Friday, October 23, 2009

ATH: Some US History

Twenty Years Ago
By Clemente Lisi, US National Team Players Association

- NEW YORK, NY (Oct 23, 2009) USSoccerPlayers -- It was twenty years ago next month that a young US team traveled to Trinidad & Tobago and earned an improbable berth to the 1990 World Cup. Twenty years later, winning that game is considered the starting point for the new era of American soccer.

After reaching Italia '90, the US successfully hosted the 1994 World Cup (where the team reached the round of 16) and a pro league, Major League Soccer, was launched two years later. Since then, the US has qualified for another four straight World Cup finals and was just 45 minutes away this past June from stunning Brazil and winning the Confederations Cup.

Indeed, Paul Caligiuri’s goal – later dubbed “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World – helped forever change the sports landscape in this country for soccer. Since the USA’s 1-0 win over T&T on November 19, 1989, that generation of players have moved into retirement. Many of them continue to build the game.
Paul Krumpe, a midfielder who started for Bob Gansler’s side that day, has been head coach of the men’s team at Loyola Marymount University for the past 12 years. Over that time, Krumpe hasn’t just been a successful coach, but has groomed a new generation of players to enter the pro ranks.

“I feel this group in 1990 was at the start of burgeoning mushroom of soccer players in America,” said Krumpe. “I had only played for one coach prior to college who had played the game of soccer before and I think that was true of most of the US players at that time.

“Now, there are very few players who reach a Division I college program who have not played club soccer and even high school soccer for years for coaches who have played the game at a very high level. It was simply a matter of time before the US exploded on the international scene. MLS has certainly been the main catalyst in that regard."

Seven players Krumpe has coached have gone on to play for Major League Soccer clubs. Among the most notable are Arturo Torres (Los Angeles Galaxy), Andres Murriagui (Columbus Crew) and Kevin Novak (Real Salt Lake).

Other members of that 1989 team have moved on to the upper echelons of the game. Former defender John Doyle currently serves as general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes, striker Peter Vermes is the interim coach of the Kansas City Wizards, and defender Brian Bliss is the technical director for the Columbus Crew. Others, like midfielder John Harkes, have gone into broadcasting. Harkes is a regular during US National Team broadcasts on ESPN.

Forward Bruce Murray served as an assistant coach at Harvard for two seasons starting in 2004. He now works as a director at the North Carolina-based Capital Area Soccer Club, running youth leagues and camps.

“I am involved in the game because I love the game,” said Murray, who scored 21 goals in 86 games for the United States. “I miss the team environment the most.”

Murray said the 1989 team “put the US on the soccer map.”

“Qualifying is hard business and the fact that we would be an automatic qualifier for 1994 made it imperative that we get a World Cup under our belts before 1994 here in the States,” he said. “The US team did well in 1994 and most of the key guys were veterans of 1990. To emphasize my point: Where is Trinidad and Tobago today?”

Unlike today’s team loaded with pros playing both at home and abroad, the players at the time were mostly college kids and semi-professionals. Most of that experience came through playing in recreational leagues or the indoor MISL. For that generation, the North American Soccer League was already a distant memory.

The squad featured future stars Tony Meola (who played until 2007 for the New Jersey Ironmen in the MISL) and Tab Ramos (who currently runs his own soccer camps in New Jersey). The only full-time professional was Caligiuri, who played with West German club SV Meppen.

There’s no doubt that a lot has changed since 1989. The US is the equal of Mexico in CONCACAF, and beat their rivals in the knockout stage of the 2002 World Cup. Next summer, a far more experienced US team will want to use the World Cup to show everyone how far the program has come over the past two decades.

“I still think we would become a competitive soccer country without qualifying in 1990, but we would certainly be behind where we are now,” said Krumpe, who scored one goal and earned 25 caps for the US.

He said it was “simply a matter of time before the US exploded on the international scene. MLS has certainly been the main catalyst in that regard.”

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