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Eric Wynalda relives his dramatic goal in 1994 World Cup

Updated June 23, 2019 - 11:18 am

The 25th anniversary of one of the greatest soccer goals in U.S. men’s national team history — a 28-yard free kick by Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda that gave the Americans a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their first World Cup game in 34 years — was Tuesday.

Some background about the 1994 goal from the man who scored it:

■ Wynalda was feeling fatigued when he lined up the memorable boot at a steamy Pontiac Silverdome in front of 73,425 anxious spectators. Blame it on O.J. and his pal Al Cowlings. “The whole O.J. Simpson thing (slow speed car chase) was the night before, so none us got a whole lot of sleep.”

■ Did the shot tick the crossbar? A $1,000 bet in Germany was riding on the sketchy evidence: “Two of my German friends — one was a teammate, one was a guy I played against — made a $1,000 bet that I would hit the crossbar, because the last three free kicks I took in Germany, I hit the bar. If you watch the video, it’s really hard to tell. But it did hit the crossbar.”

■ Wynalda wasn’t supposed to take the shot: “Two days before the game, (free kick specialist) Claudio Reyna popped his hamstring in practice, (and then) they went from Gatorade to Powerade (sports drink) and they didn’t tell us. I cannot drink Powerade because of synthetic dye or whatever, and I drank two bottles of it. I had hives over my entire body, and then it was intensified by the heat in the Silverdome.”

But he played anyway. And then Eric Wynalda scored one of the most dramatic goals in domestic soccer history. On its 25th anniversary, he received dozens of congratulatory messages. One was from the famous Argentine broadcaster Andres Cantor:

“G-O-A-L-L-L-L-L-L!”

“People have told me when they ripped down the Silverdome, they went back and tried to get the seat they sat in,” the Lights coach said. “It was pretty cool. Everybody who was a part of that remembers it in their own way.”

Lost in the fire

Wynalda’s goal was nearly as memorable as the jerseys he and the U.S. wore that day — lurid denim blue and festooned with stars in no discernible pattern. They were to soccer kits what multicolored Houston Astros stripes were to baseball uniforms during the Nolan Ryan era.

Still, that No. 11 shirt was one of Wynalda’s most treasured keepsakes — until it went up in flames along with the rest of his home during last summer’s deadly California wildfires.

The Lights on July 4 will don jerseys inspired by the ones Wynalda and his teammates wore against Switzerland in 1994. Fans will be able to purchase the souvenir jersey, along with a midfield ticket at Cashman Field for the game against LA Galaxy II, for $94.

Fielder’s choice

Cool statistic that didn’t make the cut in last week’s Father’s Day edition notes: Prince Fielder and his dad, Cecil, each finished their major league careers with 319 home runs.

Cecil Fielder once envisioned a college career at UNLV. He spent a fall semester at the school, but clashed with Rebels coach Fred Dallimore over his weight and other matters.

“Freddy isn’t a bad person, but between he and I, it just wasn’t going to work out,” the elder Fielder said in a 1996 interview when the Tigers played the A’s at Cashman Field during the renovation of Oakland Coliseum.

Fielder also said he and Dallimore didn’t see eye to eye on keg parties, chasing women and poor grades.

Off to see the Wizards

For a guy who started his sports career as a mild-mannered UNLV sports information assistant, Tommy Sheppard has done all right.

Sheppard recently was interviewed for the Washington Wizards’ general manager position after the firing of Ernie Grunfeld on April 2.

He was referred to as an “internal guy” in one report. But Sheppard, whose actual title is Wizards senior vice president of basketball operations, also is the guy holding down the fort with the NBA free agency period looming. If that and being a nice guy count for anything, perhaps he’ll get a second look.

0:01

Remember when UNLV would play Wisconsin at Sam Boyd Stadium and Badgers fans who didn’t get a ticket from the visitors’ allotment bought Rebels season tickets so they could see the game?

Well, with VIP season club tickets costing as much as $2,500 at new Las Vegas Stadium, UNLV had better look into scheduling Wisconsin again.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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