Women’s Euro’s Quarter Finals Wrap Up Sat– Semi’s Next Tues/Wed 3 pm ESPN2
The Women’s Euro’s have been great – with this spectacular comeback at home by England who needed 83rd minute and ET goals to secure victory over a Spain team that had dominated them in the first 60 minutes or so. The Quarterfinals wrap up Saturday with the Semi’s Tuesday and Wednesday at 3 pm.
Sweden Win over Belgium (highlights)
Great GK Saves in Euros (see this in more below in GK section)
BRACKET – SEMIFINALS
Tuesday, July 26
SF1 – Sweden vs. England – (Sheffield) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Wednesday, July 27
SF2 – France vs. Germany – (Milton Keynes) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
BRACKET – FINAL
Sunday, July 31
Winners of SF1 vs. Winners of SF2 – (Wembley Stadium) – midday ET, ESPN
USA Ladies beat Canada 1-0 to Win the CONCACAF W and gain Olympic Birth
Unlike in just about every game the US has played in this tourney the US Ladies did look good – heck they looked Dominant in the first 20 minutes shooting like 5 or 6 times – blasting poor Canadian GK Sinclair. The Cannucks did adjust and looked dangerous for the rest of the half as they made continued runs down the left wing. The US completely took over in the 2nd half as they had 15 shots on goal overall including this by Smith – finally winning it on a PK by Alex Morgan vs her teammate GK Christine Sinclair after Rose Lavelle was taken down in the box on an interesting call (refs what do you think see links below)? Here are celebration videos Long Highlights – US Win Over Canada
USMNT coach Greg Berhalter on Fox Sports with Colin Coward. In other news GK Zach Steffan has completed his loan move from Man City to Middlesborough in the Championship (2nd division). Also Chris Richards has moved to Crystal Palace from Bayern Munich. I was hoping he would land at Leeds United States of America – but oh well.
So the MLS is sitting tall after huge wins by Charlotte over Chelsea 2-1 shootout win, and Minnesota United 4-0 over Everton. Of interest this weekend a # of European teams are in the US on their summer tours – one of the more intriguing is Sat night on ESPN as Bayern Munich faces Man City at Lambeau Field 6:30 pm. That might be worth the tune in – at the same Time Chelsea Pulisic are playing Arsenal and Turner – but somehow that only garners us ESPN+ at 7:30 pm (I’m not going to pretend I understand their logic sometime.) Of course Bayern will not have leading scorer Lewondowski as his transfer request to Barcelona has been completed and he is expected to suit up Sat vs Real Madrid in El Classico in Las Vegas Sat night 11 pm on Fox Sports 2.
Indiana’s Team returns home next weekend for the first of three consecutive Saturday contests at IUPUI Carroll Stadium, starting against a surging Memphis 901 FC side. Fans can secure tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff on “International Night at The Mike” starting at just $15 online at indyeleven.com/tickets or over the phone at 317-685-1100; more details on the Eleven’s promotional nights through the rest of the season can be found at indyeleven.com/promotions. Indy Eleven’s recent attacking woes continued tonight in the Garden State, as New York Red Bulls II sent the Boys in Blue to their fourth consecutive 1-0 defeat at MSU Soccer Park. Despite a season-high seven saves by goalkeeper Tim Trilk, Indiana’s Team fell to a sixth straight loss with the narrow result. Former Indy 11, Carmel United, Carmel High GK Eric Dick playing for Minn United in their 4-0 win over Everton. Be sure vote for Carmel High at Butler’s own Katie Soderstrom for Indy 11 – VOTE: SODERSTROM UP FOR W LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR.
Calling all 7 & 8th Grade & High School Soccer Rec Players in Carmel!
Some of you have registered already but there are still many slow to sign up and teams are now in process at Dads Club. Tell your friends to get moving so they don’t miss a chance to play this fall. Space is limited and we cannot add more teams beyond what we have planned for. Sign up now-High School league has no late fees! www.carmeldadsclub.org 317-846-1663
BIG GAMES ON TV
Sat, July 23
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup France vs Netherlands
6:30 pm ESPN Bayern Munich vs Man City (Lambeau)
7 pm ESPN+, TV23 Indy 11 vs Memphis 901
8 pm ESPN + Arsenal (Turner) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
8:30 pm ABC Houston Dynamo vs Minn United
10 pm ESPN+ Seattle vs Colorado
11 pm Fox Sport 2 Barcelona vs Real Madrid – El Classico
Sun, July 24
7:30 am ESPN3 US Youth Championship U19 Boys
10 am ESPN3 US Youth Championship U19 Girls
9:30 pm FS1 Atlanta united vs LA Galaxy
Mon, July 25
8 pm FS1 Copa America Semi 1 Colombia vs Argentina
Tue, July 26
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup Semi 1 Sweden vs. England
8 pm FS1 Copa America Brazil vs Paraguay
Wed, July 27
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup Semi 2 France vs. Germany
Fri, July 29
8 pm FS2 Copa America 3rd
11 pm FS1 LAFC vs Seattle Sounders
Sat, July 30
12 noon ESPN+ Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield
2:30 pm ESPN+ RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich Supercup
3 pm ABC Minn United vs Portland Timbers
8 pm ESPN+ Cincy v Inter Miami
9 pm ESPN+ LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)
Sun, July 31
12 noon ESPN Euro Women’s Cup FINAL
5 pm ESPN+ DC united vs Orlando City
8 pm FS2 Santos Laguna vs Atlas
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Charlotte Beats Chelsea 1-1 on Pks
Frank Lampard after Minnesota meltdown: Everton gets relegation warning
Debut goals for Mane, De Ligt as Bayern thump Rooney’s D.C. United
Jesus strikes early in Arsenal’s 2-0 friendly win over Everton
LAFC defeats Nashville, moves back to top of MLS standings in Gareth Bale’s debut
Apple’s MLS Deal Shows It Wants to Distribute Rights, Not Buy Them
U.S. women’s national soccer team on way to 2024 Paris Olympics after beating Canada for Concacaf championship title
USWNT edges Canada in CONCACAF W Championship final to earn Olympic Birth – LA Times
USWNT qualifies for 2024 Olympics, defeats Canada in Concacaf W Championship final
Women’s Soccer Euro’s
BRACKET – QUARTERFINALS
Wednesday, July 20
QF1 – England vs. Spain – (Brighton) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Thursday, July 21
QF2 – Germany vs. Austria (Brentford) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Friday, July 22
QF3 – Sweden vs. Runners-up of Group D – (Leigh) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Saturday, July 23
QF4 – France vs. Netherlands – (Rotherham) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Sam Kerr and Kylian Mbappé star as FIFA 23’s cover athletes
Ibrahimovic, 40, extends stay with Italian champions AC Milan
Lewandowski will bring ‘winning mentality’ to Barca: Christensen
Skocic reinstated as Iran coach six days after sacking
REFFING This Crazy Game
We are planning to go see former CFC GK Coach Jordan Farr as his San Antonio comes to town Sat, Aug 27th 7 pm to play Indy 11 – reach-out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join us.
|Morgan’s 78th-minute penalty gives U.S. a 1-0 win over Canada in the CONCACAF W Championship final||Grant Wahl Jul 19|
The USWNT beat Canada 1-0 on a 78th-minute penalty by Alex Morgan to win the CONCACAF W Championship and earn the U.S. an automatic berth in the 2024 Olympics. (Canada will meet Jamaica in a playoff for the other CONCACAF Olympic spot.) The U.S. win avenged last year’s 1-0 Olympic semifinal loss to the Canadians. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• Morgan came up big in the game’s deciding moment. Morgan delivered a terrific spot kick past her San Diego Wave club teammate, Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, to put the U.S. ahead on the only goal either team has conceded in the entire tournament. But that wasn’t Morgan’s only part in the penalty sequence. It was Morgan whose weighted pass put Rose Lavelle free in the box, where she was clipped by Allysha Chapman and fell to the turf. Morgan was sharp in this game from the start and should have had an assist a few minutes earlier in the second half when her ace through-ball found Sophia Smith, who somehow managed to shoot wide on an open Canadian goal. For Morgan, this game was personal. She was one of the few U.S. players on this team who had been on the field during Canada’s win over the U.S. during the Olympics. That loss had been crushing. And while this occasion wasn’t as big as that one, it still is an important win for the U.S. to reestablish control of CONCACAF after Canada’s gold medal last year.
