Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Joe-Max Moore Interview


(Published in print in the United States – February 2000)

Joe-Max Moore is still experiencing a bit of culture shock when he walks the streets of his new soccer destination.
"It's amazing," the 28-year-old American told me during a telephone interview Friday evening from his place of lodging in Liverpool, England.
"Everywhere you go, people come up and pat you on the back or ask for your autograph. The team's fortunes are always at the forefront of their thinking. These people live and breathe it."
The new striker for Everton -- the "other" club in Liverpool -- had better get used to the adulation.
Since joining the English Premier League side on a free transfer from Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, Moore has made an impact.
Once Moore regained match fitness, manager Walter Smith has worked him on to the field as a substitute. The strategy has yielded wonders.
On Jan. 15 at Liverpool's Goodison Park, 36,144 fans were treated to a second-half injury-time goal by Moore. The tally lifted Everton to a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur and preserved the Toffees' unbeaten home mark for the season.
Moore started a league match vs. Bradford City, then worked his late magic again on Jan. 29 by scoring in injury time at Goodison Park to seal a 2-0 FA Cup win over Preston North End.
The man who scored 40 goals in 80 MLS matches seems to have found the ability to put the ball in the back of the net at the next level. And his teammates are noticing.
"I think they're gaining some trust in me," Moore said. "I know the goals helped raise my confidence level. Once you start scoring, it's something you wish to maintain. My goal is to keep helping the team."
Moore is tipped to get his second league start today when Everton travels to Selhurst Park outside of London to take on Wimbledon. (The match will be shown live at 11 a.m. on FOX Sports World.)
The Sunday TV slot had Moore looking forward to a national audience for the match in Great Britain.
"The game is live on Sky Sports here, so that gives us some profile," Moore said. "I think the guys get fired up when you have that fixed viewership."
Toward that end, Moore raves about the home crowds at Goodison Park.
"First off, the fans are right on top of the field, which makes it nice," he said. "And while there are some tremendously knowledgeable fans in the U.S., you can't get what you get here.
"It's just great to see them applaud when you make a nice tackle or hit a 50-yard ball. They really know the game."
Moore is also part of one of the deepest rivalries in the British game. Only Sunderland-Newcastle United, Manchester United-Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal and Rangers-Celtic can approach Everton-Liverpool for passion.
"Oh, boy," Moore said. "The whole city is consumed by it. I know families that teeter on the brink of divorce because the husband likes Liverpool and the wife is an Everton fan."
Moore, who played once before in Europe for Nuremberg of Germany, landed at Everton in a curious manner.
Scotland international and Everton player Richard Gough did some time with MLS' San Jose Clash (now called the Earthquakes). He was so impressed with Moore's play he recommended the American to Smith. It moved on from there.
"My agent compiled a tape of my goals and sent it on to the Everton officials," Moore said. "They signed me to a three-and-a-half year deal."
Moore has a high level of respect for his manager. "The way Walter prepares the team during the week, the speeches he makes to the team -- he's a class act," he said. "He lets his assistant do most of the coaching, really. He sits in the stands for the first half of the matches then comes down and makes adjustments."
Moore is actually representative of a growing trend in the FA Carling Premiership (known as the EPL overseas) -- foreign players. Any European Union-based side can sign a player from any member country. But there is a flood of cheaper East Europeans, South Americans and, yes, Americans (Claudio Reyna plays for Rangers and Brad Friedel for Liverpool) entering the league.
Moore's opinion?
"It's tough to say," he said. "On one hand, people identify with their own. But, for the most part, I think all fans want to see the highest quality of play possible, no matter where you're from."
Moore is well aware of the 1990s exploits of countrymen John Harkes -- who started for Sheffield Wednesday -- and goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who did well with Leicester City and now plays with Spain's Rayo Vallecano.
Reyna's midfield scoring exploits with Rangers have made an even bigger impression.
"What Claudio's doing up there (in Scotland) is incredible," Moore said. "He's set a standard for American players to follow."
Moore is also happy that technology allows Americans to see the European matches on a regular basis.
"You're getting the Wimbledon match?" he asked. "The world is truly global now. That's great. The sport certainly is."
Moore and his wife of four-plus years are settling down for a long stay in the UK.
"I can't say enough about the people in the community, they way they have treated me and my wife," he said. "This is certainly a good place to be playing."
As a top-flight scorer for MLS' Revolution, Moore took a few moments to reflect on the future of the five-year-old American League.
"I think anyone who would say the MLS is a healthy league would be on the right track," Moore said. "They have to keep increasing the crowds and television presence.
"I think the level of play has increased greatly in the first four years. People pick up on that. They know when they're getting a good product."
As do the English fans, who have embraced Moore with the nickname "GI Joe."
They shouldn't be surprised. Moore always lifted the U.S. level of play (20 goals in 78 caps won). It was never more evident than vs. Germany during the Confederations Cup in Mexico last summer. Moore scored a spectacular goal in a 2-0 victory, raising his international standing that much further. However, when Moore replaced Everton golden boy Francis Jeffers late in that Tottenham match, he heard a few catcalls from the crowd.
"Yeah, I remember there were a few boos at the time," Moore said with a laugh. "I do think the fans were more upset that Walter was removing a forward and not a midfielder.
"And, you've got to remember - he's one of the stars of the team."
Give Moore a few more starts and, in a couple of weeks, he may be repeating those sentiments in front of his bedroom mirror.