Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Tony Meola was the last of his kind.  First choice goalkeeper for the USMNT in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, Meola struck an imposing figure between the frame.  6'1" and full of Italian-American stereotypes, it was his ponytail that made him the most famous.  I contend that, if Antonio Michael Meola had played any sport besides soccer in the United States, he would be remembered as one of the biggest characters/personalities to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated.  Everyone remembers the ponytail, but does anyone remember his ill-fated tryout for the New York Jets and its aftermath?  How about the time he quit playing soccer to star in the off-Broadway play, Tony n' Tina's Wedding?

The thing is, the ponytail wasn't even Meola's most amazing adventure in his Chronicles of Hairnia.  Behold the MULLET!  So much business, so much party.  This haircut is in the upper echelon of 'dos to grace the game of soccer, which has seen more than its fair share.  It's breathtaking.  Glorious.  It speaks as if from on high:  "Thou shall have no other mullets before me."

And we couldn't.  Thanks to Meola, US goalkeeping was forever changed.  Since no one could come close to the hair-bar he set so high, we were forced to go a completely different direction.

After Meola came Kasey Keller, the first in what was to be a long and storied tradition for the United States:  The Bald Goalkeeper.  The US Number 1 at the  1998 World Cup in France, the US team put in its worst performance since 1436, but Keller actually played well, gaining renown as a good player on a shitty team.  He played for years in at clubs in Europe, eventually returning to the US with MLS side Seattle Sounders.  Over his career, he has represented the USMNT 102 times, making the roster for World Cup 2002 and starting all three games at World Cup 2006.

At the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan, the US unveiled its secret weapon, Brad Friedel, the BALDEST goalie the earth had ever seen.  My theory is this:  Friedel made a deal with god, trading the length of his hair for an increase in wingspan.  No, seriously.  His wingspan is roughly 37 feet.  For about a month in 2009, I did an extensive amount of research into whether or not Brad just had a case of Benjamin Button disease, which would explain his superior athleticism in regards to his shiny pate, but it turns out he's just a freak of nature.  A PK blocking freak of nature.

After Keller's resurgence in 2006, the next bald keeper to step up for the United States was Tim Howard.  The man plies his trade in England as the first choice at Everton, and his true significance in terms of the American game remains to be seen.  We'll need him to summon all of his hairless strength this Saturday if we're going to post a result against Bad Teeth United.    Also, he has Tourette Syndrome, which has no bearing on anything other than the fact that I think it's really cool there's an elite athlete out there with TS.

If Howard were to get hurt at some point in time during the South African tournament, never fear, we have two other bald/ing goalies on our squad to take his place.

Marcus Hahnemann (left) is obviously the next in line, as he has less hair (and looks like a Bond Villain).  Brad Guzan is not quite ready to take the mantle, but in a few years, when his hair has thinned into oblivion, he'll be a great choice for the Red, White and Blue.

The future of goalkeeping is looking bright for the US.  As bright as the sun reflecting off a shiny, waxed dome.  As long as we keep producing great, bald keepers, we'll be just fine.

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