France on June 23, 1998.
The player taking the spotkick was, of course, Andreas Herzog—a true leader—who until today, has always been known for his
eagerness to compete and strive for success in challenging situations.
But these characteristics have not only driven Herzog
to take responsibility in that 1998 World Cup match.
They have also enabled him to spend his
playing days having major impacts for such soccer powers as the German Bundesliga's Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich.
However, competitiveness and ambition have now brought up another stage in the 35-year-old's career: sunny Southern California and a Major League Soccer club called the Los Angeles Galaxy.
After starting out as a professional with Rapid Vienna in Austria, scoring 39 goals in 139 matches between 1987 and 1992 (also including part of one season with First Vienna), Herzog
decided the time had come to move to the German Bundesliga.
At Bremen, the Austrian spent a total of nine seasons which combined for 236 matches, 57 netters, 2 Cup Championships ('94, '99) and a League Championship (1993).
In the 1995/96 season, the "Alpen-Maradonna" (Maradonna of the Alps) had a brief stint with Bayern—long enough, however, to appear in 28 matches, score 2 goals and win the prestigious UEFA Cup.
In 2002, Andreas
returned home to Rapid Vienna, where he
left again after not even two seasons.
From that point on, he was looking for a new team until finally signing with the Galaxy in early February.
"It's a great experience and a great challenge for me to try and really take off again and prove myself in America," he
made it clear that another German with U.S. experience—Lothar Matthäus, his coach at Vienna
for part of 2002—had nothing to do with the deal at all.
Despite having played in MLS himself (for the MetroStars), Matthäus never talked to Herzog
about the possibility of a move to America.
After all, Herzog
did not leave Rapid until the summer of 2003.
A fan favorite and team leader over a period of almost 10 years, Herzog started to become frustrated with his position as a substitute towards the end and blamed Coach Thomas Schaaf for a lack of respect.
By the summer of 2001, Herzog
was ready to leave and gladly did so as soon as matters were worked out with Rapid Vienna about a half a year later.
However, when the financial difficulties came up halfway though 2003, the Austrian club agreed on letting its star midfielder seek his fortune elsewhere.
added "With New York, the problem was that they already have a talented, young playmaker (likely referring to Amado Guevara), so they said they didn't really need another.
At first, they were interested, but then the coach said he
wanted to put his
trust in the young guy after all.
I have to accept that."
At the time, Herzog
was also hoping to seal a deal in the country of Dubai whose teams are commonly-known among aging stars for offering very generous salaries.
However, the midfielder never flew to Dubai to meet with any officials and he
stated that money is not one of his
main issues at this point anyway.
This appears plausible, since, after all, a move to MLS and its salary cap certainly is not the most lucrative of all options.
"I didn't go there (L.A.) to earn a ton of money, but to have a true competitive challenge again," Herzog
However, having already practiced with the Galaxy
several times, Herzog
is aware that the physical level in MLS is demanding and that, after a half year of no match practice, a lot of work will be necessary to get in appropriate shape.
"In '98, you could already tell that the Americans were experiencing a tremendous improvement soccer-wise," Herzog
As far as MLS matches are concerned, Herzog
was fortunate enough to own a much-desired "Premiere" (payTV station) decoder during his
time in the German Bundesliga and was, thus, able to follow the U.S. League
on a relatively frequent basis.
"I could tell that those Americans are all real athletes," he
"Obviously, Cobi Jones is the best- known to me, since I played against him in '98," Herzog
"Of course, that's a huge deal for the teenager and he
really is an unbelievably great talent," Herzog
The number of potential advice customers for Herzog
is not a small one as the Galaxy
roster is currently packed with under-25-year-olds.
Thus, it has to be a legitimate question to ask whether or not the 35-year-old is at all afraid of losing his
starting spot to one of those highly ambitious youngsters.
"No, it's great," he
However, despite the fact that Andreas
is the very first Austrian to ever play in MLS, he
does not regard himself as a representative of his
country by any means.
And when it comes to future call-ups to the National Team, the two-time World Cup veteran is not so sure, either.
"They're currently in the middle of building a young team and that's no problem," he
But when confronted with this issue, Herzog
did not think giving an emotional speech would convince the Los Angeles supporters.
"I can only prove it on the field," he
Still though, Herzog
refused to give up his
"I just played in Austria for almost two years and there were somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people at the games," the midfielder said.
"So it can only be better in America and I've heard that the fans in Los Angeles are supposed to be very enthusiastic anyway.
That makes it that much more fun—to play in front of your home fans when it's a sellout crowd."
Obviously though, greater support also brings along greater expectations, but Herzog
does not regard them as anything negative.
"I believe there are always certain expectations to be successful," he
"You just have to be able to deal with them.
If you want to become a champion, you always need to cope with the pressure.
Otherwise, you can't be successful."
However, after this indirect indication of his
goals with the Galaxy
in MLS, Herzog
also commented quite explicitly on what winning MLS Cup 2004 would mean to him compared to such trophies as the German Cup and League Championships (with Bremen) or the UEFA Cup (with Bayern).
"It would mean just as much," he
But despite having never participated in any league competition of a similar format, Herzog
refused to spend much thought on the fairness issue involved.
"Well, that's just the way it is," he
Since late January of this year, Herzog
had long given up hope for the help of agents in finding him a new club; the midfielder then decided to fly to Los Angeles himself, and after getting a first impression of the Galaxy
organization, did not hesitate to sign with the 2002 Champions.
Due to the spontaneous nature of his
decision, however, the Austrian (upon his
return to Europe just a few days later), had no idea where exactly he
wanted to live in Southern California.
Speaking of Arnold Schwarzenegger, though, Herzog
would not let the interview end without taking the chance to direct a few words at his fellow countryman.
has already made out his
greatest rival in Major League Soccer as well.
"The one player I'm looking most forward to playing against is Tony Meola," he
said with a grin.
"At the 1990 World Cup, he
stopped two of my shots that just had to be in the net.
I was wide open in front of the goal twice, but he
pulled off two unbelievably great saves.
So it would be nice to put one or two away against him this season."
contract with the Galaxy
runs until the end of 2004, but it does include an option for another year in case things turn out to go well for him in MLS.
However, when asked whether that means he
is planning to hang up his
boots for sure after the 2005 season, the Austrian appeared all but decided.
"Who knows what the situation is going to be two or three years from now," he