US soccer legend Harkes assesses World Cup odds, remembers wonders of ’94 | Greenville Information

GREENVILLE — John Harkes sat behind the desk in his workplace for an interview forward of the 2022 Males’s World Cup that begins Nov. 20 in Qatar.

For the event, he donned his blue No. 6 jersey with oddly formed white stars he wore whereas enjoying within the 1994 World Cup that was held in america.

“The unique ’94,” Harkes mentioned. “Nonetheless held collectively by some stitching. Very uncommon. Everyone’s form of attempting to steal this from me.”

The US squad wore the enduring, flashy “denim” jerseys throughout a profitable run on the World Cup that drove a soccer growth throughout the nation and laid the muse for the nationwide crew that may compete in opposition to one of the best nationwide groups on the earth within the coming weeks.

John Harkes, head coach of the Greenville Triumph Soccer Membership and a Corridor of Fame midfielder for the US Males’s Nationwide Group. Harkes performed in two World Cups for the US in 1990 and 1994. Ryan Gilchrest/Workers

Harkes, now the top coach and sporting director for the Greenville Triumph in USL League One, performed for america throughout two groundbreaking World Cups that returned the nation to the worldwide soccer stage.

In 1990, Harkes performed for the US squad that certified for the World Cup for the primary time in 40 years. He performed in all three of the groups video games, all losses.

In 1994, he assisted objectives in every of the crew’s first two video games because the US performed to a 1-1 draw in opposition to Switzerland after which beat a strong Colombia crew 2-1 earlier than 92,000 followers that packed the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. that despatched the crew by means of to the knockout spherical of 16.

That World Cup held among the finest and most devastating moments of Harkes’ nationwide crew profession, he mentioned.

“Taking part in in entrance of your loved ones and your mates is a reasonably particular and excessive emotional second,” Harkes mentioned. “I can simply keep in mind someone throwing me an American flag out of the group on the Rose Bowl. It was a very popular day and also you did not even really feel the warmth while you beat Colombia and also you’re carrying your flag round and the group is chanting ‘USA.”

Harkes performed a component within the match’s first purpose when he crossed a ball in towards striker Earnie Stewart that was intercepted and by accident kicked in for an personal purpose by Colombian defender Andres Escobar. Escobar was shot and killed weeks later in Colombia, doubtless due partly to his mistake. Harkes missed the crew’s elimination spherical loss in opposition to Brazil after he acquired two yellow playing cards within the first spherical video games, which resulted in a one-game suspension.

Getting out of the first-round group in 1994 was seen as successful then, and could be considered as a event success for a younger US crew this yr, Harkes mentioned.

Harkes, a member of the Nationwide Soccer Corridor of Fame, nonetheless has many connections to the present squad, together with head coach Gregg Berhalter. He mentioned the crew’s youth now — it is the second youngest crew general on the World Cup — can play in its favor.

“The final six to eight weeks have been a nervous time for the US Males’s Nationwide Group as a result of I have been there as a participant, while you’re enjoying your previous couple of pleasant video games earlier than you really gear up and play within the World Cup, and you are still selecting your roster, gamers are just about on a knife’s edge.”

When Harkes performed, he was the primary US athlete to ever play within the English Premier League. Now greater than half the squad performs professionally abroad. The present crew has veteran leaders in Walker Zimmerman and Tyler Adams, a younger however skilled star in Christian Pulisic, and a squad that’s unusually injury-free.

The doubtless US starter in purpose, Matt Turner, has been in nice type currently and has an ideal American rags to riches story. He fought his approach by means of the ranks {of professional} soccer, going undrafted out of school and beginning on mortgage at a USL membership, then to Main League Soccer. He’s now the backup goalkeeper for Arsenal, which stands atop the Premier League desk.

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“He is obtained some nice expertise so I feel they will have a possibility to maintain a clear sheet (in opposition to England),” Harkes mentioned.

Harkes mentioned the US is in a tricky group however has a superb likelihood to advance. Group B contains the US, England, Iran and Wales.

The primary match in opposition to Wales on Nov. 21 is essential.

“They have to return out and be aggressive in opposition to Wales, be good with the ball in an effort to possess the sport and dictate just a little bit extra,” Harkes mentioned.

The second match Nov. 25 in opposition to powerhouse England might be very tough, he mentioned. England fields a wealth of worldwide stars, together with striker Harry Kane and star-in-the-making Jude Bellingham.

The US crew’s third match within the group stage in opposition to Iran is intriguing for its uncertainty. Harkes referred to as it a “toss-up” full of political ramifications on the world stage because the World Cup is held within the Center East.

“I feel if we are able to come out of the gate with lots of positivity in opposition to Wales, that may hopefully set us up for some success,” Harkes mentioned.

Other than US success, Harkes mentioned he’d wish to see Argentina come out victorious within the month-long event. Argentina is led by Lionel Messi, broadly thought of top-of-the-line to ever play the attractive recreation. At 37-years-old, it can doubtless be Messi’s closing World Cup.

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After lacking the final World Cup in 2018, this US crew is hungry. However the crew can also be comfy with its place on the worldwide stage — very like the 1994 squad grew to become comfy sporting the all-American denim jean look that Harkes wore to rejoice the upcoming video games.

“The enduring jersey, the Stars and Stripes denim, we hated it again within the day,” Harkes mentioned, “however you have to really feel comfy in your personal pores and skin and we felt comfy within the World Cup being hosted in america . I feel our gamers are feeling comfy proper now, in a great way.

“They are not simply going there and being vacationers. They really wish to go and be opponents. I feel they are going to convey a superb struggle.”


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