• Vlatko Andonovski got a big win here too. If the U.S. had lost this game, Andonovski would have kept his job, but he most certainly would have been on the hot seat after two straight important losses to the Canadians. But the truth is this was the U.S.’s best performance of the tournament by far, and Andonovski deserves some credit for that. The U.S. came out on a mission and probably should have scored in the opening 15 minutes given the chances the Americans had. But Canada fought back and had its own dangerous attacking moments in the first half, often through Nichelle Prince working against Sofia Huerta. Those Canadian chances diminished in the second half, however, as the U.S. asserted control and deserved the advantage that came its way. Does Andonovski have a lot to figure out in the next year before the World Cup? Sure. A lot of that has to do with the return of some important players, including Catarina Macario, Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Tierna Davidson and perhaps others. But beating Canada with a solid performance in a final is Andonovski’s biggest moment since taking the job.
• Work needs to be done over the next year. If the U.S. is going to win a third straight World Cup, there are several areas that need to be worked on. There needs to be more willingness in the attack to take defenders on 1v1 and less settling for lumping aimless crosses into the box. The central midfield needs to find more creativity than we saw in this tournament, and a Mewis or Ertz type (even if it’s Mewis or Ertz herself) needs to reestablish control as a defensive mid. (Andi Sullivan just didn’t bring enough this tournament.) Mal Pugh and Smith are phenomenal wingers but need to get more clinical in the moments that count the most. Is Naomi Girma a starting centerback next year? I think so. But there’s a lot of talent in the U.S. pool as well, and it’s certainly possible that a third straight World Cup run can be made.
Predicting the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup squad, one year out
By Meg Linehan
Jul 21, 2022
The USWNT flew home from Monterrey with the newest trophy to add to the cabinet, but only after forward Alex Morgan discovered the CONCACAF W Championship cup fit roughly 20 margaritas.
The team did the double on the qualification front, picking up their spots for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics in their perfect run through the tournament, outscoring their opponents 13 to zero.
Now, 364 days remain until next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand (though no repeat of the heat wave in France, it’ll be winter in the host nations). The work for U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski had already turned from evaluation to qualification. Now, the switch can be flipped once again, to the final piece: cohesion.
Andonovski and the squad have 13 games between now and their World Cup opener to build the chemistry, address any lingering questions and try to peak at the right time. All the pressure’s on the back-to-back World Cup winners to add a third consecutive trophy, though that’s also nothing new for the USWNT.
While Andonovski was honest in saying the USWNT is not — at this time — ready for the World Cup, the team’s performance in the W Championship final against Canada was a timely reminder of how the U.S. can turn it on against top teams. Take all those narratives about Olympic revenge with a grain of salt too, since the roster had a real mix of players who experienced that loss and plenty more who didn’t. The kids are more than okay, and they’re making their case for starting roles next summer.
“It’s very obvious that the team is significantly younger than the previous time we played Canada,” Andonovski said after the match in his press conference. The USWNT made six changes from the starting XI that featured in Tokyo last year, with the additions of Sofia Huerta, Alana Cook, Emily Fox, Andi Sullivan, Mal Pugh and Sophia Smith.
“They’re going to be here for at least three, maybe four, World Cups,” he said about players like Smith (21 years old) and Fox (24), in a delighted tone that perhaps just crossed the line into smugness. “So get used to them.”
There’s still time for potential shake-ups on the World Cup roster, and there’s still time for players to return from injuries (or pregnancies) or make their case for the final 23. While it’s impossible to anticipate every potential twist between now and the FIFA deadline for the World Cup roster, it’s worth taking a look at where things stand right now, and where the biggest question remarks remain for Andonovski.
This intellectual exercise does assume that World Cup rosters will remain at 23 players for 2023, though FIFA expanded the men’s World Cup rosters to 26 for the tournament this fall, due to the strain on players. Considering the recent run of injuries (and, of course, the ongoing pandemic), and an increasing focus on player workload, it’s not impossible that the same change could happen for the women, too.
We’re still a year out, but one outside factor that could play a role here is vaccination status. Currently, Australia has relaxed entry requirements and does not require proof of vaccination, but New Zealand has not.
My picks are italicized, and while they are my picks, they are influenced heavily by a few key moves I think Andonovski will make on the roster.
There are three spots to fill here, and at this point in time it already feels safe to assume that Alyssa Naeher and Casey Murphy have essentially locked up two of them. One of the major subplots of the W Championship was the increase in minutes for Murphy, providing crucial development in a tournament setting; Naeher getting the nod in the final against Canada does point to her still being the trusted No. 1, though.
Aubrey Kingsbury seems to have the inside track on the third spot, but this is absolutely a spot on the roster that could be swayed by NWSL form and previous experience. AD Franch might not want to speak with the media about her USWNT status, but there’s a really good case for her to be part of the World Cup depth chart. Her form in KC has been good, she was on the 2019 roster, and she stepped in after Naeher’s major injury at the 2021 Olympics.
Historically, the goalkeeping selection for the World Cup has been pretty easy to predict, but the current pool is the strongest it’s ever been. Splitting the backup goalkeepers between the promising heir apparent and a more veteran presence feels like the most logical approach, however — despite all the options.
Meg’s picks (3): Naeher, Murphy, Franch
We’re into the territory where it’s hard to pin down what the exact number of players in any positional bucket might end up. In 2015, former USWNT head coach Jill Ellis took eight defenders (four center backs, four outside backs), then she took seven in 2019 (four center backs, three outside backs — though there was more positional flexibility among the group). Andonovski named seven defenders for the W Championship, also a 23-player roster.
Let’s start with the center backs. Right now, it feels like there are five players in the mix for a minimum of three, but more likely four spots — the question there is if Andonovski both selects Emily Sonnett for the roster, and also feels confident enough in her ability to play across the back line.
For outright center backs though, it’s Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Naomi Girma, Abby Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson (currently recovering from an ACL tear). Sauerbrunn will be 38 years old by the start of next year’s tournament, but she’s also the team’s captain and was just named to the best XI of the W Championship. Cook feels like a lock already, not just because she’s been a consistent call-up since Andonovski took over, but she’s an option for the starting XI in 2023 based on her NT minutes and NWSL form. As of this moment, Dahlkemper feels like she might be at the bottom of the depth chart between the five, though future rosters for friendlies might not be instructive until Davidson returns to determine if that’s right.
Girma is the youngest option, but she’s got a full year to show why she should be making the trip. She was a stand-out in the minutes she got in Monterrey, making the tournament best XI despite not playing every match, plus she’s a leading contender for the NWSL rookie of the year award. She’s made the transition to the pros and international level look easy so far; it’s not hard to imagine her in the final 23.
For outside backs, right now there are two potential head-to-heads for starts on the two wings. Emily Fox has seamlessly stepped in on the left, but Crystal Dunn is nearing her return after giving birth (Dunn also offers versatility in the midfield, of course). On the right, there’s Kelley O’Hara and Sofia Huerta. Sonnett provides potential options on a wing or as a center back. There are other candidates here, as well: Carson Pickett earned her first call-up as part of the June friendlies, Imani Dorsey’s had some looks and Casey Krueger could also make her return after having her child.
No matter what, there’s a difficult decision ahead for Andonovski. Seven or eight? Four centerbacks, four outside backs? Do you opt for versatility with Sonnett or just go directly for two left backs and two right backs?
