CF: U.S. Soccer, what’s wrong, what’s right?
Eric Wynalda: I absolutely have an opinion on that. I think we are very solid and deep at keeper, and very solid and deep on defense. What we are missing is that midfield engine, that can hold the ball around a couple of players and distribute well, and I think we are missing a world class striker. I honestly don’t believe Donovan is the answer. I’d love to see Taylor Twellman and Kenny Cooper playing up top together tomorrow against Ecuador.
CF: Knowing how many U.S. Soccer players that stay and play domestically in Major League Soccer and how many go overseas, what is your opinion about the two different professional tracks that U.S. players take?
Eric Wynalda: Every player is different. It has done nothing but good for our country because it has brought a lot of money, for instance through transfer fees. Both are beneficial and each player has to make their own decision. But I think if a player gets an opportunity to go over and play in a league where they are going to be more challenged, where they are going to grow, where they are going to develop and get better, then they should go. I don’t think MLS should give all those players up. They should keep some of them playing here, where we will have an opportunity to watch good soccer.
But I like the amount they have allowed to go over to Europe, Howard, Dempsey, Bocanegra, McBride and others. And I like the fact that they have held onto others. With Dempsey, there were three offers before he finally went. I’m really glad that they are not so quick to just give them away.
CF: So some of these guys could arguably make a whole lot more money in Europe, and then MLS holds them back, how do feel about that?
Eric Wynalda: That’s true, no question. MLS is growing. It is better now than it was two years ago. It is way better, immeasurably, than it was five years ago. And a lot of that has to do with MLS letting players progress to Europe, and a lot of that has to do with bringing players in from Europe and South America and from all over the world.
CF: Which leads to the next question, do you think the Beckham Rule is good for the MLS?
Eric Wynalda: On a player to player basis, no question. If you look at the mad Bulgarian, Stoichkov, he did an incredible job of bringing players up and developing them, like Beasley. Peter Novak, our assistant coach tomorrow, another good example.
You look at guys like Lothar Matthaus, who treated it like a retirement league, I don’t think that is so good. It depends on how that player reacts when they come over here. There is good and bad.
CF: Are you an MLS fan?
Eric Wynalda: I am a huge MLS fan. I used to be a Mutiny fan, but after we lost the Mutiny, I’ve been following the New England Revolution. Mostly because Pat Noonan comes out of IU (Indiana University), and I’m a big IU fan.
CF: How about soccer in the U.S. promoting itself. What are your thoughts on that?
Eric Wynalda: My son plays little league for a team in California with Yankees style uniforms. He has the number 5 jersey. And he says “Dad, whose number 5 on the Yankees?” And I said, “Joe DiMagio. The guy was so good, they retired his number. So only you and him have that number.” And my son is the biggest Yankees fan on the planet. Here is a California kid who has no reason to like the Yankees.
Now what happens if Sunil Gulati gets off his ********ing pedestal, calls Don Garber and says, “That’s it. We now mandate that nobody is allowed to name their team the Butterflies or Grasshoppers or the Little ********ing Litterbugs or whatever they want to call them. And some kid in Idaho is now the Fire, he’s number 8. What’s the first question he asks his Dad? “Whose number 8 on the Fire?” How ********ing hard is this to figure out. Why can’t we just take the Major League Baseball or NFL business model. NFL is the best, because they hit every home, and every game means something. Major League Baseball has hit every ********ing household they could possibly hit, because they knew in the beginning if they took the hit, they provided the uniforms, and they say “welcome to the Astros”, then kids end up knowing who people like Terry Poole are. But these people don’t get it! They don’t get soccer.
CF: I think I understood what you said. That your son has a hard time identifying with soccer because on his t-ball team, he gets to wear a Yankees jersey, but MLS does not allow the use of their teams’ names and uniforms. Not unrelated, but if your son wanted to grab a jersey of an MLS guy, what’s the difference between him doing that and grabbing, for instance, an Henry jersey for Arsenal? Or you want it to be MLS?
Eric Wynalda: No, Rapids, Revolution, it has to be MLS. It’s branding. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way, but if you want to brand yourself, and you want to tell some Dad, who doesn’t know shit, how to teach his son soccer, one of the best ways to tell that kid is through the history of that jersey.
CF: You have an identification with the domestic game, but to me, someone who really appreciates the game, the English Premier League is……..
Eric Wynalda: What? Why is EPL better? It’s not even the best soccer. Why is it the best soccer? It is the most entertaining. It is the worst defenders. They are all fired up. They are going to dive in. Why do you think I tried my hardest to get in there. Why is it so ********ing exciting? Because it is 50 degrees and you can run all day.
CF: I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I don’t think anyone in the United States wants to see the MLS fail. To me, what is so wrong with the MLS being on a level similar to the Coca-Cola Championship League (which is the team just below the Premiership in England)?
Eric Wynalda: It [MLS] is a feeder league! It’s a ********ing feeder league! And that is not so bad.
When the 2002 World Cup was over, what did they do? They [MLS] made it a welcoming home party. And you know what it should have been? A going away party. It was right in the middle of our season, and we didn’t get it. So [after the World Cup] DaMarcus Beasley had a $2.8 million offer from Lazio, at the beginning it was $5million, but he hurt his knee. Now a good business man, which is what MLS officials are not, would say “no problem, go.” But they waited, and then waited, and eventually sold him to Eindhoven for $1.2million. They lost $3.8million.
And they have done that over and over because Mark Abbott wrote this business plan. This thing starts in April and finishes in November. That was his business plan because he figured that was the best time to have the season. This is a non-soccer guy thinking like a business man.
