up if the United States want to go a little more creative in the midfield. Whether if it is because of yellow card accumulation or due to injury, different players will need to step up.
RS: What is your prediction for Tuesday’s USA-Mexico match?
TM: Low scoring game. Mexico keep it as close as possible to squeeze a point or win. 1-0 or 2-1 USA win.
RS: On the MLS side of things, do you root for a certain team?
TM: Because of my playing career, I always root for NYRB and Sporting Kansas City, and follow MLS as a whole for my Sirius/XM radio show.
RS: With MLS’ season hitting the home stretch, which teams have impressed you?
TM: New York, LA Galaxy, Seattle sounders, Real Salt Lake have all been playing good soccer lately. Portland Timbers are a young but capable team. The Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union have played well throughout the season; Both teams could make the playoffs this season.
RS: Who do you think will make the MLS Cup Final?
TM: This is a tough question. I think Seattle with them clicking right now, and when Clint Dempsey emerges as a scorer they will be the team to beat. On the Eastern Conference side, Montreal Impact, New York, and Kansas City are all playing hot and are good teams.
RS: Final Thoughts?
TM: Monday night I am surprising a local Columbus area youth club, and the players all get to come to tomorrow’s game. On Tuesday, fans have the opportunity to meet me at an autograph session. The Allstate Fan Zone is form 4:00p.m to 8:00 p.m. ET outside the stadium with the autograph session from 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Rant Sports would like to thank Tony Meola for his time.