Meg’s picks (8): Sauerbrunn, Cook, Davidson, Girma, Fox, Dunn, O’Hara, Huerta
In 2015, the USWNT took seven midfielders, four years later they took six. There are currently three players who are very easy to predict, as it would be shocking if the starting midfield in 2023 isn’t Rose Lavelle as the No. 10, Lindsey Horan as the No. 8, and Andi Sullivan as the No. 6.
But, once again, there’s a lot of depth and players who are currently absent. Sam Mewis has missed a huge amount of 2022 to injury. Julie Ertz certainly looked like she not only found the extreme limit of player workload during the 2021 Olympics, but blew past it. She is currently expecting a child, and remains somewhat of an unknown concerning a potential return.
At the W Championship, Andonovski didn’t originally employ a direct approach to having a backup for each role in the midfield, though Sam Coffey was called in and eventually offered depth at the six though she did not make her national team debut. Jaelin Howell also is a contender in that spot, and is likely ahead of Coffey on the depth chart with more call-ups, though she only has five career caps with the USWNT so far (three of them in 2022, with 86 minutes played).
Taylor Kornieck is the newest name to be making a play for a more permanent role on the roster, but Ashley Sanchez is currently the top depth pick at the 10 (bringing both Lavelle and Sanchez in order to play a double 10 to break down a low block feels like a smart call for the group stage). Kristie Mewis offers another attacking midfield option, but the experiment with her at the six was hopefully deemed ill-advised by the USWNT technical staff and will not be repeated.
The midfield depth for 2023 could go in any direction, but it does feel imperative to have an option for a creative playmaker, a traditional box-to-box midfielder and a defensive midfielder. If Sam Mewis can get healthy, it’s going to be really hard to leave her off a roster, but it might mean it’s at the expense of her sister.
Meg’s picks (6): Lavelle, Horan, Sullivan, Sanchez, S. Mewis, Howell
Every single one of these categories has its own challenges, but there’s nothing quite like the fight to make the forward pool of the USWNT right now. Catarina Macario missed out on the W Championship due to her ACL injury, but it’s clear how prominently she features in the future of this team. Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh have been consistently starting, and Alex Morgan just reminded everyone in Monterrey that her NWSL form isn’t a fluke by earning the golden ball as the W Championship’s best player.
In 2015, Ellis only took five forwards, and in 2019 she upped it to seven. There’s a legit case for a dozen different options this time around, so paring it down is really, really tough.
Do you prioritize bringing the youths? Trinity Rodman, Midge Purce and Ashley Hatch have each gotten plenty of minutes this year. The chance feels very remote for a World Cup roster spot, but high schooler (committed to USWNT talent pipeline that is Stanford) Alyssa Thompson made the W Championship provisional roster and is already playing with the U-23 youth national team, and scoring goals there, too.
Do you lean on the vets? Megan Rapinoe has been talked about a lot in terms of her playing time and her role on the team in the twilight of her career. Tobin Heath is easing her way back in with OL Reign, finally making her first appearance for the team, and Christen Press is early into her ACL recovery. Lynn Williams suffered a nasty injury during the first match of this year’s Challenge Cup, but stepped up for the team in Tokyo last year, when called upon.
Here’s the key one where my picks are built around anticipating Andonovski: if Rapinoe is still playing, I think the same decision gets made as the one he made for the W Championship. But four different players could be named to that final spot and I would think the decision is sound and justifiable, with Press, Williams and Purce all being strong picks, too.
I remain glad I’m just writing words on the internet and not actually trying to make these decisions in real life.
Meg’s picks (6): Smith, Macario, Pugh, Morgan, Rodman, Rapinoe
One of the most powerful conversations we’ve had on this site
|Grant Wahl Jul 21|
I love every one of the twice-weekly interviews I do in the soccer world. But some interviews take things to a level we don’t always get to, and that’s what happened this week with Brian Dunseth. I hope you take the time to read this one. It’s powerful.
The entirety of the written interview below is reserved for paid subscribers. As always, you can still get the entire free audio version of my podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you like to go for your pods.
Our guest now is Brian Dunseth. He hosts Counter Attack weekday afternoons on SiriusXM FC, SiriusXM’s 24/7 soccer channel. He’s also a TV analyst for Real Salt Lake, where he lives, and ESPN. Dunny, it’s great to talk to you. Thanks for coming on the show.
Yeah, it’s been a while. Thanks for inviting me. And it’s great to catch up again, man.
Lots to talk about here, because you’re on so many different things. And I guess that’s my first question. How do you keep up with everything that you have to keep up with in the soccer world to talk about it on all your different shows?
“I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of guys of, ‘Hey, have you been seen? Have you really gone and talked to somebody and seen a brain specialist? You know, BU and the CTE studies are doing an incredible job, have you?’ And a lot of guys are like, ‘No, I haven’t. I haven’t.’ And then you get into, ‘How are you numbing yourself? How are you dealing with all of this?’” — Brian Dunseth
Thankfully we’ve been blessed with technology, right? I remember talking back in the day with JP Dellacamera about how he would prepare for calling matches. And he said he would get faxes from team administrators and PR people. And that would be how he got a hold of rosters or how he got a hold of bios.It truly is incredible having been on the broadcast side since I retired back in 2006 to see kind of the evolution of what broadcast looks like and the consumption of television and with social media how that’s taken a big chunk and a big bite out of, I would say, not only the broadcaster’s personality and personal personality, but how we’re finding out news and information. And now that athletes can share their own stories. Or Cristiano Ronaldo can say, “Going back to Sporting Lisbon, fake!”But I’ll tell you what, it’s harder to manage my children’s schedules with dropping off to school, picking up from school, going to soccer, picking up from soccer, trying to figure out what dinner looks like with my wife. But I am extremely fortunate to be in this space, as you know, to carve out a life within the game post-playing career is something pretty rare outside of going into the coaching realm, which was something that I was never interested in. So, here we are, what, 16, 17 years later, still trying to figure out what this space looks like, as it’s ever-evolving.
Well, I enjoy your work and all the different platforms that you do it on. What’s a typical week like for you in your different jobs? How do you hop from one thing to the other?
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Depending on the European season, when European football/soccer kicks off, usually I’m up as early as 5 a.m. depending on the game. Because we’re five days a week on SiriusXM and Channel 157 for Counter Attack, Tony Meola and I are messaging back and forth. He’s the Serie A homer, so I lean on him because he’s AC Milan. And they’ve won the Serie A title, so he’s the happiest kid in the moon right now. But between the Premier League coverage, and you have to keep an eye on all the big teams.You have to keep an eye on Man City and Liverpool. And I’ll include my Manchester United, even though we’re having a few tough years recently. But Chelsea and Tottenham and all, so you have to pay attention to those games because those are the big content drivers for our show, the call-ins that we’re going to get. And then with the Bundesliga on, usually right around the same time, kicking off just a little bit after, I’m bouncing back and forth.Then when my kids’ lives come in, and we’ve got soccer games or things that I have to do, then I’m relying on highlight packages. I’m trying to bounce around to the different networks, the different subscription packages. YouTube is a huge, huge ally in keeping up with the game. But I’ll tell you the hardest is keeping up with all of the MLS games in the evening, because as I’m preparing for whatever broadcast for Real Salt Lake and/or ESPN, there’s so many games, so many teams.And even from last night, I’ve still not caught up outside of our broadcast because Kenny Neal’s fantastic as a producer/director extraordinaire that we’ll roll highlights from Saturday and earlier Sunday games in our Real Salt Lake package. So I’ll get a little bit of a teaser, but this morning, waking up, get the boys ready. And then I’ll pop in front of my computer, start taking notes and try to catch up on as many highlights and games and condensed match highlights that I possibly can.
I always remember, because I did used to do hosting work occasionally for SiriusXM back in the day. And these were call-in shows, and you never knew what some caller might want to talk about. And so I always prepared like crazy on a bunch of different stuff because you can get caught out pretty quickly, and you can’t fake it.
