For onetime U.S men’s national team goalkeeper Tony Meola, Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., is in the backyard of his childhood.
The 42-year-old former Red Bull learned the game while growing up in the immigrant town of Kearny, N.J.
“Unlike most places in the country back then ... if you grew up in Kearny, soccer was the cool thing to do,” Meola said. “The town was basically a Scottish and Irish town with two Italian families — me being one of them. ... All my friends were first-generation in this country, and our parents didn’t really know any other sport.”
Meola will host an autograph session Wednesday starting at 4 p.m. at the Allstate Soccer Celebration before the game. He talked soccer with amNewYork on Tuesday.
Watching the Women’s World Cup, what differences did you see compared to the men’s game?
Strategies and formations are all the same ... I think the men just put a lot more pressure on the ball and cover just a lot more ground ... which speeds the game up a little bit.
How do you like the experience of watching games at Red Bull Arena?
It’s a very European feel ... I’ve been to Yankee Stadium, and there’s a museum ... there’s a steakhouse, there’s a bar, there’s a little bit of shopping. Red Bull Arena is made to watch a soccer game.
When you observe a match, are you watching the goalkeeping?
Yeah. I mean, obviously, I have a better eye for the goalkeeper position than the others. ... It’s not like hockey, where [a goalie] can keep a team in the entire game. A goalkeeper’s job, for me, has always been pretty simple: You gotta save everything that you’re supposed to save, and you gotta save one shot that you’re not supposed to save. And then, after that, everything for a team is kind of a bonus. ... Rarely do you have double-figure saves.
It’s just such a wide goal.
Absolutely. Eight yards by eight feet — it’s a lot to cover.