The day started off pretty normal until I looked at the messages on my phone and saw an unfamiliar name. I had sent a message to a person that I figured was a long shot to interview but what the heck, right? Low and behold, my message was answered unexpectedly; a jolt of excitement ran through me. As I was typing a reply back to this unfamiliar name, I caught myself reminiscing about watching him play soccer on TV. That was back when soccer wasn’t taken seriously in America, which was not too long ago it seems.
That unfamiliar name, Joe-Max Moore, is now an acquaintance. As I took my lunch break, I sat in the car interviewing Joe-Max on a not so cool day (99 degrees) in Dallas, TX. It was definitely worth it – it’s not every day you get to interview a Hall of Fame soccer player. Joe-Max Moore seemed excited to be answering questions and talking about his playing days. Moore’s contribution to soccer in America was huge; the impact of the way he played the game is still being felt today.
Â Joe-Max Moore was elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame on April 4, 2013 (will be inducted on Oct. 11, 2013). He was deeply honored to be inducted. As we began to really talk, he explained how being in the Hall of Fame is the highest accomplishment for a soccer player. We also spoke about his time playing in Germany (the first real professional atmosphere), and whether there are any differences in the game these days.
Joe-Max explained that, along with not being able to speak German, the public pressure on the club to be successful was a huge adjustment after playing in the USA:
When you walk down the street there, fans will tell you that the team needs to pick up their play.
Joe-Max Moore played in Germany for 2nd Division teams FC Saarbrucken (1994-1995) and FC Nuremberg (1995-1996). He scored 21 goals in 52 total appearances.
When Major League Soccer was formed, Joe-Max Moore was allocated to the New England Revolution on July 24, 1996. Joe-Max played with New England from 1996 to 1999; he scored 49 goals in 90 appearances. Moore explained that it was his work ethic that kept him driving hard to achieve as much as he possibly could as a soccer player. Moore eventually became New England’s all-time leading scoring, and he made the MLS All Star team in 1999. In October 1999, Joe-Max Moore went on a 7 day tryout with the English Premier League team Everton. He impressed the staff so much that they bought Moore’s contract from the MLS for $50,000.
Joe-Max Moore really dug deep in the memory bank with his time at Everton, calling it “the highlight”Â of his career. Joe-Max seemed to have a special place in his heart for his time at Everton. You have to remember that American players still were few and far between in the English Premier League. American soccer during Moore’s era wasn’t considered up to par with the rest of the world. At the end of his three-year contract with Everton, he came back to the MLS with the Revolution and eventually retired in 2005
After talking about his time with different club teams, we then started moving towards International soccer. Mainly discussing his time with the U.S. Mens National Team and playing with some of Americas greatest pioneers the game has ever seen. Joe-Max Moore’s first appearance with the USMNT first team was against Canada in 1992. Moore eventually ended up on the 94, 98, and 02 World Cup teams and became the 6th player to earn 100 caps with the national team. Joe-Max Moore recalled his days with the national team and explained the differences from then to now.
“My honest opinion is that the 98 and 02 World Cup teams could not compete in today’s soccer. The one thing that the National Team has today is a lot of depth. It blows me away how much depth we have now.”
This caught me by surprise because I haven’t really heard anyone give that kind of opinion on the subject. I’ve heard Alexi Lalas, Kasey Keller, Brian McBride, and Taylor Twellman all speak about how the National Team’s level of soccer has definitely grown, but never have I heard them compare the old school teams (98 and 02 teams) to nowadays. You always hear how the Dallas Cowboys or the Los Angeles Lakers just aren’t what they use to be, and how the 94 basketball “Dream Team” would completely dominate the All-Stars of today. Soccer is just a different beast of its own, a sport that stands alone, and a sport that brings unity between countries.
We got onto the topic of how he felt about USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s process of how he has been selecting players:
“I think it’s excellent, he’s staying committed.
Joe-Max then explained how even through the whole drama that happened before the second round of qualifiers, Jurgen stuck to his guns and challenged the National Team players to play better and rise above the ‘talk’. As Jurgen continues to select player from overseas that many American supporters have never heard of, Joe shed some light on the subject.
“Even when I played it was always about putting the best team on the field.”
In general, Joe-Max Moore is confident that the USMNT is being led in the right direction and at good speed.
Based on the sincerity and tone in his voice over the phone, the topic of American soccer still touches Joe-Max Moore in a special way. He mentioned how he felt after the 2002 World Cup, how it felt that American fans finally stood behind their team. With players like Jeff Agoos, Claudio Reyne, Tab Ramos, Brad Freidel, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, and newcomers Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley, American soccer had finally made a name for itself. The pioneers of American soccer are greatly appreciated and this article is for you. You deserve to be recognized and thanked for all the things you’ve done for the game in America. Joe-Max Moore is a one of a kind of player and person. Joe-Max Moore continues to be an ambassador for the game of soccer, and a testament to what is possible.
I’ll leave off with something simple, something that you can let your imagination run with. As a kid, as a soccer player, as a soccer fan I dreamt of playing professional soccer. I would be at practice showing off moves I saw Donovan or McBride doing on TV. Trying over and over again to get it just right in hopes of schoolingÂ my teammates and opponents. When messing around with a soccer ball, pretending to be Alexi Lalas or Joe-Max Moore fooling their opponents or scoring like they do. So, my question to you is: Who was your favorite player to pretend to be? Remember, you’re never too old to pretend.