No, no, you can’t. And it’s something that I learned really quickly is, so John Harkes and Tony Meola started Counter Attack. They were the iconic face and duo, and obviously their pedigree and playing pedigree is so well-established and known in the U.S. soccer scene. They were, I always joke with them, the Dick Butkuses of soccer for the United States men’s national team. So when John left and decided that he was going to go back into coaching, Christopher Sullivan, Janusz Michallik and myself were kind of this three-man rotation with Tony Meola. And I realized really quickly that we label a lot of people, especially in the business. We’ll say, “Oh, U.S. international or English international or Premier League winner or Champions League winner.” And there’s a lot of sweat equity that comes along with that.Immediately, you’re like, “Well, he’s played at the highest level. He’s done it. You know this guy knows what he’s talking about.” For someone like myself, I was an MLS guy. I’d bounced around Major League Soccer. I had been with the U.S. under-20s and the Olympic team. And I was fortunate enough to play significant roles in those two underneath Clive Charles. But the national team level, I was only like a camp guy. I was a friendly guy. I never really broke in from that transition of like Carlos Llamosa and Eddie Pope and Gregg Berhalter to Jimmy Conrad and Carlos Bocanegra.And I never really was able to push through that group. So the moment that I got on Sirius, I realized really quickly, number one, Counter Attack is the most difficult show on the channel because it’s everything. It’s not just Premier League-centric, or it’s not just yell about everything on fire. I’m looking at you, Tom Rennie and Grumpy Pundits. Or it’s not just Jason Davis, which is American soccer and the American soccer fan perspective. We’re everything.And I think you and I probably did, I don’t know, five to 10 shows together at Sirius. And you’re right, you get a phone call, and you don’t know where it’s coming. It could be about Atlanta United. It could be about Borussia Dortmund. It could be about AC Milan. It could be about West Ham United, or it could be about the Mexican national team. So you have to be aware. And I realized very quickly that I, like you, talking about getting called out. I had this insecurity of, “I have to prove to the listeners that I’m not just this guy that played at this level. And by the way, I’m American. So do I really know the game?” And “Hey, this is our game. What do you know about it?”I had to be prepared, and I got called out a few times. And I was challenged, and I realized very quickly how all-encompassing this show was going to be. And you had to do the work. And if you’re not prepared, people will call you out because they know their teams so much better than you do. And if you try to fluff it, ooh, nope. You’ll get called out. You’ll get caught. You’ll get caught really, really quick.
It’s fascinating. One positive aspect of that, though, I am convinced, is that in the United States, we have so many fans of different leagues, different countries from around the world. That if you’re in media like you, you do need to be up on a bunch of different leagues. And one thing I’ve found is, and this isn’t the case with everybody in media in England or Germany or Italy or Spain, but in the biggest soccer countries in Europe, they actually don’t pay that much attention to the other big soccer countries’ domestic leagues in Europe.And they get caught out a little bit if they’re doing Champions League stuff. I see this a lot with English broadcasters, where you can tell that they don’t know much about what’s happening on the continent, and everything is about England, or this player who used to play in England. It’s why people in England used to say, “Diego Forlán was not a good player because he wasn’t great at Man United.” And then he won the Pichichi a bunch of times in Spain. But I actually think this is good for American soccer media. Right?
I would agree with you. So at Sirius we do a podcast called Week in The Tackle. Tom Rennie, who’s over at TalkSPORT, does an incredible job. And he lights everything on fire, huge personality, huge West Ham homer, and basically hates anything that is Top 6. And I can remember we were doing previews for the Euros, and it was he and I, and we were previewing stuff. It was really one of the first times we worked together. And we got done. He’s like, “Damn, you know your stuff.” And I was like, “Well, we’re previewing the Euros.” I had to be prepared and like, “I’m paying attention to games.” And I was teasing him because then when we started doing Week in The Tackle, we started delving into or dipping our toes into Major League Soccer.And I get it. Listen, I know from the big talking-point perspective how we categorize what the leagues are and the most important leagues and who wants to pay attention to what. And so for Tom, I started trying to get jerseys for him to buy into MLS teams to pay more attention, but then you have the time change. And the differences, the variables that Europe has to deal with when trying to pay attention to Major League Soccer.And it was always fascinating to me that the conversation was, I was watching all of these other leagues in the mornings and the afternoons, and then still hyper-focused on Major League Soccer. While to your point, you get so engrossed with just the idea, my country, my team, my league. We’ll see what happens if we’re involved in Europe.
So when you have a regular partnership like you have with Tony Meola, how does that relationship develop over the years?
So Tony and I, I look at him as my big brother, man. Grant, I’ve known Tony, obviously, growing up in the U.S. soccer scene. That beautiful head of lettuce and what he did in the ’90 and the ’94 World Cup. And I mean, everyone knew Tony Meola. This was like the iconic putting the stamp on U.S. soccer and soccer in the United States. And for all of us, I think, I was born in 1977, I’m 45 years old, to watch that generation above me, the Harkeses, the Meolas, and Cle Kooiman was my coach in Southern California growing up when I was 12 years old. Alexi Lalas was my first teammate when I turned pro, these were magical moments for me when I was turning pro. So because of Clive Charles and the under-23 role that I had, playing with that team, going to the Olympics, being the captain, in the build-up to the Olympics when Steve Sampson was the head coach, Clive Charles was the assistant.So I was getting called in, or because these camps were in conjunction with one another, alongside one another, when the under-23 camp would end after we’d be scrimmaging and training or whatever with the full team, I would get to stay. I was kind of earmarked to stay and continue to try to develop and learn and see what happened with the first team. And being a central defender, and Tony being a goalkeeper, we had a ton of interaction. But Tony was always fantastic to me, as were all the guys. It was one of those things where, I don’t know, our personalities meshed really well. And then we had a family incident. My little sister in 1997, she was getting off the school bus. The bus driver closed the door on the backpack and drug her down the street.She had a really bad injury. It was a really bad incident. And I had to fly home and handle that. It was right during the MLS playoffs. And Tony had found out, sent me a message, called me. And then literally every time I saw Tony, first thing, “Dunny, how are you? How’s your little sister doing?” And it was always like he personalized that relationship for me. So I always had a special place for him. So then playing against him throughout my MLS career. So when this opportunity started, he and I had this meshed organic relationship, a real friendship before, and then to see the aggressive, loud, boisterous Tony Meola with the big old bear claws, the Wreck-It Ralph, flying all over the place. Then to see him now where he’s more subdued. The competitiveness has been kind of rolled back.Now we just have a blast, man. Every day, whether we’re texting about stuff and Andrew Williams, our producer, we, the three of us, and whether it’s Emmett or Gabe or whoever else is being a part of the show. It’s just a fun, organic kind of environment for us to be kind of locker roomy, like bust chops and have fun and tease and poke. I poke the bear all the time, see what I can get out of him. And then, honestly, one of the things I’m most proud about with our relationship is that we’ve cultivated this environment for the callers and the listeners so we want to act like we’re at the bar, and we’re having a drink. And everyone’s talking about football and soccer, and what happened?And now, honestly, I can go to different cities, and I’ll meet up with listeners from the show because we have created an environment where the listeners, now we will DM or text message or call, and I meet guys face-to-face. And I have great relationships and texting relationships with listeners of the show. And I just think that’s incredible. It’s so much fun to create something so organic just through a relationship of two guys talking about soccer and football.
Yeah. When you start creating a community, it’s a really cool thing. And it sounds like that’s exactly what’s happened there. So before we go any further, I do want to ask you, we are publishing audio and not video here, but you’re in your typical spot that I think viewers and listeners have probably seen before. And behind you there are two framed jerseys from the 2000 Olympics. A tournament I covered in Australia that you got to the semifinals of and played Chile. And that’s Ivan Zamorano’s jersey.
