World Soccer Talk got the chance to have an exclusive interview with U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Tony Meola. The goalkeeper, who was a two-sport college athlete, made his name as the USMNT’s No. 1 during the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. Meola went on to a successful career in MLS, and is now heavily involved in coaching youth soccer at different levels. We got to talk to Tony about the game against Mexico, as well as ask him to reflect on his incredible sporting career.
Grant Miller (GM): While the buzz in United States soccer is all about Julian Green, who made his debut in the friendly against Mexico, how excited are you to see him play for the USMNT?
Tony Meola (TM): He’s been a guy that has been on the radar for quite some time and of course nobody knew what direction he was going to go but I think everyone’s excited that he chose to play for the US, and now that he’s made his one-time switch, he’s locked into the US so we know that we have a kid. And if he’s a guy for this World Cup we’ll soon find out but we have a kid that will likely be with this US team in an attacking role for the next three World Cups. Of course, most people haven’t seen him play because he doesn’t play a lot in the first team at Bayern. He played a little bit in the Champions League back in November, but Bayern’s not one too overinflate their young players and they couldn’t say enough good things about Julian and what he’s done there and so hopefully that will translate to the national team.
GM: Let’s talk about your career. When you were younger, you weren’t just a soccer player. You also played baseball, and played both in college at Virginia. How did you manage to balance being a two-sport athlete and a college student?
TM: It took a lot of time, for sure. I used to go from soccer training at night and I used to have the key to the gym and would spend time in the batting cages at night after I did work. It was forever, but I didn’t know any different, and I didn’t want to do anything other than that, so it wasn’t like it was a drag for me to get there. It was something I loved doing. Of course, I had the chance to go to the University of Virginia. For me, I always told my parents I picked the best academic school I could go to and also play sports at and be competitive, and that was it for me. But the only way I was going to be able to go there was on a dual scholarship, and I was lucky enough to do that. My parents would have never had the ability to pay for me to go to school at that time. They probably would’ve found a way, but to strap them like that for years wasn’t an option. The majority of the offers I had were of the same nature. I just chose to go to the place that was best for me.