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The 25th anniversary of one of the greatest soccer goals in U.S. men’s national team history — a 28-yard free kick by Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda that gave the Americans a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their first World Cup game in 34 years — was Tuesday.
Some background about the 1994 goal from the man who scored it:
Loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium – man I’m old https://t.co/uP6RxQIFkG
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— Eric Wynalda (@EricWynalda) June 18, 2019
■ Wynalda was feeling fatigued when he lined up the memorable boot at a steamy Pontiac Silverdome in front of 73,425 anxious spectators. Blame it on O.J. and his pal Al Cowlings. “The whole O.J. Simpson thing (slow speed car chase) was the night before, so none us got a whole lot of sleep.”
■ Did the shot tick the crossbar? A $1,000 bet in Germany was riding on the sketchy evidence: “Two of my German friends — one was a teammate, one was a guy I played against — made a $1,000 bet that I would hit the crossbar, because the last three free kicks I took in Germany, I hit the bar. If you watch the video, it’s really hard to tell. But it did hit the crossbar.”
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■ Wynalda wasn’t supposed to take the shot: “Two days before the game, (free kick specialist) Claudio Reyna popped his hamstring in practice, (and then) they went from Gatorade to Powerade (sports drink) and they didn’t tell us. I cannot drink Powerade because of synthetic dye or whatever, and I drank two bottles of it. I had hives over my entire body, and then it was intensified by the heat in the Silverdome.”
But he played anyway. And then Eric Wynalda scored one of the most dramatic goals in domestic soccer history. On its 25th anniversary, he received dozens of congratulatory messages. One was from the famous Argentine broadcaster Andres Cantor:
Playing Cuba is always an odd proposition for the US, given the nature of the diplomatic issues between the two countries for the last 50 years. The US did play what amounted to a goodwill friendly in Havana back in 2016 (in a stadium that had no running water). Frequently, when Cuba plays against the US in the US, a number of players tend to defect and seek asylum in this country. While in the commentary booth for FOX during a game against Cuba at the 2013 Gold Cup, Eric Wynalda told a story about how when he played several Cuban players came up to him to ask how they could go about becoming US citizens. On the purely soccer side of things, Cuba is playing rather poorly. They looked halfway decent in the second part of 2018 as they posted four straight wins to close the year, three of which were in Nations League Qualifying. However, in 2019 they are winless and have lost six straight games.
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They didn’t score a single goal at the Gold Cup as they lost all three games: 7-0 against Mexico, 3-0 against Martinique, and 7-0 against Canada. So far in this current round of Nations League games they’ve been swept by Canada. They lost 6-0 in Toronto and then fell 1-0 in the return leg (that was played in George Town in the Cayman Islands). When it comes to roster makeup, Cuba is typically a homogenous team with all players based in Cuba and the manger being Cuban as well. Not the case in 2019. They are managed by an Italian named Lorenzo Membrini and have several players playing abroad: Aricheel Hernandez of Independiente in Panama, Yosel Piedra of USAC in Guatemala, and Luis Paradela of Reno 1868 right here in the US.
“People have told me when they ripped down the Silverdome, they went back and tried to get the seat they sat in,” the Lights coach said. “It was pretty cool. Everybody who was a part of that remembers it in their own way.”
Lost in the fire
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Wynalda’s goal was nearly as memorable as the jerseys he and the U.S. wore that day — lurid denim blue and festooned with stars in no discernible pattern. They were to soccer kits what multicolored Houston Astros stripes were to baseball uniforms during the Nolan Ryan era.
Still, that No. 11 shirt was one of Wynalda’s most treasured keepsakes — until it went up in flames along with the rest of his home during last summer’s deadly California wildfires.
The Lights on July 4 will don jerseys inspired by the ones Wynalda and his teammates wore against Switzerland in 1994. Fans will be able to purchase the souvenir jersey, along with a midfield ticket at Cashman Field for the game against LA Galaxy II, for $94.
On July 4th we’re wearing these jerseys to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the legendary U.S.A. “denim” kit worn by our own @EricWynalda.
For $94 you get a jersey + a midfield lower ticket to our 4th of July game
Visit https://t.co/hdeX8pKOo3 or text USA to 702-728-4625 pic.twitter.com/glwaLBAsCs
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— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) June 19, 2019
Cool statistic that didn’t make the cut in last week’s Father’s Day edition notes: Prince Fielder and his dad, Cecil, each finished their major league careers with 319 home runs.
Cecil Fielder once envisioned a college career at UNLV. He spent a fall semester at the school, but clashed with Rebels coach Fred Dallimore over his weight and other matters.