And I assume it’s from that game in the semifinals. Is there a story behind it?
Yeah, so I ended up getting injured. I was captain of the team. I ended up getting injured. I had an adductor injury literally the last training session on my own. It was at the old Foxboro Stadium, stepped into a hole, a sand hole, and strained my adductor. So I didn’t get to play in the beginning of the tournament.
And so finally when I was healthy at the end of the group stage, Clive Charles was like, “Well, my centerback pairing of Danny Califf and Chad McCarty are playing so well right now, I can’t drop them.” So hands up, totally get it. No problem. I knew that heading into the first game and facing Samuel Eto’o, if I turned and tried to run with him and my adductor popped, not only was it probably a goal, but then probably a forced substitution. So I didn’t want to do that. Clive and I went through that whole song and dance about if I should be involved. So I only got to play, Chad got a yellow. He was on yellow card warning. He got a yellow card against Spain. And I remember sitting on the bench going, “I’m going to get to play in the bronze-medal match. This is going to be great.”
That’s right, bronze-medal match.
Yeah. It was the bronze. So it was Bam Bam Zamorano. At the time he was at Inter. He was captain. I was captain. And I’ve got a picture of the group on one side, and I’ve got Bam Bam hugging me. We went up to each other and hugged each other afterwards. I’d ended up hitting the crossbar. And Alexi was actually the analyst with Andrés Cantor, the play by play, doing English, which was the very first time Andrés had done English. And so, after we exchanged jerseys. And so I had my backup Jersey, and then I’ve got his jersey, which I made the mistake of packing in my bag without washing on the way home. So everything was ripe in my bag afterwards, because it was hot down in Australia.
But my neighbor actually across the street, Zack, has a company called the Framing Establishment. So he ended up, he came over one day, and he’s like, “Why do you have all these jerseys in a bucket?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I mean, what do I do with them?” And he took them, and he framed this up. And the only thing I came across was I actually have the captain’s armband just over to my left. And I wish I would’ve included it in the frame, just because I thought it was kind of cool. You can see it off the right shoulder. But Zamorano, man, what a player. His movement off the ball, front shoulder, back shoulder, incredible in the air, left foot, right foot. He was difficult to keep an eye on, or try to, I always say touch-tight, kind of understand where his momentum was at any point.
What a great run that was by that U.S. team.
I have some really good memories of that whole tournament. Some random ones, too. That’s when Alexi actually shaved his beard for the first time, was in Australia doing that. I remember going to Adelaide where I think it was the U.S. advanced against Japan.
Yeah. Yeah. Japan.
And I remember, it was kind of funny. I didn’t understand time zones. It was like a 30-minute time change to go to Adelaide. I was just like, “What kind of weirdness is this?” But looking forward to going to Australia again next year for the women’s World Cup, cool country.
But I want to ask about something a little more serious right now. And when the CTE stories came out recently about the late Scott Vermillion and then Bruce Murray, who thinks he probably has it, you spoke very eloquently about it. And I’m wondering, why do you think it struck such a chord with you?
This one, I was talking to my wife about this, because I’ve had a ton of emotion over this. And when it was the one day that Tony wasn’t on the show, and I was with Matty Lawrence, who played over primarily in the Championship a majority of his career. Was here in the United States for his college education playing D1 soccer, and then currently alongside Glenn Crooks on the NYCFC Radio Call.
And I texted him and Emmett McConnell and I said, “Here’s this New York Times article about Scott Vermillion. I knew Scott. We were kind of in this brotherhood of the Project-40.” For those that don’t understand MLS, Project-40 basically was like the start of early-entry college players into Major League Soccer, and still have the college draft. But these are all seniors. So you’re getting guys that are 21, 22, 23.
And Sunil Gulati and Nike and U.S. Soccer and MLS came together, and they started Project-40, which turned into Generation Adidas, which is now effectively what the homegrown system looks like, bypassing college and going straight to the pros. Well, I was the second guy to sign, and Scotty came through from UVA. Well, UVA was a much, much bigger school than my Cal State Fullerton, I’ve got to admit. So it was easy for me to leave. And you started to see guys like Scott Vermilion, guys like Benny Olsen, guys like Chris Albright. So Scott, he was a competitor, and I played against him in college. And then when we got into the pros, whether it was at Kansas City or it was at Colorado or it was at DC, or we were traveling over in the off-season, people forget, we’d get this Project-40 collective circus together. And we would go to England, or we would go to Portugal or even later they go down to Argentina with kind of the next generation of P-40s that were signing.And so Scott and I, he was a right back or a right centerback. And we just played together, and we worked together. And a lot of us, we lose touch with guys that we play with, right? And it happens. Even you go back, anybody, high school, college, you end up losing touch. But that doesn’t mean that you still don’t have an organic relationship that you can pick up where you left off. And I’d kind of heard about Scott and what was happening in his personal life. And when he passed away, it was kind of in the mix of what was happening with COVID starting up and Christmas Day and all of this.And I knew he had a family, and he had some kids, and I wasn’t aware of what had happened. And I felt horrible. I felt horrible that this had happened. Here’s a guy that I know that played alongside me. And he fell on some hard times. But I didn’t realize the depth of how CTE or concussions were involved. And then when I saw the report come out, it was devastating to me. It was devastating to recognize and to hear and to see that he was the first person that had been postmortem declared that he had CTE, the first [MLS] soccer player.And so I wanted to talk about it because I think there’s a lot of, I’m going to say, us. I’ll do a broad stroke. There’s a lot of us. And this is any sport, but I’m going to keep it for soccer, that really struggled to figure out, when it’s all said and done, “Okay, who are you? Who are you without the game?” For me, I was no longer Brian Dunseth, the soccer player. I wasn’t Dunny, the guy who got to play at the highest level. All of a sudden I was getting married. I was having kids. I was trying to figure out who the hell I was. I made $12,000 the first year after I quote unquote “retired.” Thanks a lot, Alexi, when he was the general manager of Galaxy. And then it was like, “Who am I?” And we got caught in this phase where people were asking, “Oh, what are you up to?”They were interested in your life. But now you were trying to reestablish your identity without the game. And this whole idea of, “Okay, well, I’m struggling. Like, I need help. I need direction.” You find out very quickly as an athlete. And again, a broad stroke, I’ll say athlete, that there’s not a lot of room for you to complain. You have your tight circle, but outside of that people are going to look at you and be like, “Hold it, bro, you made it. You got to play. You got to travel. You got to go to the Olympics. You got to go here. You got to see that. We lived vicariously through you. We’d watch you on television. We were rooting for you, dude. You represented Upland. You represented Fullerton.” And all of a sudden you realize, “Oh, I can’t talk about this. I can’t talk about how hard this is. I got to live this incredibly special life, but now it’s in the past.”
