A monthly look at the fans behind the U.S. National Teams. In this case, we introduce you to die-hard and audio/visual-proficient fan Dave Brett Wasser, whose library of U.S. Men's National Team videos is envied even by the U.S. Soccer Communications Department.
"The Tape Crusader"
A soccer historian. In some parlance such a phrase might be considered an oxymoron. "Soccer history? In the United States? Didn't it all start in 1989 with Paul Caligiuri?" Only the uneducated soccer fan would assume such, and definitely not the average reader of "Center Circle."
In fact, the history of soccer in America is rich and detailed, dating all the way back to the foundation of U.S. Soccer in 1913, through the glory years of the American Soccer League in the 1920s, and on through the rise-and-fall of the NASL in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Through it all the U.S. National Team was playing games, and by the time the 1970s and ‘80s rolled around, some of those games had become testing grounds for the newest of technologies: video tape.
Enter Dave Brett Wasser: a man on a mission. Wasser is a collector. An investigator. A sleuth. He knows the tapes are out there, and by hell or John Stollmeyer, he is going to find them.
As Wasser likes to say, "I like to think of myself as a soccer historian. There aren't too many of them out there, that's for sure."
In his time collecting soccer videos, the resident of Austin, Texas, has amassed more than 75 complete U.S. National Team games and about 50 old NASL games.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right?," asks Wasser. "Well, then a video tape of these old games is worth hundreds of thousands of words. You can't know the strategies and nuances of the game without seeing these tapes. If you were old enough to witness the games, then you could comment on them, but if you're not, then you have to see the video."
A native of New York City, the 34-year-old Wasser grew up as a New York Cosmos fan and was immediately hooked on the sport.
"Some of the young soccer fans today have no idea how big it was in the late 1970s in New York," said Wasser. "At that time the Cosmos were attracting huge crowds and media attention. It was an exciting time and I distinctly remember watching many of those old NASL games on TV as a kid."
Of course, while the NASL was booming, the U.S. Men's National Team was just beginning to awaken from a 20-year void in which the team's success of 1950 was followed by two decades of apathy.
"At the time (the late 1970s), the existence of the U.S. Men's National Team was largely ignored in the media," said Wasser. "As a kid, I wasn't even aware of the team. Sure the team wasn't very good at that point, but it wasn't as bad as people want to say it was. And there were plenty of good Americans in the NASL, of course, not like it is today in MLS, but enough to field a good U.S. Men's team."
As part of his desire to catalog the sport's history in the United States on video tape, Wasser has made hundreds of phone calls and contacts over the years. From Kyle Rote Jr. (former NASL and MNT star) to Gene Chzowych (former MNT head coach) to Ron Newman (the winningest professional soccer coach in U.S. Soccer history), if you were a part of U.S. Soccer's history in the 1970s and 1980s, then chances are you are on Wasser's call list.
"If they don't have any old game tapes, they at least have interesting stories to tell when I talk to them," said Wasser. "Kyle Rote told a great story about a game in the 1970s that he would love to get a tape of. Manchester United came to Dallas to play his Tornado and as some sort of marketing gimmick, Dallas had a trained monkey to climb along the crossbar whenever the Tornado scored a goal. Can't imagine what the British footballers thought of that!"
Wasser also pinpointed a game that highlighted Rote's career with the USA. It came in 1973 when the U.S. was in the midst of a three-game series with Poland. The Poles had recently won the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics and were on their way to third-place finish at the 1974 World Cup. After downing the U.S. in the first two matches by a combined score of 5-0, the U.S. shocked Poland with a 1-0 victory in a game played in New Britain, Conn. (with Al Trost scoring the goal).
Although that game, and many like it, have yet to be uncovered, Wasser won't be giving up anytime soon.
"The oldest complete game I have is from the 1984 Olympics (USA vs. Costa Rica, a 3-0 win in which Rick Davis scores twice), and I will soon be receiving a 1980 tape of a USA-Canada game from the CBC archives," said the University of Rochester graduate. "The ‘red tape' (no pun intended) that I had to go through to get that tape was a good example of how difficult this can be. But I'd have to say one of my favorite tapes is the 1989 USA-Trinidad game. ‘The Shot Heard ‘Round the World' goal. That was a great day.
"You know, I get the question all the time from my friends, ‘Why do you care so much about those old games?'" said Wasser. "To me it's like uncovering your family roots or studying the history of a country. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, and we're trying to piece the puzzle together. By putting it together we get a better picture of our soccer history."
Here's to Wasser and his continued quest to complete the puzzle.
[Editor's Note: If you have some old game tapes or search tips for Dave Brett Wasser (or just want to talk soccer), he can be contacted at email@example.com ]
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2002 World Cup Final Draw)
2) All I Want for Christmas... (w/ U.S. National Teams staff and players)
3) At the Movies (w/ U-21 WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT midfielder Chris Armas)
5) Making it to the Show (w/ U-17 MNT forward Ed Johnson)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT forward Cindy Parlow)
7) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. South Korea -- Dec. 9)
8) Point-Counterpoint (w/ coaches Bruce Arena and Bob Gansler)
9) From the Bleachers (w/ U.S. Soccer fan Dave Brett Wasser)
10) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (College Soccer Trivia)
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