Your Letters & Pictures

Soccer Earhtquakes 1979 by Dick Hansen

23 August 1979

Mr. Ben Reichmuth

San Jose Earthquakes

2025 Gateway Place, Suite 272

San Jose, CA 95110

Dear Ben,

You have my empathy. During my Air Force career I have been a Wing Commander in England and a base commander in Virginia, In those positions I was barraged almost constantly with suggestions on how I could improve the base, better accomplish the mission, etc., ad nauseum. In almost every case the suggestion was illogical or unsound primarily because the suggester was not privy to all of the facts. It is with that understanding that I now take on the role of suggester -- and join the sportswriters and numerous other critics in telling you how to improve the Earthquakes. I hope that if my letter is not enlightening, perhaps it will at least reinforce some of your views or provide some entertainment. I'll begin with the fundamental problem of soccer and then transition to the NASL and the Earthquakes.

Soccer, as it is played on the international level, has lost much of its magic. A game once highlighted by beautiful individual skills, deft offensive thrusts, and pinpoint passing, has been replaced by a battle in which almost anything goes. If an offensive player is on the verge of breaking through, the defensive player will grab, push, or trip him. The verbal warning and direct free kick is a small price to pay. The tragedy is that the fans are cheated from seeing one of the most exciting plays in soccer -- a skillful striker being stalked by a goalkeeper poised for an acrobatic leap -- and a crowd springing to their feet with a collective roar awaiting the outcome -- a spectacular save or a spectacular goal. The direct free kick, as bad an alternative as it is, is made even worse by defensive time wasting and a wall that rarely is moved back more than 7 yards. In effect, the dramatic home run and the exciting leaping catch against the outfield wall have.been replaced by the drab base on balls. You are well aware of other defensive antics that take the excitement out of the game. That's enough on the international problem over which you have little or no influence.

Let's address a fundamental mistake being made by the NASL -- a mistake that is most detrimental to teams that do not have vast financial resources. I refer to the rule permitting as many as 8 foreign players on the field next year. What a waste. What is the value of having the second-rate foreign player? The international stars -- Pele, Cruyff, Francis, Marsh, and Best -- will bring out the the crowds, but nobody in San Jose is coming out to watch Flindt instead of Ryan or Armstrong instead of Perez. The average fan does not notice the difference between the quality of play of a Flindt and a Ryan. My guess is that the San Jose soccer fan and fans in most other parts of the country would rather see a home team with 3 or 4 international stars supported by 7 or 8 American players than teams with no-name foreign players who are only slightly better than this country's best. It seems to me that in a soccer hot-bed such as San Jose, further restrictions on foreign players combined with a territorial draft pick (similar to the NBA system of several years ago) would be advantageous to the Quakes. You probably agree. However, I suppose that the powers in the league would resist any changes that would jeopardize their dominance. The challenge then is to convince them to make such changes before, not after, the patsies of the league collapse. I sense that many of the faithful Quakes' fans are bailing out. They have become more sophisticated over the last few years. Hopefully, they will be replaced by newcomers to the game. This brings me to my closing subject -- the Earthquakes.

This past season we had a team of "has been" foreign players who were more interested in individual glory than team play. I'll not forget Etterich's berating Christiansen for a visiting goal that was due primarily to Etterich's lack of hustle on defense. Etterich may be "Mr. Perpetual Motion, but only in the first half and only on offense. Then there is Bernie Goersdorff, "The Actor." He is great on penalty kicks, has a dangerous shot, and is sometimes effective on corner kicks from the right. On the other hand, he shoots from bad angles when he should be crossing, is easily controlled by a rookie defender such as Doc Lawson, seldom makes a good pass, and rarely plays defense. Bernie takes more dives in one game than most players take in a season. I recognize that he is a crowd pleaser and that you may have to bring him'back. Cryns, although a dirty player, is an outstanding defender, but couldn't you come up with something better than "The Sunny Boy of Solingen"? "Sliding Willie Cryns" or "The best tackier this side of the Oakland Raiders" would have been an improvement. The sun rarely shines in Solingen anyway. Give me Cruyff, Neeskins, and 9 Americans anytime. However, I suppose that those 2 stars would command more money than all of Stubbe's boys.

I don't envy you in your task of trying to find the right coach. Maybe you need a successful English coach who is looking for a new world (no pun intended) to conquer, and who would rather have less money in exchange for a superior climate. As we move at a snail's pace toward Americanization, I believe it is important to have an English speaking coach who can relate to the American players and command the respect of the foreigners. If you would like me to help in the search or other areas, I am available (given enough notice to get a new passport) and reasonable.

In closing, I am reminded of the poem which notes how much easier it is to be the critic on the outside than the gladiator in the ring. Best of luck to you and the Earthquakes.


Richard H. Hansen

Colonel, USAF

Posted on 01 Mar 2007 by coachgianni
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