Alexi Lalas of Team USA Live at the World Cup in Qatar

23 Nov 2022

CLAY: We are headed now down to Qatar — I believe I’m pronouncing that correctly, or at least as the pronunciation has been agreed to — to be joined by Fox Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas. They are 8 hours ahead of us. It is almost Thanksgiving Day, I guess, in Qatar. And, Alexi, first of all, thanks for taking the time for us. I know it’s an absolute crazy zoo over there with all the games going on, and I want to start with this question. U.S. is up 1-0. When you see the play as a former defenseman for the U.S. men’s soccer team, when you see the play of Walker Zimmerman and the foul that he committed, that led to a penalty kick. Your immediate reaction was to say or think what?

LALAS: Well, something I can’t say on the radio because I am an avid listener to your show, and I know you have a level of decorum here — and by the way, I do. I subscribe. I listen to it every day this morning on the Peloton here in the hotel in Qatar, in Doha here. I was listening to the show. So I am a huge fan of both of you guys and of this show. When I saw that, I was disappointed. I was angry. And, you know, I pictured myself on the field. And look, mistakes happen in sports and mistakes happen in life and it’s how you recover from them. So ultimately, the U.S. ties Wales 1-1. And you know, I know that Buck was having some fun at Wales expense. You know, Buck should know that.

BUCK: I mean, it’s kind of… Come on, it’s kind of fair. Like, how many people even know that Wales is its own country?

LALAS: Well, I understand that. I understand that. But, you know, they are a small country, but they are a hardy country, and, look, I agree with you. The U.S. should have beaten Wales. And so you’re dropping points there. And in the way that it happened with Walker Zimmerman making that what amounts to a stupid foul. And it shouldn’t be done at any level, especially for a professional. And it’s big in a World Cup. However, there’s a couple of games to play here, including this huge one on Black Friday against England — our friends, England — so there is plenty to play for when it comes to the World Cup. And whether you’re into soccer or whether you’re not into soccer, this is an opportunity to sit down and celebrate what I feel is the greatest country in the world. There’s very few things in in our life and our world today that bring us together, and maybe soccer is one of them.

BUCK: So, Alexi, so I’m going to put this out there just in all fairness, right? It’s not looking good for our guys on Friday. I know enough about soccer, mostly from playing FIFA on PlayStation. But I know enough about the English team’s rankings and the American team’s ranking. It’s not looking great for us, but, you know, we did win in 1776, so we got that going for us, which is nice.

LALAS: (laughing)

BUCK: Iran, though. We’re going to be playing Iran.

LALAS: Yeah.

BUCK: Tell me, as somebody who knows this U.S. national team inside and out… I don’t care if we are playing Iran in shuffleboard, if we’re playing Iran in Tiddlywinks, you name it. America has to win. Are we going to win that match?

LALAS: Well, we are going to have to win in order to advance. So, you’re absolutely right, Buck. This is going to be a huge game. And look, as you know, sports sometimes mirrors culture and society and politics and all those different things. And all of that is going to be on display with Iran, which we have a long history from… Look, I grew up in the seventies and eighties and what Iran represented to America and to Americans, and so that will be part of the narrative. Ultimately, there’s three points.

So and to your point, it doesn’t matter whether it’s men’s or women’s coed naked. If we’re playing Iran, I want to win and we need to win this game in order to go on, I think, because to your point, who knows what’s going to happen against England? They are a better team. Doesn’t mean the U.S. can’t get a get a point or get a win over there. I believe that this is a good U.S. team that can do some big things, and this would be huge if they were able to beat England. But no matter what that third game, you’re going to have to beat Iran.

CLAY: Okay. So that’s what… A lot of people out there who they don’t if they don’t follow this closely, we’ve got England, Wales, the United States and Iran in a group. And if we had beaten Wales, we would have been in incredible shape to advance because two teams advance. Do you see this coming down to goal differential, in which case we’re going to be watching on Friday — everybody recovering from Thanksgiving meals, kicking the feet up, watching. Do you feel like even if we lose to England, it’s desperately important to keep it close because goal differential may well decide who advances to the knockout round?

LALAS: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It is it is important that we keep it close. But I do feel that this has the opportunity and the makings of something historic, and I know it’s not assured. But this is a this is a young team. It’s the second youngest team in the tournament. I think they have not just a responsibility that they feel, but also an opportunity to do some big things and to get — whether it’s people like yourselves or anybody else who’s listening out there to at least step into the soccer tent. Because once you get in there, it’s warm, it is welcoming. And guess what? It is America. And we do have an American soccer culture.

