Alexi Lalas Profile
|Born||Jun 01, 1970|
|Birthplace||Birmingham, Michigan, USA|
One of the first stars of MLS, multi-talented defender Alexi Lalas has legendary status in American soccer through his contribution to the USMNT and for his playing quality, before retiring in 2003.
Alexi Lalas is a retired American soccer player who played as a defender for a number of American teams. He also featured briefly for clubs in Italy and Ecuador. He excelled in many sports but was a standout soccer player for Rutgers University during his time at college. He made his debut for the United States national side before playing professionally.
After the 1994 World Cup, Lalas signed for Italian club Padova who played in the top tier of Italian football at the time. He made 33 league appearances in his first campaign and was purchased by the newly-formed MLS. However, a delay in the league's start saw him loaned out to Padova for another season, during which he played 11 matches.
He eventually returned to the States to play in defence for New England Revolution and stayed for two years. During his stint with the Revs, he was loaned out to Ecuadorian club Emelec for one month.
He was traded to MetroStars in 2008 where he remained for one season before moving to Kansas City Wizards (now known as Sporting Kansas City) in January 2009. He announced his retirement in October 1999 but returned in 2001 to join Los Angeles Galaxy. He spent three years with the Californian team before finally hanging up his boots in January 2004.
Lalas made 96 appearances for the United States national side, scoring nine goals.
Alexi Lalas and his early years
Lalas played for the Scarlet Knights while at Rutgers University between 1988 and 1991. He reached the National Championship Game in 1990 and was named a third-team All-American in both 1989 and 1990. He went two better in 1991, being named in the All-American first-team while winning both the Hermann Trophy and the Missouri Athletic Club Player of the Year award. He represented the USA at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and was offered a trial with Premier League club Arsenal in the same year.
He failed to make the grade in north London and returned to Detroit, where then USA national coach Bora Milutinovic invited him to trials. He was successful and, despite not being attached to a professional club, made his USA debut in 1991. He continued to be selected for the national side and eventually found a route to play professionally.
Alexi Lalas and Padova
Having played every minute of America's four games at the 1994 World Cup, he signed for Padova, who played in Italy's top tier at the time. He made 33 league appearances during his first season and scored three goals. Two of those were against AC Milan and Inter Milan - two of the biggest clubs in Italian football. He helped Padova retain their Serie A status by winning a relegation playoff on June 10, 1995.
Major League Soccer opted to buy him in the summer of 1995 for the start of the new league stateside, but there were problems and it failed to get off the ground. A delay of one year meant Lalas was loaned back to Padova to keep up his fitness levels and he enjoyed a further 11 outings. His final league match for Padova was against Lazio on February 26, 1996 before he moved back to America to take up a position with the newly-formed New England Revolution.
His time in Italy can be considered a success as he was a regular starter in what was, at the time, considered the top league in Europe.
MLS and New England Revolution
MLS decided to allocate high-profile players to the clubs ahead of the first draft and Lalas found himself on the books with New England Revolution. He shone in defence for the Boston-based club for two years, making 25 appearances during his first season in 1996 and scoring one goal.
He surpassed both his appearance and goal totals in 1997, playing 30 times and finding the net on two occasions. In November 1997, the Revolution unexpectedly loaned Lalas to Ecuadorian First Division club Emelec for one month. He expected to continue with New England the following year after being a standout player during his two years in defence, but was traded to New York-based MetroStars on February 4, 2008.
After retirement, Lalas spoke of his time with New England and what it meant to be part of the birth of a new league in the USA.
He said: "It was very exciting. You don't get many chances in life to be a part of something from the start that, if it goes right, will not only outlast your career but also your lifetime.
"I'm certainly proud of the time that I spent there, being part of the start of that team. We had a good time.
"I played a lot of music and we had wonderful times out, but we didn't couple it with a successful team."
MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards and LA Galaxy
Lalas spent the 1998 season with MetroStars, appearing in 25 games and scoring twice. However, in January 1999, he was traded to Kansas City Wizards. USA goalkeeper Tony Meola went the same way and the duo were replaced in New England by Mark Chung and Mike Ammann.
Again it was just a one-season stint for Lalas with the Wizards as he enjoyed 30 outings and scored four goals before announcing that he was retiring from the sport at the age of 29. The announcement shocked the league as it was thought that he had plenty more to give.
At the time, he said: "I have decided to leave the game and I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life off the field. I want to make it clear that my decision has absolutely nothing to do with wins, losses, trades or being in Kansas City."
Lalas was true to his word and did not play in 2000 but returned to the pitch the following year after signing for Los Angeles Galaxy in January 2001. He featured for three seasons in LA, playing 11 times in 2001 and scoring two goals.
The defender made 26 appearances the following season and managed to bag four goals, while he played 22 times in 2003, finding the net just once. That proved to be his last season in football and he retired for the second and final time on January 12, 2004.
Despite being moved around the league, Lalas' time in MLS was a success and he was linked with European clubs during his career stateside. However, he chose to remain in America and was a regular in the United States team during that period.
Alexi Lalas and his international career
Lalas began his international career in 1991. He made his debut in a 2-2 draw with Mexico on March 12, 1991 in the NAFC Championship. He was selected to play despite being at university and never having kicked a ball professionally. He won 96 international caps for the USA, scoring 10 goals and is considered among the best defenders to have represented his nation. He played in the 1993 Copa America and the Gold Cup of that year.
Having been involved in numerous friendlies leading up to the 1994 World Cup, he was selected for the squad to play in his homeland. Lalas played every minute of America's four games. They were eventually eliminated from the tournament after losing 1-0 to Brazil in the round of 16.
By now he was one of the first names on the team sheet and rarely missed a match, playing in the 1995 Gold Cup and the 1995 Copa America. He was named as the 1995 US Soccer Athlete of the Year.
He featured in the majority of the USA's qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup while playing his part in a run to the 1998 Gold Cup final.
He was selected in the squad for the 1998 World Cup but did not play a match in France as the USA were eliminated at the group stage. His final appearance for his country was on May 30, 1998, in a goalless draw with Scotland in a World Cup warm-up game.
Management, commentary and music
Lalas was born in Birmingham, Michigan to a Greek father and an American mother. His father was a professor, while his mother is a poet. He and his wife Anne have two children, named Henry and Sophie. He speaks four languages - Spanish, Italian and Greek in addition to English.
After he retired from playing, Lalas remained in football at management level, acting as president and general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes during the 2004 and 2005 MLS seasons. He then switched allegiance to the New York Red Bulls where he worked as GM for the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
A move out west followed as Lalas served as president of LA Galaxy from 2006 to 2008. It was during his time in the role that the Galaxy signed England legend David Beckham.
Lalas then moved into the commentary booth, working for ESPN for six years before he joined Fox Sports. Lalas appeared in both EA Sports' FIFA 16 and FIFA 17.
He is a keen fan of music - in particular rock music - and has played in a band called The Gypsies ever since he was at college. In 1998, they opened for US band Hootie & The Blowfish during the European leg of their tour.
It is much more than just a hobby for Lalas as his band released the album 'Woodland' during the 1994 World Cup. Lalas has also released seven solo albums to date. They are: Far from Close (1996), Ginger (1998), So It Goes (2010), Infinity Spaces (2014), Shots (2016), Sunshine (2018) and Look at You (2019).