CF: How about FIFA saying that is the schedule they should go to?
Eric Wynalda: No, that’s bullshit. That was all bullshit. Listen Copa America, European Cup, World Cup, how the ********? How the ******** are you going to be able to do that. You’ll have the English saying, “What the ******** is wrong witcha?!”
CF: Let’s switch gears. My buddy and I are 30+ years old. It seems like a lot of U.S. Soccer, MLS is focused towards kids, families and younger adults. However, globally, who are the people who have the disposable income, who can fly to different places to see their team in the different cups. Do you think domestically there could be a little more focus on getting the people who think baseball, basketball, American football are the “real” sports to come around to soccer?
Eric Wynalda: As complex as everything is, with the entities who own the shop so to speak, at the professional level, their misunderstanding of where there market is, is the issue. Their inability to be businessmen about the business of soccer, not the business of stadiums, not the business of ticket sales, because that is ********ing marketing. Marketing is over here.
If you want to produce soccer, the soccer players, and a product, on the field, the wrong people are in charge. They don’t want to hear that. They are trying really hard to appease the people who need to listen to it, but they don’t know that they don’t know.
I worked for Major League Soccer for four ********ing years. When I was on the air, I was censored. I was fired five times over things that I said that were considered counterproductive to things the league wanted to do. When I said, “Freddy Adu is playing so bad right now, he may really be 14 years old,” that got me fired. I am allowed now to have a big mouth, because the ESPN guys have paid me a lot of money for four years now. I can’t be censored anymore!
CF: Because you call like it is.
Eric Wynalda: But what if 80% of the people don’t know what “it” is?
CF: You were a great soccer player, proved yourself on the soccer field many time. But do you feel like you now have more to prove off the field than you did on?
Eric Wynalda: Yes, 100%. And you know what, they will never let me have that chance. Because I could fix it. I’m not so proud to say that I know everything, but what I am going to say is, know what, those guys in Germany have been doing this for a long time (thank God we partnered with them finally). Why not ask the people who have already gone through all the blood, sweat, and tears that we are shooting ourselves in the face about, and ask them the questions for the answers we don’t know.
CF: Let’s do a quick name association.
CF: Sunil Gulati.
Eric Wynalda: Sunil Gulati is a great businessman and incredibly intelligent professor. He knows soccer backwards and forwards. He knows the business of soccer. The problem is he stopped asking the people who know the answer to the question, those questions. He is relying on the people who will just give us a revolving door of the wrong information.
CF: Bruce Arena.
Bruce Arena is probably one of the best managers of people that I have ever seen. He is a winner through and through. He has proven that with his results.
In and out, the guy is arrogant, he rubs people wrong, he made some bad decisions in 2006, and that guy [Arena] has moved on. He’s going to say, “you know what, I’m going to figure out a way I can do it again, because I know I’m good at this.”
The only thing with Bruce is he thinks he has the answer to a question, but maybe sometimes he doesn’t. Bob [Bradley] is a little bit better at that, where he will rely on people who he knows know the answer to his problem, then solve the problem. Bruce’s answer to the question is to just make the problem go away.
CF: Bob Bradley.
Eric Wynalda: Bob’s a smart guy. Bob is a solver. Bob is a guy who will, in my opinion, not get the job. They will not hire him. When you listen to Sunil Gulati talk in Arizona when he was talking about plans, we learned a couple of things. We learned he has no intention of hiring Bob Bradley. He [Bradley] is the Olympic Coach. The second thing is, he is not going to make a decision until June, which has nothing to do with results, but who he is able to talk to, someone who is currently under contract, so he will be able to talk to him when his European season is over. And we learned that Bob Bradley is the back-up plan behind the back-up plan. He [Sunil] is not going to hire an American. If he was going to ********ing hire an American, he would have done it already.
CF: Juergen Klinsmann
Eric Wynalda: Look, I’m the first one to say this, he’s not a good guy. He is not a good guy. His intentions and his agenda need to be seriously taken into consideration. In my eyes, I’m American, I want Bob Bradley to have the job for those reasons, and those reasons solely. He does not have an agenda, he has the best interest of our team in mind. Juergen Klinsmann does not.
CF: Landon Donovan.
Eric Wynalda: I don’t know if getting married is going to help him, but he has already been in a situation where I think a lot of the decisions he has been making have been about his personal life, about being happy, about being where he needs to be. He needs to make the decision whether he is going to be a guy playing soccer, or a soccer player. I want him to be a soccer player, because I know how good he is. And I want him to challenge himself, because there is nothing, in this country, that is going to challenge Landon Donovan any more.
CF: If you could pick one name, besides yourself, who is going to be a big influence on soccer in the U.S., who would that be?
Eric Wynlada: I hope, I hope, it is ESPN. ESPN has the power, they are pulling the strings, they have the influence now to say, “You want to market this thing, let’s market this thing.”
You will never get a guy, in me, who is more of a believer in the American player. Jim Rome can suck my dick! And he should be very afraid, because I’m the kind of guy, if I get too many drinks in me, I will club his ass. I’ve been on with Jim Rome, and I said, “Let me get this straight, you’re more impressed with water polo???”
Where is the avenue that the real soccer people can [gravitate towards]? Where is it? You and others are sick and ********ing tired of being told we are a sleeping giant. We can kick everybody’s ass, if we figure it out.
It’s guys like you and your buddies who are the real American soccer. I play in an over-30 league and say my name is Derek. Why? Because I enjoy playing.
Alright, let’s go take a piss and get another beer.
CF: [I couldn’t agree more.]