It is vibrant, it is passionate, is discerning, it is growing. And don’t you dare apologize for it because it is something that’s very, very special and unique in the soccer world out there. But that has to come out and manifest on the play on the field, especially when it comes to our men’s team. Our women’s team, they kick ass, as we know and win all the time. The men’s team has to step up. And this would be a huge, huge moment in this World Cup if they were able to get that result against England on Black Friday and then parlay that into a great result against Iran and get out of the group.

BUCK: So, we’re speaking to Alexi Lalas, Fox Soccer analyst, and also a man who really popularized the bright red goatee of the 1990s, if I recall. Wasn’t that you?

LALAS: (laughing)

CLAY: Oh, yeah.

BUCK: I remember this. You were rockin’. That goatee was was like a 10-out-of-10 goatee. You were not messing around. I feel like I’ve seen you on TV. It’s not there anymore. How are things out in Qatar, man — or Ka-tar? How’s it going? You’re actually in the country right now. There’s been, you know, some news stories about there was like a beer ban, but not really. But how is it doing, the World Cup there?

LALAS: I can assure you that I have never once in the now a couple of weeks that I’ve been here, nor the other previous trips that I’ve taken, had a problem finding alcohol. Believe me. (laughing)

CLAY: (laughing) That doesn’t surprise me at all.

LALAS: Sometimes (crosstalk) going forward.

CLAY: Yeah.

LALAS: But we have we have this kick-ass set when it comes to our Fox Soccer set here down at what’s called the Corniche, which is down on the water. The people here have been incredible. It is a really, really interesting, like you said, World Cup in that there’s this Brigadoon-ish type of experience where everybody is in the same place. Nobody travels anywhere. All the teams, all the stadiums are here. And we’re going to blow it out on Fox. And we have this incredible set here that has multiple levels and multiple stages and people come to it like it is part of the star of the show down here, and it just augments all the coverage that we are bringing. And part of our job is not just to talk about the soccer, but to talk about this country and this culture and to make that part of the storytelling that we’re doing.

CLAY: Am I understanding? By the way, I want all of you to watch the U.S. and Alexi and Stu and all the crew that’s out there, Jenny Taft. Fantastic job they’re doing. But also, I will be up in Columbus for this Ohio State-Michigan game, which is going to be huge, in my understanding, as a part of our pregame show, we’re actually going to be integrating some of you guys, it’s my understanding — it might not be 100% accurate — as a part of the World Cup to have you guys talk in college football and maybe a little bit of NFL also. So for people out there, Alexi, who don’t know this — U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, you mentioned how young they are.

LALAS: Yep.

CLAY: You played in the World Cup back in 1992 in the United States. The first time that you play in a World Cup match as a young guy, it feels like what? First part of the question. Second aspect here: How much more comfortable and better did you play in Game 2, having just gotten the butterflies to some extent out in that first-ever World Cup match?

LALAS: Yeah. I mean, look, when you realize a dream, there is a moment of awe, and the sooner you get over it, the better off you are going to be when you recognize it’s the game that you’ve been playing all along. Mine was way back in the 1990s before you guys were born back in 1994 or summer of ‘94. Like you said, Buck, a lot of hair. Never has so much been done with a modicum of talent and a lot of hair, whether it was the goatee or the hair on top of my head, I wish I could still grow it. I’ve cleaned up on the outside, but I’m still a mess on the inside. But then you walk out on that field — and, in my case, at that point, it was actually in Pontiac at the Pontiac Silverdome Rest in Peace.

The Pontiac Silverdome. I grew up in Detroit, so 15 minutes outside of where I grew up, walking on that field and really realizing a dream. Now, this U.S. team has already done that, right? So now they understand what the World Cup is. Now on Friday when they walk out against England, it’s not just with the realization that they’re representing their country, but it’s also with the understanding that there’s a competition here and you’ve got to figure it out very, very quickly against a very, very good team. But, look, there’s nothing like it when you walk out on that field, when you put your hand over your heart, you put that shirt on, you sing that song. For me, there is nothing else like it. And if I could, I would do anything to get back at it.

BUCK: All right. Alexi Lalas of Fox Soccer. And, Alexi, let’s hope that U.S., first of all, have a happy Thanksgiving out there. I know you’re abroad right now and pass along the same from us to all the American players out there. We’re thinking about them, and we appreciate you joining us, and let’s hope we get a W on Friday. I will actually watch this sports competition.

CLAY: (laughing)

LALAS: I love it. I love what you guys do. So keep on doing it and make sure that you give me something. For what? I’m on the Peloton sweatin’ my ass off.

BUCK: Absolutely, sir. Thank you so much, Alexi Lalas.

CLAY: Alexi is a fantastic guy, Buck. I told you he listens to the show and he’s a great American soccer hero.



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