And we’re not doctors, and we’re not lawyers, and our careers, our body, when our bodies give out, we’re done. And it’s usually 30-ish. And then it’s, “Who the hell are you?” So throughout this whole process, you start realizing, and I’ve had conversations with Chad McCarty. I’ll give you the laundry list of guys whose careers have ended because of concussion or head injuries. Chad McCarty, Jimmy Conrad, Alecko Eskandarian, Ike Opara, Sam Cronin, and Chad Marshall, Bryan Namoff, Josh Gross, Ross Paule. These are just off the-top-of-my-head. I started reaching out to these guys and trying to figure out how everyone’s doing. Because there’s so much, I feel like we can talk to ourselves about it because we understand what each other’s going through, but it’s hard for other people to kind of get it and figure it out.So for Scotty, long story short, I started thinking about, “Man, he was in a really bad spot.” And he probably didn’t know what was happening. And he understood he had a brain injury. But whether it was irritability or light sensitivity, or it was depression, or it was high anxiety, or it was something as stupid as not understanding his emotions, the impulse control of what was happening. We don’t talk about dementia or CTE, because we’re such an early phase of sport here in the United States, where you hear it. And you hear about the studies, and you hear about the leather-weighted wet balls over in Europe and specifically in the Premier League in England. So I just, I think about what he was going through and all of those emotions, all, Grant, it unlocked, man, I didn’t expect it.I had pushed everything so far down, bolted it up. “Hey, I can’t feel this. I can’t, because I’ve got kids. I’ve got a family. I’ve got a wife. I’ve got to take care of everybody.” And so I didn’t expect it to happen. And then when Sirius put out the video, all of a sudden it resonated with people. And I got calls from Chris Nowinski at Concussion Legacy Foundation. And let me stop for a second. Taylor Twellman’s done an extraordinary job pushing the envelope for player safety, concussion awareness, and concussion protocol. ThinkTaylor.org, highly suggest anyone who’s paying attention. He took it upon himself. I called that game when he got punched in the face and the goalkeeper broke his hand. And that was one of the last big injuries that he suffered before he was forced to retire.So all of this came together, and now I think talking and then reaching out to so many players that their career was cut short because of injuries. There’s a significant concern amongst us. And a lot of us, including myself, haven’t reached out to healthcare providers, or seen the correct doctors because quite honestly, Grant, I’m scared shitless of what I’m going to find. It’s kind of like, “Don’t ask the questions. You don’t want the answers to.”And I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of guys of, “Hey, have you been seen? Have you really gone and talked to somebody and seen a brain specialist? You know, BU and the CTE studies are doing an incredible job, have you?” And a lot of guys are like, “No, I haven’t. I haven’t.” And then you get into, “How are you numbing yourself? How are you dealing with all of this?” And for me personally, it’s I leaned into alcohol, and kind of … cutting that down a little bit. I’m trying. Not that I can’t function, but just taking that edge off. So … yeah, sorry, man.
It’s been hard, and I’ve been talking to my wife a lot. And I didn’t realize that underneath everything that I’ve kind of built and been told, “Don’t be soft. Be strong.” Then all of a sudden, that box got opened up because of Scotty, because I just think about him being in that room, or him being in that dark place and not having the assets, the mental health or the medical assets that he needed in a time where he was by himself. And talking to other guys, man, I fear for my group and my generation as we continue to learn about CTE. And Bruce [Arena] reached out to me before the story went public a couple of weeks ago and was telling me what was happening. And I was unaware of what was happening, but he decided to share because of when that video went live on Sirius.And I just, I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be an advocate. I’m trying to reach out to as many people as possible. This last week I’ve donated my brain to the CTE study. I’ve signed up for the hits study as well, for people that are over the age of 40 to try to figure out what the impact has been for sport on our brain. And I think about what this legacy, and it is going to be a legacy, unfortunately, it’s going to be a serious legacy in the world of soccer in the United States as we continue to learn more. I fear for the MLSPA. I fear for the league. I fear for ourselves as we in five years time. We, broad stroke. We’re probably about five years behind all the time in terms of medical studies and information. In five years time, how many players are publicly diagnosed with severe brain trauma from our playing career?And to be clear, this isn’t like a singular event. This isn’t MLS’s problem because guys played in MLS, so they get caught holding the bag. It’s from childhood all the way up, and minimizing heading the ball up until you’re 12 is fantastic. I still have issues that we’re not teaching children how then once they become 12 years old to head the ball properly. But for all of these incidents. And I’ve had six.I got a concussion on my MLS debut. I got a concussion my first MLS goal, Rusty Pierce headbutted me in the temple. We still kind of laugh about that. I taste Eggo waffles straight out of the toaster with a little metallic taste. When I know I quote, unquote, “Got my bell rung.” That’s how I justify that something’s wrong. My left eye vision gets a little wonky, gets a little messed up. And so I kind of knew what I was dealing with. But now, as we’re getting older, these conversations, man, Grant, I’ve been reaching out to so many players just checking in on them. And a lot of guys are dealing with some tough stuff right now and trying to figure out what’s the next solution.
Well, first off, I just want to say, thank you for being so heartfelt about this and so open. And it’s a lot. I know it is. And I mean, not many ex-pro athletes are willing to be as vulnerable as you have been on radio and television about this. Why do you think that is?
I think guys are, again, it’s the machismo, right? It’s “You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be tough.” We’ve been taught since we were, well, especially in highly competitive environments. Even going back to club soccer. “You’ve got to grit through it. We need you. You’ve got to play through it.” And the levels ramp up from competitive club soccer to college level. Once you get to the pros, then there’s a dynamic of your self-worth is equitable to your paycheck. And as you get raises, or as you get bigger contracts, that’s how you’re justifying the value of yourself, but also how important you are to your respective club. And guys are deathly afraid of losing that status. First of all, you don’t want to lose your starting spot. You don’t want to lose your role as an impact sub.And, God forbid, you’re injured enough to where the coach or the club doesn’t look at you as, “We can’t trust you. We can’t trust you and your body.” So all of this is ingrained in your mentality. You’re fighting every single day, not only for that position in the team, but you’re fighting for yourself and your value. You’re fighting for your family and your stability. Every time I bought a house in Major League Soccer, I got traded. I got a new contract with Columbus Crew. I’m going to go buy a house. Six months later, traded. I’m coming back from Sweden. I’m signing with Real Salt Lake. I’m going to buy a house. Nine months later, traded. So all of these are like levels of how we look at success.But again, then you’re gone, and there’s a disconnect. It starts with the disconnect from your brotherhood of this team that you’re fighting for. They always say, “Fight for the badge and fight for the name on the jersey on the front, not on the back.” Well, yeah, until they don’t want you anymore. And then there’s no brotherhood. Then you’re just a former player. And then there’s nowhere to turn. There’s a disconnect with those guys. They see what happened to you. And they’re scared to death of knowing, inevitably, that’ll be them at some point. So, “We like you, but man, good luck, bro. We’ll see what happens.”And it happens, that’s a real thing. And so I think for all of us, we lock it up. We put it away. We say, “Man, what an incredible run.” And, “What’s next?” And a lot of us have families and children, and you can’t expose that insecurity and that fear of emotion coming out. And again, I thought I put it away. And I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with Taylor privately talking about and texting him and asking for referral or guidance. Or, “Hey, what’s working for you? This is what I’m dealing with right now.” And first message I got was Taylor, “I’m proud of you.” Because like you said, not a lot of us talk about it. And I think it’s the fear of falling on dead ears. It’s the fear of, “Ugh, there goes Dunny again. Ugh. Talking about his head injuries. Dude, get over it, bro.” For me, that’s what I was extremely fearful about.
It’s great that you’re checking on other people. I hope people are checking on you, too, my friend.
I appreciate you. Thank you.
And I guess one question I would have is what do you want to see happen in terms of protecting players that you’re not seeing right now?
For me, this is something that I’m wrestling with right now because like I said, I want to be an advocate. I want to be an ally. I don’t want to light everything on fire. I don’t want to like cancel everything. And I’m not trying to take the sport into a direction that is unidentifiable. That’s nothing. This is for me as organic to me as a human being as I possibly can, just trying to figure out what the solutions could be. I’m in the midst of just trying to go through different football associations and players associations from not only abroad, but here in the States with different sports in trying to figure out what could be a positive step in the right direction.
