Rough Riders in the World Cup: Tony Meola

Written by Michael Lewis

With the U.S. men’s national team coming off a 1-1 draw vs. Wales in their first game of the World Cup in Qatar, the Long Island Rough Riders start a series on players who wore the team’s colors who participated in what many people consider to be “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Those are goalkeeper Tony Meola (USA), defender Wilmer Cabrera (Colombia), forward Edson Buddle (USA) and current team member, Joe Scally (USA).


Tony Meola was on the USA roster for three World Cups (1990, 1994, 2002), participating in two.

After playing for his country, Meola backstopped the Rough Riders to the U.S. Interregional Soccer League crown in 1995, the first title in team history. In fact, it was his long kick that started the dramatic winning goal by Giovanni Savarese in the 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Thunder in the final.

Born in Belleville, N.J.  on Feb. 21, 1969, Meola formed a unique triumvirate with John Harkes and Tab Ramos as all three players played and learned their soccer in Kearny, N.J.

As one of the youngest goalkeepers to play in the World Cup at Italia ’90, the then 21-year-old Meola played in all three matches. It was the first time in 40 years – since the 1950 World Cup that the U.S. men’s national team reached the competition.

As captain of the American squad, Meola also guarded the net for four matches at the 1994 World Cup, which was hosted by the United States. In one of the biggest upsets of that tournament, Meola helped the USA record a stunning 2-1 triumph over pre-tournament favorite Colombia at the Rose Bowl.

In 2002, Meola was selected as the third goalkeeper and did not see any action in Korea.

He went on to enjoy an outstanding career with the NY/NJ MetroStars and New York Red Bulls and Kansas City Wizards, winning the 2000 MLS Cup and taking home several honors. That included championship game and league MVP honors, MLS goalkeeper and comeback player of the year. Meola also played indoors with the Buffalo Blizzard (National Professional Soccer League) and New Jersey Ironmen (Xtreme Soccer League).

Meola finished his international career with 100 appearances for the USMNT.

He is co-host of Counter Attack, which can be heard on SiriusXM on weekdays and was a TV analyst for the Chicago Fire.

The USA kicks off the 2002 World Cup against Wales on Monday, Nov. 21, continues against England on Friday, Nov. 25 and completes Group B play vs. Iran on Tuesday, Nov. 29. All games will be televised on FOX at 2 p.m. each day.

The Rough Riders are holding a special Watch Party at their indoor facility in Uniondale, N.Y. on Nov. 25. For more information, click here.


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