Renowned U.S. Soccer Coach to Lead USA Against Mexico in Legends Cup
The great ‘Legends’ of soccer will clash as USA takes on Mexico in the 2014 Legends Cup at the StubHub Center on June 1. Leading the Americans will be former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Steve Sampson. With a line up of legendary players – more than half have played at the World Cup – this is going to be a can’t miss match. Sampson also speaks out on Landon Donovan not being on the 2014 World Cup roster for the USA, how important the first match is when the USA meets Ghana, how confidence is critical for success on the pitch and how he misses coaching at this level.
When the USA Legends take the field at the StubHub Center on Sunday, June 1, against the Mexico Legends for the 2014 Legends Cup, they will be led by the man the media has nicknamed “Uncle Sam” – Steve Sampson. A famous soccer coach who once held Jürgen Klinsmann’s position as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Sampson was the first American-born coach to lead the team into the FIFA World Cup. From 1995 to 1998 he directed the U.S. MNT to 27 wins and a berth at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. In 2004 he was hired by the Major League Soccer (MLS) LA Galaxy as head coach and managed the team to victory in the 2005 MLS Cup and the 2005 U.S. Open Cup.
Countdown to the 2014 Legends Cup – Order Tickets Here
The team Sampson will lead in the 2014 Legends Cup includes some of the greatest retired players in American soccer, such as Paul Caligiuri, Eric Wynalda, Chris Klein, Roy Lassiter, Paul Wright and Sean Bowers. Asked for his appraisal of the team, Sampson told SoccerNation editor Diane Scavuzzo, “I have a great squad of a lot of different generations, a great mix of defending and attacking players. I think we have some great leadership on the field as well, and one that the Mexicans are going to respect.”
Combining so much talent on the field and getting everyone playing their ideal position with a limited time for preparation is a challenge, Sampson acknowledged. Asked how many times the team had come together for practice, Sampson laughed and said, “All the players are so involved in the game of soccer in their own businesses. I may lean on Eric Wynalda and Chris Klein to help me.”
Sampson pointed out that the Legends Cup is primarily an all-star game of legendary soccer professionals. The match is a chance to show off their skills in a fun atmosphere. “But it gets competitive very quickly whenever you have former national teams players against other national team players,” he admitted. This is particularly true for a match between the two top rivals in CONCACAF.
Sampson coached the USA National Men’s Team against Mexico, successfully defeating them in 1995 and this is a long-time and passionate rivalry.
“I feel a great sense of pride, honor and humility coaching these players,” Sampson said.
“When you have coached at the highest level, and then you are away from that intense level of competition, you miss it desperately.”
“And to be able to spend time with these guys again against our fiercest rival is a privilege.”
Taking on Mexico’s legendary players will be a challenge, with a lineup that includes Alberto Garcia Aspe, Juan de Dios Ramírez Perales, Francisco Palencia and Claudio Suarez and is coached by 1994 World Cup coach, Miguel Mejia Baron. “The team Mexico is bringing is truly exceptional and may raise the raise the eyebrows of our own team,” Sampson admitted.
But knowing the competitive spirit of the USA team, Sampson is certain that the USA Legends have what it takes to repeat their “dos-a-cero” results from the 2012 meeting between the two sides.
When asked who confident his players are Sampson replied with, “Do you know Paul Caligiuri, Eirc Wynalda or Chris Klien? These guys have no shortage of confidence.”
“After the first twenty minutes,” Sampson added, “We will see how they feel, but we have an exceptional team and I am looking forward to the game.”
When asked about the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, Sampson admitted that the U.S. team is not laden with tons of individual talent, but they can do something special as a team and have an impact on the field. “The 2014 World Cup will be one of upsets, and a lot of thing might happen that are not expected because of the parity,” he stated.
Asked about the biggest shock of the World Cup – Klinsmann’s decision to leave off U.S. MNT and MLS goal scoring leader Landon Donovan – Sampson said he was definitely surprised. “It was a bit of a shock for all of us in the soccer world,” he said. “We expected Landon to make the Final 23 man list. He is a player with enormous experience who could have been called on to make a difference in the World Cup.”
“I do not know what has transpired between him and the coach,” Sampson continued. “It has to be something personal not technical. The relationship of the coaching staff and the players is important to the success of the team. Building the USA team chemistry could be one of the primary reasons.”
Looking ahead to the USA’s first match in the Group of Death that includes Germany, Portugal and Ghana, Sampson said, “The first game is very important. There are three possible positive outcomes. They have to win and earn the three points, or tie the game and earn one point or they have to play exceptionally well to continue to be motivated in the World Cup. A 2-0 loss makes it very difficult for them to seek success.”
Asked about the importance of a win to build the team’s confidence, Sampson explained, “Everyone knows to get three points in the first game takes so much pressure off of you in subsequent games and is important for building confidence. If you don’t have confidence as an individual going into this atmosphere under this level of scrutiny, you will most certainly fail.”
Looking back on his career, he told Scavuzzo, “As a coach, one should take nothing for granted. Enjoy the moment, as you never know when those coaching opportunities will end. Relish the chance to coach at any level, if you have the opportunities to coach a high level of exceptional athletes.”
As a college coach, Sampson led Santa Clara to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship. After the 1994 World Cup, Sampson became the interim coach for the Men’s National team when, in 1995 he led the US to a surprising fourth-place finish at the Copa América 1995, including the 3-0 shutout against Argentina, as well as a victory over arch-rivals Mexico in the quarterfinals and was promoted to full-time national team coach in August 1995. Sampson was the Head Coach for the 1998 World Cup and then in 2004 took the reigns at the LA Galaxy until 2006.
Official Roster for 2014 Legends Cup:
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, Paul Wright, Sean Bowers
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
Tickets for the USA – Mexico Legends Cup match start at only $20 and are available at http://www.ticketon.com/, by phone at 1-800-668-6060, http://www.axs.com/ and at the StubHub Center box office.