And I know from an MLS Players Association, we are still quote, unquote, I would say, in the “infancy.” The infancy of this Players Association, even though it’s grown tremendously since the start of being in a courtroom and watching Sunil Gulati being deposed or testifying as to what’s happening with Major League Soccer. As Semioli and company were trying to start a player’s association. John Kerr Jr., back in the day, for all the MLS After Darkers.I would love to see assets being available to former players. Even something as silly as opt-in healthcare. And I know that’s, I’m saying it’s silly, but for us as players, when you’re done with the team, it’s like, “Thank you very much. Good luck. Appreciate what you’ve done.” And then you’re like, “Until I die,” whatever, there’s a hashtag associated with your goodbye tweet. But the amount of guys that still need some type of therapy or have some type of injury, or that maybe are in a tough place. Are there counselors or therapists available for the transition into that next life? Instead of going to COBRA for $2,500 a month, is there some type of opt-in healthcare program that’ll be available? Because teams have healthcare programs, and could you subsidize some type of opt-in healthcare program?Long-term? I would love to see a pension plan set up from Major League Soccer and the MLSPA and tie it into future earnings, figure it out some way. But even looking at LinkedIn the other day, what Chris Paul and the NBA are doing with the NBA Players Association with ABA players, back in the day, and what they’ve done. And I know the money’s significantly different. And then I don’t expect MLSPA or Major League Soccer to sort out what a player’s life looks like post-playing career with regards to any type of employment, or what they should do. The individual has to figure that out.
But how can we provide, or how can it be provided that there’s guidance, some type of guidance program? So from the healthcare side, the physical side, the mental side, that’s all taken care of. And then creating a continued growth of a network that affords guys maybe a little bit more direction. Just a little bit more direction. Because as the league continues to grow and the teams and the players, and the amount of players retiring and staying in the United States, I can’t see why we can’t start to put the bones together of something that I think is so important. Not only for the real time athletes, but I keep telling those real time athletes, you’re only a couple of seasons or a couple of plays away from being in the same position I find myself in.
We’re winding down here with Brian Dunseth. Really appreciate you taking this much time to talk. Just a couple more questions. And transitions are always jarring when you go from something like that topic to, “Oh, yeah, let’s talk about what’s happening on the field.”But here we are. What’s going on out in Salt Lake? I mean, I’ve had Pablo Mastroeni and David Blitzer on my podcast in recent months. The team is doing well on the field. Obviously, it’s drawing extremely well in the stands, even more so this season. What’s causing all that?
I think David Blitzer’s group and Ryan Smith’s group have reinvigorated this fan base, especially after what’s transpired off the field for the last couple of years. There is more of an emphasis on game day experience. And if you come out to the stadium at Rio Tinto Stadium, I mean, it’s got to be a million, couple million, just invested in everything. From you walk in, there’s a bucket of flags, and you just grab one. And you get in the stands, you wave it, and you just drop it back in the bucket on the way out.To the paint, the claret and cobalt paint. To the graffiti. And I’m saying graffiti, and that sounds bad, but the graffiti artistry that’s been placed around the stadium. And then just even to the banners. The game day environment, bringing the fan culture and the supporter group in the south end all into that bottom right behind the goal, all of these things are important.And I think a lot of it’s been, the fans are finally having their voice heard, and there’s interaction. And it’s real time face-to-face with the ownership group, which is what any fan that has gripes or opinions wants to be heard. And then Pablo’s incredible, man, having played against Pablo, played alongside Pablo, worked with Pablo, and now, having this relationship as broadcaster/coach, along with friendship, the way he… You know, Pabs, right? “Oh, that’s a beautiful tree.” And Pab would be like, “Yeah, but the roots, man, have you ever thought about how this tree goes so deep in the ground? And the roots spread out, and that’s the life of the ground, man.” He’s just, he’s incredible, just the way his mind works.So the way that he’s got this team going, he’s created the culture and the atmosphere behind the scenes, still dealing with the loss of Albert Rusnak in the off-season, and Damir Kreilach being out all season, Bobby Wood having a fantastic year, being injured. And somehow this team with all the games lost because of player injury, is currently in third place in the Western conference. It’s just all clicking.And as you reference 10 consecutive sellouts at Rio Tinto Stadium, is something really we haven’t seen since the Jason Kreis/Garth Lagerwey MLS Cup-winning or CONCACAF Champions League final grouping. There’s a buzz around the city. And I’m really, really excited to see what the next couple of years looks like underneath this stewardship.
I also want to ask about the new Apple/MLS deal, with that having just been announced. And there’s a lot that’s up in the air. Are you up in the air on being able to call RSL games next season?
Yeah. So for those that don’t understand, all the home broadcasts are gone at the end of the season. And for all the uproar, just to be clear, everybody associated with any club or any broadcast knew at the end of 2022 that something was going to happen. For me, I signed my deal three years ago, and I’m not a full-time employee. “Here’s my contract for game rate.” And it was up until 2022. There was talk about maybe extending it to 2023, as everyone was waiting to see what the announcement would be and who the announcement would be coinciding with. So I, like everybody, was nervous and trying to figure out, am nervous, trying to figure it out. There’s I would assume MLS and Apple have their list of guys that they’re interested in. I would assume also the infrastructure has to be laid first and foremost, because you’ve got to get the games to air.Will I be a part of it? I hope so. Is there anything confirmed? There’s not. But I think there’s a lot of really, really fun, strong talent available. And I think, like everybody, we’re all going to be intrigued to see what this looks like. Is it full-time studio? Is it shoulder programming? Is it on-site? I still am a huge believer in what NBC Sports does when they put the desk on the field, and you’ve got the warm-ups behind them and that immediacy and the visuals that happen. I think that’s a great atmosphere builder that needs to continue to be exposed.And then ultimately, how many teams? Who’s on the road? Are you on-site? Are you back in the studio? What does this look like? Is it a full-time gig? Is it a part-time gig? For someone like myself, who’s freelance across the board, doing SiriusXM from my basement in my office, to doing local television shows and local radio shows, what does this look like? So because I haven’t had a full-time gig since I was an MLS player back in 2006. So I think we’re all just trying to figure out what this looks like. And I mean hopefully selfishly for myself, I hope there’s a role for me and I can be included.
Brian Dunseth hosts Counter Attack weekday afternoons on SiriusXM FC, SiriusXM’s 24/7 soccer channel. He’s also a TV analyst for Real Salt Lake and ESPN. Dunny, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Grant, I really appreciate the platform, the opportunity and the friendship, man. Thank you so much.
ESPY nominee Brad Stuver flourishing for Austin on the pitch and in the community
By Jeff Rueter
Jul 19, 2022
Often when an athlete ventures into charitable outreach, it’s with a single focus. But Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver has been more varied in his approach.
Stuver has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, worked to create greater accessibility to laundry services for lower-income families and fosters dogs.
“I think it’s an unfortunate scenario where there are so many marginalized communities, so many different ways to help our community in general, that my wife Ashley and I couldn’t really pinpoint one singular organization or one singular effort to focus on,” Stuver told The Athletic. “We just decided that we’re going to do as much as we could for as many people as we could, and it just took on a life of its own.”
Unable to secure a starting role as a goalkeeper for his first eight MLS seasons, Stuver has found playing time and community outreach opportunities in equally bountiful amounts with Austin FC.
Thanks to his charitable work (and a surprise nomination submission from the club), Stuver is the first MLS player to be nominated for ESPN’s Muhammad Ali humanitarian of the year award. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 20 at the ESPY Awards.
While giving an award to just one humanitarian effort seems like an impossible task for any voting committee, the work is truly its own reward to Stuver.
“It’s taken a couple of weeks to fully process, but I am overwhelmed and very excited to be up for this award,” Stuver said. “I’m very excited to be able to share the work that we’re doing with these organizations. For any nonprofit, it’s all about exposure and bringing to light the work that’s being done. I’m very grateful to the club for doing this and extremely excited to be in the company of these athletes who are doing amazing things in their community, as well.”
Even if Stuver was seldom playing in his first several MLS seasons, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy. After a fine four-year career at Cleveland State University, Stuver was the first goalkeeper selected in the 2013 SuperDraft. He became an MLS pool goalkeeper that season, spending time as an emergency backup at four clubs and never seeing the field.
One of that quartet was the Columbus Crew, which ultimately signed him ahead of the 2014 season. During his pool assignment at Columbus, he backed up Matt Lampson, who also started the Lampstrong Foundation after battling Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a week after finishing high school. Stuver’s permanent move afforded him a mentor on and off the field, with Stuver doing meet-and-greets with LampStrong heroes.
