Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cowboy Calcio, Beckham and Alexi Lalas - LEGEND

What makes a player a LEGEND ? Many make it onto a trading card, some are memorable and a few, if lucky, are immortalized. For a country that had not appeared in the World Cup in 40 years (1930 to 1990) any spark could result in being an instant hero.
The American who achieved that status was ALEXI LALAS when he scored the goal (above) against England in the 1993 US CUP at Boston. It seemed it was the first time Americans were playing without fear of the legendary soccer nations like Brazil, Germany and Italy.
Lalas was not just an average clean-cut American athlete. He honed his playing skills playing pick-up games in Michigan, then onto the Ivy League at Rutgers University. He played guitar in a rock band and even sang the national anthem at the 1st MLS CUP. He was instantly recognized for his trademark long shaggy red hair and goatie.

He was an Olympian footballer at the 1992 Barcelona Games. His international profile as a "never say die defender" and the goal against England made him one of the  high-profile players on the 1994 U.S. World Cup Team. After the 1994 Tournament he was signed as the first native born American in Italy's Serie A.
The "American Cowboy" as he was known, almost single-handedly saved the Padova from relegation by scoring two goals in the final three games of the season including ones against powerful AC Milan AND Inter Milan.
When Major League soccer finally formed a professional circuit in 1996, Lalas returned home to play for New England, New York, Kansas City and Los Angeles.
After 7 seasons in MLS, Lalas accepted a position in the front office at the New York club. Although no great achievements were noted here, he moved on to become the Los Angeles Galaxy's new General Manager. There, he hired former Dutch great Ruud Gullit and was part of the team that brought in David Beckham
Both those decsions had converse effects on the club, the league and the game in America. Regardless, Alexi Lalas has put his own stamp of uniqueness on the game. He has earned the apearance on a 2011 FUTERA LEGEND card.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting Nostalgic With the 90's - Shiney Magic Merlin

[above - 1996 MERLIN'S International Masters of The Game - Alan Shearer]

After selling off my entire collection of NFL football cards last week, I have become more focused on filling the gaps in my soccer card collection. As much as I enjoyed the other sports cards growing up, I always wanted more soccer material to be produced in the USA. Unfortunately, it never happened. Now, with Upper Deck spitting out their sub-standard product - and  MLS being complacent with it, it looks like nothing much has changed. Thank Buddah for the internet, and cable TV.

Now, I do look at my rebirth into collecting when the wonderful products became available in the 1990's though internet trades - namely, MERLIN'S PREMIER LEAGUE  trading cards.
[above- 1998 MERLIN'S Rainbow foil Golden Moment - Alan Shearer]

There are several reasons why these card sets appeal to me. First of all, they were very managable sizes. Most were under 200 cards. Next, they had small and well designed chase cards inserted in the packs. Both the front and the reverse were guilded in shiney color and gloss. But more importantly, they had good information.
[above - 1999 MERLIN'S Gold - Michael Owen]

Lastly, they were acoompanied by binder books - complete with plastic pages and room for all the base cards and the inserts. The binders featured fantastic photos of the stars and a checklist to track your progress.
[above - 1998 MERLIN'S Permier League Hotshots - Robbie Fowler]

While the inserts were dominated by Manchester United players, it had a good mix of stars that have stood up with time - Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler and Micheal Owen - all 100 goal scorers in the Premier League.
[above - 1996 MERLIN'S International Masters of The Game - Ryan Giggs]

There were a good number of foreign players that were beginning to star in the Premier league on a regular basis. They soon became fan favorites like - Eric Cantona (France), Ruud Gullit Holland), Giunluca Vialli (Italy), Peter Schmeichel (Denmark) and Faustino Asprilla (Colombia).

This was the start to the Premier League evolving into the "World's Best League". Although they are still relatively affordable ($5-10 range), these inserts are becoming increasingly harder to find as global collectors search for super looking super star cards.