Former Premiership star Shaka Hislop is backing his new club FC Dallas to make history and become the first team from Texas to be crowned MLS Champions this season.
An FA Cup finalist only last year, Hislop believes not only do FC Dallas have the players and character, but reflect the burgeoning development of US Soccer, that prompted him jump at the chance to return to the States with the Western Conference Champions:
“Alan Knight contacted me just after the Cup Final, we’ve stayed in touch since our Portsmouth days. He contacted me about my availability and of course I said I would give it some thought but I had a huge summer a head of me with the World Cup.
“So I gave it some more thought, and the more I considered it the more it felt right for me professionally and personally to make the move across the pond. It was a fresh challenge which is what you need from time to time.
“I felt that I had come to the stage with my career as far as England was concerned where I needed something new, and to get some new impetus in my career. The World Cup also rejuvenated me in this respect, and I realized the move back across the pond was the right move for me and my family.
“When I moved to England the MLS had not been founded yet, so it was an opportunity for me to come back and play in some familiar grounds, and cities. I was at Howard University in DC, before I came over to Reading, I graduated in 1992.
Hislop jokingly suggests he still has some scores to settle over his college career, but feels the NCAA offers a good platform for those who want to make a career in the pro’s:
“We got to the final in my freshman year- 1988. We lost one – nil to Indiana the hosts on a PK, it wasn’t might fault it was the refs fault. There’s a lot of talk about the guys that are now coming over from the States now, they’ve done really well, of course, but they were not the first to come over.
“Goalies were coming over long before that, even the final four in 1988, Kasey Kellar was playing for Portland and Juergen Sommer was at Indiana. So maybe the outfield players took a little longer but for the goalies, we’ve been doing the business for years, although Kasey Kellar is old now! Now we’re seeing the outfield players doing well, and it was kind of always going to be sooner or later, the US game has grown and progressed so much.”
Despite an extended absence from America, the former Reading keeper feels like he has never left and has been suitably impressed by the quality of MLS soccer:
“I’ve settled in very well I have to say, everyone has made a real effort, my wife and I have family here so the transition was never going to be a problem. We’ve fitted right in and now we are buying a house here this week in Dallas. So we’re looking forward to that, and everything is going to plan.
“Since we moved here, we started in a two bedroom apartment with my wife and four daughters as you can imagine there was no space for Shaka while the house was being finished, I guess it will be a relief to move in.
“Before I arrived on the training ground I knew the standard was going to be very high. However, I couldn’t believe it when I arrived, the standard is so high now. When I left, the sport was just starting but the league now has a very international flavor, and the American players have responded, and that can be seen in the national team and their place in the rankings.
“There are a lot of good players both international and American, on our training ground we have Dax McCarthy he is a huge prospect for the US game, he hasn’t got the games he would have wanted but that takes time. Day in day out you see these players and you realize a lot of these guys could grace any league in the world and are a great credit to the MLS.
“I’m in Dallas for the foreseeable future, I’ve signed a contract until the end of next season so we’ll take it from there. I’m looking forward to a welcome break, with the World Cup I haven’t stopped since the summer of 2005. So I’ll have a nice break and come back refreshed, I’m looking forward to it. Where it takes me we will see, I’ve made a point over the last few years of not looking further than 12 months ahead.”
The one thing that will make his well earned break a little sweeter is his belief that FC Dallas can take the MLS Cup for the first time:
“I hope we do it, we’ve shown on a few occasions why we finished top of the Western Conference, we’ve not been the strongest away from home, so to win in Colorado, showed our mettle, we went away and put up a resilient performance against a tough Colorado team and showed why we’re top, and deserved to be in the play offs.
“I can see us going all the way without a doubt without a doubt, in my short time here, its become very obvious that this is a very strong team with skill and character, we just have to keep doing what we do, I can see us going all the way.”
The World Cup player also reveals he thinks he could be playing against or with one of his most illustrious opponents from Germany next season- David Beckham:
“I would tell him it’s a young and very exciting league, the MLS has a lot to offer, the crowds are really starting to get into it and knows its stuff. Given the traditional sports out here its great to see that soccer has such a huge following, and has such an appreciation, they enjoy the entertainment and are not following the crowd like in other sports.
“David Beckham, is one of the most entertaining and high profile players in the world, and he would love everything the US has to offer from the crowds to the life style. The players are here, it’s exciting and the games matter because the fans want to be here and are passionate about the game.”
by Andrew Rogers