USA vs. Argentina: Q&A with Former U.S. National Team Goalkeeper Tony Meola

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IMarch 25, 2011

CARSON, CA - APRIL 29:  Goalkeeper Tony Meola #1 of the New York Red Bulls makes a save in the first half against Chivas USA during their MLS game at Home Depot Center on April 29, 2006 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Bleacher Report’s Jo-Ryan Salazar talked with Tony Meola ahead of the USA’s international friendly with Argentina on March 26.

Q: Give us your take on the state of soccer in the USA. How has it improved since you hung up your cleats?

A: Well, it’s only a couple of years ago, but over the course of a 20-year career, it has grown in leaps and bounds. And I can say the biggest improvement was on the player pool side, the number of players on our national team our coaches were able to choose from. And that was never…that wasn’t always the case.

[Current U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach] Bob Bradley has the nice luxury [of being able] to choose from…I gotta think it has to be 70 or 80 players for the team, where other [former] national team coaches like [current Los Angeles Galaxy manager] Bruce Arena had a list of guys prior to Major League Soccer and players having a home where they can build on, and mold, their skills on a daily basis.

The other coaches didn’t have that chance, and certainly, the players relished that opportunity to give them a platform [to showcase their] wares every week. Some guys have come out of Major League Soccer that we would have not known about otherwise.

Q: Tony, recently you’ve done some work with Allstate. Tell us what that’s all about.

A: Well, I’ve been partnered with Allstate since its inception, and what we’re doing is a series of events around the U.S. national team games, Major League Soccer games and Women’s Professional Soccer games. We’re kicking it off at the Meadowlands here in New Jersey with the USA vs. Argentina.

Q: So basically you are covering all the bases with your work.

A: Yeah, we’re gonna try to get all the entities, you know, some of the events here. We’re pretty excited about tonight. It’s a special one for me, given that I’m from New Jersey. We’re gonna surprise a team at their training tonight, and what that team doesn’t know is that I’m heading there, but Allstate is kind enough to [provide] home and away uniforms for players and the coaching staff. So we’re pretty excited about that.

Then tomorrow, we’re going to be at the Allstate Fan Zone, which is located at the stadium, to meet and greet some fans. We’re going to have a raffle there, where people prior to the game will sign up for the raffle. We’re going to give them a private tour of the stadium.

It’s going to be a couple of great events for the fans, and this is part of Allstate giving back to the community. It’s exciting.

Q: Tony, there are many great goalkeepers plying their trade in Europe, in South America and elsewhere. Who are your top five goalkeepers in the world, at this moment, right now, and why?

A: I think…it’s kind of hard to say, but [Chelsea’s] Petr Cech right now is sort of [one of my top five], even though he’s probably a little older, got a couple of years left. He’s at the top of his game right now, and I still think [Aston Villa goalkeeper] Brad Friedel and [Everton’s] Tim Howard do a great job and are as good as any of the goalkeepers in the [Premier] League. I also look over Italy, and Gianluigi Buffon has been doing it after so many years, guys like that.

I think the one thing that I look for with goalkeepers is longevity: Guys who do it over and over for a long period of time, and I think that those many years [of experience] are marks of great goalkeepers. The guys that have a great game, a great month or a great year…there’s a reason these guys stick around for so long: They are great.

And I just saw another good German goalkeeper just re-signed at Arsenal today [in] Jens Lehmann. He just came out of retirement at age 42 and he had a great career there. I’m not sure how it will go [for him], but currently he looks like he’s going to give it another run.

But you have to keep yourself in shape, give yourself an opportunity and of course, a colleague of mine who I have great respect for and enjoy watching and enjoy being with as a teammate is [Seattle Sounders goalkeeper] Kasey Keller and all the things that he’s done. So we’ve been lucky here. Around the world, those are some of the guys I look at.

Q: Finally, what are your thoughts on the game? What's your prediction on the outcome, and if you were still suiting up, what would you say to the players as they take on one of the best teams in the world in Argentina?

A: Well, I look at it at a game like this and I don’t think this is a great game for goalkeepers, and I’ll tell you why. We have two teams [in the USA and Argentina with] world-class players who can play and there’s nothing, there’s no recourse, for getting after each other. It doesn’t matter, you’re not getting knocked out of a tournament, so I think this is going to be a wide-open game.

I think it’s going to be end-to-end, guys will get at each other, run at each other, they will attack, and from the league’s standpoint it’s not the best type of game to play in. But you look at the timing. Both teams should be prepared. The guys that are in Europe obviously are, with the way of their season, if not more, while the MLS guys are just coming off preseason, so they should be as sharp as anybody. They may need a little bit more [work] with the schedule and all, but for the most part I think it’s gonna be a wide-open game.

Q: If you were to give a scoreline, what would it be?

A: Well, I gave every other contest 2-1 USA, so I’m going to give the same thing here.

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