“I have a lot of admiration for what Matt has done with the LampStrong Foundation and everything that he’s done to take his own journey and transform that into helping others that have gone through the same thing that he did,” Stuver said. “It was amazing watching him interact with kids that he brought out for the games and just seeing the way their eyes lit up meeting a professional athlete — talking to someone that has been through kind of the same journey that they’re going through now. Just seeing the way that he handled himself and sparked a little bit of joy, a little bit of relief. You can tell that it meant the world to the parent, too. Seeing the way people responded to him and just the way he put himself out there and was doing good for his community was truly inspiring.”
Lampson ended up winning the MLS humanitarian of the year award three times before his retirement this past offseason, the only player with multiple wins. However, his on-field career is unfortunately all-too-common for domestic goalkeepers in MLS. Long seen as the most prolific positional pool for United States men, there are a bounty of quality backstops in the league and beyond. Solid shot-stoppers with mid-level distribution will rarely get an extended run-out, and if a team pays a transfer fee or notable salary for an international goalkeeper, starting the cheaper domestic option is seldom the route.
Lampson made 61 MLS appearances in a 10-year career. After Stuver entered the league a year later, his career started to follow that familiar trajectory. He hung on at Columbus for four seasons, backing up Steve Clark before being passed over when Zack Steffen left Germany at age 21.
All the while, Stuver said he found a “sense of community” in Columbus which encouraged him to find ways to look out for others in need. One of his first major charitable endeavors came after his wife, Ashley, had a high school friend tell them about The Laundry Project. Run by Current Initiatives, the project helps lower-income families meet a basic need for clean clothes. Organizers raise funds to cover the costs of renting a laundromat and all associated laundry fees, while the events also feature entertainment for children and, in some cases, appearances by notable guests.
“When we moved to Columbus, they told us about their work and asked if we would be interested in putting on projects in Columbus,” Stuver said. ”We did our first project and we saw in real time just how important clean clothes could be. We realized just how privileged we were to have a washer and dryer in our house and in our apartments. Going to a laundromat and cleaning clothes, paying for that, was something that we didn’t even think about on a daily basis. It’s something that we figured that we could do as often as we could, and we ran with it from there.”
The beginning of Stuver’s playing career coincided with the beginning of MLS’ grand expansion push, as the league has launched 11 clubs since the start of the 2015 season. For a nomadic domestic goalkeeper, new clubs are a golden opportunity to earn a roster spot and challenge for a starting job as the team often focuses resources on outfield players.
After going unselected in expansion drafts by Atlanta, Minnesota and Los Angeles FC ahead of their MLS debuts, Stuver was traded to New York City FC in late 2017 for a future fourth-round SuperDraft pick. To drive home just how valuable that return is, MLS trimmed its draft down to a three-round affair starting in 2021.
Stuver made seven appearances across the next three seasons, serving as a training partner and backup to U.S. international Sean Johnson. While still organizing Laundry Project events in NYC, Stuver also became an ambassador for Athlete Ally, which works to combat systems of oppression facing LGBTQI+ people in the sports landscape.
While he and his wife remained engaged with community ventures, Stuver entered the 2020 season without a clear pathway to consistent minutes despite turning 29 in April of that year. Johnson had become one of the league’s most dependable goalkeepers, and since Stuver is only two years younger than Johnson, there wasn’t much of a succession plan. Facing full free agency following that first COVID-19-impacted season, it was unclear what options would be available for him.
“I think it’s always in the back of your mind when you’re getting closer to 30 and you haven’t really been a consistent starter, Stuver said. “You’re always worried what the perception of you as a player is going to be in the eyes of GMs and head coaches.”
After being passed over by several expansion sides, a “perfect storm” of factors converged over Texas’ capital city. Austin was granted an MLS franchise after a fraught period in which the Crew were nearly relocated south. With Columbus keeping a team and Austin getting its own, the expansion side’s front office got to work in assembling its soccer staff. Leading the charge were two men who had been very familiar with Stuver as a player: sporting director Claudio Reyna, previously from NYCFC, and first-time head coach Josh Wolff, who worked as an assistant under Gregg Berhalter in Columbus.
“I think I hit free agency at a perfect time,” Stuver said, “(Josh and Claudio) had more of a personal connection to me and they knew who I was, what I was capable of, my work ethic. It was like a perfect storm for me to come down here to Austin, work and compete, and get the chance to become a starter — but there’s always going to be a little bit of doubt, especially after going through so many years where you’re always looking to get yourself somewhere as a starter and nothing’s really worked out. It required that grind mentality, the ability to believe in yourself and have the support system around you that are willing to grind out those years. Once you get your chance, you just kind of have to take it.”
To merely say Stuver has taken his chance in Austin would be a massive understatement. At last, he had found a club that trusted him as their No. 1 option between the posts. While Austin missed the playoffs by a comfortable margin in their first season, Stuver stood out as a bright spot for the new franchise. The club named him its defender of the year as he became a fan favorite for his shot-stopping prowess.
Even as he finally balanced the workload of an MLS starting goalkeeper, he and Ashley didn’t let up in their charitable works. Stuver has organized seven events with The Laundry Project in the Austin area, with the next one scheduled to take place in nearby Uvalde after the community was shaken by the recent school shooting.
Stuver’s work with Athlete Ally landed him on the radar of Equality Texas, where he sits on the board of the largest LGBTQI+ advocacy nonprofit in the state. Ashley has also championed causes for voting rights and reproductive rights while working full-time and attending graduate school.
Humans aren’t the only benefactors of the Stuvers’ desire to help. The pair also fosters dogs through Austin Pets Alive, currently housing notorious cuddler Limeade.
Working with Equality Texas, Stuver was asked to pen an op-ed for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper after the state introduced legislation that would ban transgender kids from playing sports from kindergarten through high school.
“Excluding transgender children from normal school activities fuels the type of school culture that no parent would want for their kids to experience — one that isolates and makes targets of kids who are just trying to be themselves,” Stuver wrote. “This is the worst type of message to give children. What right do governments have to tell children they aren’t welcome as they truly are?””
While he said he’s gotten a warm reception to his social outreach from Austin fans, the reality of Texas politics means his views of trans-inclusion are a minority viewpoint. Still, the inevitable dissent doesn’t discourage Stuver.
“There’s always going to be resistance, no matter what you speak out against, whether it’s racial equality, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, no matter what you speak up for,” Stuver said. “There will always be people out there that try to minimize what you say and tell you that you’re wrong. The Austin community, as a whole, has been extremely supportive. The club has been extremely supportive. It’s a really good thing when you know that you have the support of those people that surround you. There’s always going to be pushback, but you kind of just let that drag out. In sports, no one athlete has 100 percent likability; no matter what, you’re always gonna get a little bit of heat. It’s been nice knowing that the Austin community and those around us rally around the cause and support what we’re fighting for.”
The Austin community is also enjoying the chance to rally around a highly competitive MLS side for the first time. Austin FC finished the weekend ranked second in the Western Conference table, eight points clear of third-place Real Salt Lake. The team’s six clean sheets have already surpassed their 2021 total, while the attack is whirring around MVP candidate Sebastian Driussi.
After spending his first eight seasons as a little-used backup, Stuver is finally playing a vital role in a playoff push. He has also found a community that embraces and looks to help in his charitable outreach efforts. And the mix of strong play and social advocacy has helped him plant deep roots in Austin FC’s budding story.
“We’ve never really thought about my off-the-field work as something that would identify with a club or with anything else,” Stuver said. “We wanted to take that with us no matter where we are. My time on the field is a very limited window in my lifetime, and we always said that what we do off the field is more important than what we do on the field. Every player is replaceable. Every record eventually gets broken. But the work that you can do off the field and the work that you can do in your community makes a hands-on difference.”