USA Legends Battle Back for 2-1 Win over Mexico Legends in 2014 at StubHub Center
Coached by Steve Sampson, Chris Klein, Roy Lassiter, Ted Eck, Paul Caligiuri, Jovan Kirovsky, Ian Feuer, Eric Wynalda, Hugo Perez, Sean Bowers, Paul Wright and other former soccer stars went back onto the pitch in 2014 to play for USA as the long standing rivalry with Mexico continues.
For a while it looked like the Mexico Legends would have their revenge for the 2-0 loss to the USA Legends in the 2012 Legends Cup as they took an early lead on a goal by Luis Roberto Alves. But former U.S. Men’s National Team member Jovan Kirovski’s second half goal started the American’s comeback, and once again Mexico supporters among the 14,786 in attendance went home disappointed following the 2014 Legends Cup as the U.S. won 2-1.
Alves, a member of the Mexico Men’s National Team from 1988 to 2002, played on the 1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup team and was the tournament’s top goal scorer with 11 strikes. Nicknamed “Zaguinho,” Alves played professionally for several Mexican First Division teams, including Necaxa, Atlante and Club America. When he scored in the first half the Mexico fans erupted in cheers and shouts for “El Tri.”
Mexico was aggressive the entire match, putting enormous pressure on the American defense. Former U.S. Futsal National Team captain Sean Bowers, no stranger to the outdoor game, was a workhorse in the back, blocking several Mexico attempts and helping keep the USA Legends in the game. His total dedication to the game was evident to all and it was fabulous to watch his work in the backfield. Goalkeeper Ian Feuer’s efforts in the net were outstanding and were instrumental in the eventual win.
The USA Legends featured some of the best players ever to step on the field for America, including Paul Caligiuri, the hero of the 1989 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago, Number 3 and 4 all-time U.S. goal scorers Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride, and Major League Soccer (MLS) co-single season scoring record holder Roy Lassiter. This year a new name on the list was former indoor and outdoor professional Paul “P3” Wright, who proved he still has his incredible speed and precision on the field.
After falling behind before the break, the USA Legends came out determined to win. The comeback began with a goal in the 71st minute by Escondido, Calif., native Kirovski, who scored nine goals in 62 games with the U.S. MNT from 1994 to 2004. The determination he showed on the field thrilled the crowd and helped to inspire the USA Legends in their drive to victory.
The two sides traded attacks the remainder of the match, with neither side able to break through. The final goal, when it came in the 88th minute, was almost anti-climactic. A shot by USA Legend Ante Razov, who played 26 matches with the U.S. MNT as well as more than 200 matches in MLS, was initially saved by the Mexico goalkeeper Francisco Palencia. However, Palencia was unable to completely smother the ball, which – to the horror of Mexico fans and the delight of USA supporters – gently rolled across the white line for a goal.
While it might not have been as spectacular as many other well-earned and highly targeted victories that the USA has seen on the field, for these Legends a win is a win and it was a fabulous victory for the U.S.
After the game USA Legends head coach Steve Sampson said that he was very pleased with the win, telling reporters that the game was “a lot of fun” and that it had been a great honor to coach the players on his roster. All of the players worked incredibly hard to secure this victory, and being down by a goal at halftime did not shake the confidence of these seasoned pros.
Paul Caligiuri who showed he still has what it takes as a formidable playmaker on the field said,”It is always great to beat Mexico because this is one of the greatest rivalries on the planet, regardless of which level of soccer – from youth soccer to the World Cup to the Legends Cup, it is one of fiercest living rivalries.”
“Playing in front of nearly 15,000 screaming fans, representing the USA and playing against legendary players was an awesome experience,” said Sean Bowers afterwards. “I loved playing with all the USA players, as it seemed like we had all been playing together for years. There was major talent on the field.” Bowers was a force on the field successfully blocking several attempts on goal.
“What a great experience; I didn’t expect it to be such a competitive game,” Wright admitted. “The atmosphere of the crowd was energizing, and it was great to see old teammates like Hugo Sanchez, Chris Klein, Ian Feuer, Shawn Bowers, Ted Eck, Diego Gutierrez and Eric Wynalda. I’d say it was a success – we won and I didn’t die.”
How did Roy Lassiter feel on the field? “I got my second wind in the second half and ran for over 30 minutes. I was good to go and finished the game playing Right Back to help the team out.
“It was great to be back on the stadium pitch and competing, playing with my National teammates,” said Lassiter. “When the second goal was scored, I knew we were going to win the game. We wanted to win and keep the cup. Although it is fun and games, it is competitive.”
Was Lassiter concerned at half-time when Mexico was ahead? “Mexico had the majority of the crowd and they took a lot of chances, but no, I was not concerned. We worked hard and were victorious.”
“It was awesome to be reunited with these guys and play with those who have contributed to the game in so many ways and helped build soccer in America,” said Caligiuri who admitted that there were certain players who were more fit on both sides of the match.
“There is no comparison to when I played in the 1994 World Cup, but I worked hard and had a lot of fun,” continued Caligiuri. “It is a joy to play the Legends Cup and I want to be invited back again for the next Legends Challenge. It is a lot of fun to play and makes you feel young again.”
Official Rosters for the Legends Game 2014:
Danny Califf, Roy Lassiter, Chris Klein, Ted Eck, Paul Caligiuri, Jovan Kirovsky, Ian Feuer, Eric Wynalda, Diego Gutierrez, Chris Sullivan, Brian Ching, Ante Razov, Chad Deering, Peter Vagenas, Hugo Perez, Sean Bowers, Paul Wright
Coach: Steve Sampson
Felix Fernandez, Mariano Trujillo, Juan de Dios Ramírez Perales, Paulo “Tilon” Chavez, Benjamin Galindo, Alberto Coyote, Paco Palencia, Ramon Morales, Luis Flores, Alberto Garcia Aspe, Luis Roberto Alves, Joel Sanchez, Joaquín Beltrán, Nacho Ambriz, Adrián Chávez, and Claudio Suarez
Coach: Miguel Mejia Baron
Photo Credit: Alegria Photography