U.S. World Cup pioneer, MLS Cup champion and MLS squad builder. Peter Vermes has worn all those titles during his prestigious career in soccer, with his experiences in the game making him as close to a walking encyclopedia of the game as yo will find in American soccer today.
Vermes shared his knowledge and experiences with us in the latest installment of The SBI Questions. He shared so much in fact that this installment of The SBI Questions will be broken up into two parts, this part, and another part that will run on Thursday.
In this segment, Vermes discusses the 1990 World Cup, his pick for best American to ever wear the No. 10 jersey as well as his explanation for the Yura Movsisyan and Dave Van Den Bergh trades. Vermes didn't duck a single question and pulled no punches.
Here is the first portion of his answers to your questions:
JEFFREY– Hey Peter, loved your game as a player. Here goes: You are one of the few players to enjoy success both as a striker and as a central defender. Who was the best defender you ever played against? And who was the best forward you ever played against?
VERMES– The best defender I ever played against was in the ’90 World Cup, it was Franco Baresi. He played obviously for the national team, but also for AC Milan in their heyday with the three Flying Dutchmen. He was a different level that guy. We actually traded jerseys at the World Cup.
The best forward I would say was Marco Van Basten. We played with national team against AC Milan in Chicago. Van Basten played, Rijkaard played, Gullitt didn’t play. Marco, for his size, the technical ability that he had and the awareness around the goal was just incredible. He was a guy that really did a lot for the forward position in the modern times because there were so many guys that were finishers who were either scrappers or just good at finishing, but he took it to a new level. He could slip balls in, right or left-footed, he could volley it and head it, but he could also dribble by two or three guys. He had it all.
STEVE T– Peter, what was your most memorable moment from the 1990 World Cup, both on and off the field?
VERMES– Everybody always asks me about the shot that I had against Italy, and obviously that was very memorable, but what I would say it’s the opening game, standing in the tunnel before the game. That was pretty incredible, knowing we were in the World Cup and we were getting ready to play our first game.
Off the field I would say our preparation in Switzerland was pretty amazing. We were very focused, in our own hotel. Guys were all so young and naÃ¯ve. Really, at the time, we didn’t really understand the magnitude of what we were doing. As I look back on it now we really forged a lot of great relationships with a lot of the guys who were from that group of players.
CAPE COD FUTBOL– Would you (at your peak) be starting XI on the USMNT today?
VERMES– It’s funny how people always compare players and teams from different time periods. What I would say is this: From a forward position I think I would have been a much more productive player as a forward today in the environment of players that are there than back when I played. That’s no disrespect to those guys, but we were such a defensive-oriented team back then. I was basically the first line of defense. I worked my butt off moving from side to side, going at the back three of the other team trying to win the ball back.
I think I would have faired better with the level of play and the way we keep possession today and just the style of play, it may have suited me being a forward at this time. I would like to think that I would be very competitive and have a chance to play on the team now. I’d have to be in my prime of course.
DAVID WAGNER– Do you think the Wizards pulled the plug too soon on Yura Movsisyan, what was the situation behind that deal? Thanks and best of luck this season.
VERMES– We always knew that he had incredible talent. He was doing very well for us, he was scoring a lot of goals, and we gave him quite a bit of games after Eddie (Johnson) went away with the national team.
It really wasn’t something we were just set on doing. He came to us twice during the year, the first time was prior to the season and asked to be traded. At the end of the day I talked him out of it. He came to us a second time in late summer and asked to be traded again because he saw himself as strictly a starter and at the time we just didn’t feel that he was.
I’d like to say that we did him a little bit of a favor. We did ourselves a favor because we felt this guy didn’t want to be with us so why force him to stay?
I’ve always liked the guy. I think he’s got incredible talent. Do I think he would be a good guy to have on your team? Sure, but if a guy doesn’t want to be with you, is he going to perform to the best of his abilities at that time?
DREW– It seems that tons of fans from around the League continually disrespect the Wizards organization. What would you say are the strengths of your organization that people outside of the family might not know?
VERMES– We have a brand new ownership group, no disrespect to the Hunts, but there has been a big change in the organization. We have five owners and all five live in Kansas City and are all heavily involved with the team. We have the largest soccer project in the United States, a $1.1 billion complex that we’re building. Our guys are committed to the game.
The other thing is that if you talk about the league now, and you talk to players and everyone else, when they go to our training facility and see the lengths we have gone to to make it as professional as possible, I think you get a much different vibe among players, coaches and GM’s
We have a group now that is very committed to the game of soccer and to creating the Kansas City Wizards as one of the premier clubs in the league. It’s going to take a little time but we have a long-term vision which we are going to continue to go at. It won’t happen overnight, but the great thing is that we have an ownership group and staff that is committed to it.
JJ– Who is the best US player you ever played with or against?
VERMES– The best individual player that was on the U.S. team has to be Tab Ramos from just a pure 1v-1 technical perspective. He could beat anybody 1-v-1, he was a great passer of the ball, was a great dribbler and just had an incredible insight and soccer brain.
All around player, I think John Harkes is one of the guys that had so many talents. He read the game very well, he had an incredible soccer brain, he had an incredible engine on the field. He could attack and defend. He just had a great sense for it all. He proved it by going over to Europe and playing in England and showing that a guy can make it over there. He was a very, very good soccer player.
As far as goal scorers, Eric Wynalda was a great goal scorer. Tony Meola, I’ve never come across a goalkeeper that always showed up in the big games. He was incredible. If there was a big game, he was the man, bar none. Just absolutely incredible when it came to the big game as a goalkeeper. I never saw the guy not pull something out of thin air to help the team win.
MARK– Peter, were you responsible for trading Dave Van Den Bergh to the Red Bulls for a supplemental pick while picking up a huge chunk of his salary? If so, did you (get sick) when he went on to become the Red Bulls best player not named Juan Pablo Angel?
VERMES – Every team has what they have, meaning that one team may play a 4-4-2, or 3-5-2, whatever the system is. We as an organization have to decide how we’re going to play and then what kind of players fit into that team. Dave obviously has played very well and is now moving on to Dallas and hopefully has success there.
I think what people do not understand is our league, as opposed to a lot of other leagues in the world, have problems with a number of things. We have a salary cap that has many different rules around it in regards to the money we’re allowed to spend, but also guaranteed contracts, semi-guaranteed contracts and on and on. When you’re rebuilding a team sometimes you have to make some changes that maybe in the short-term do not necessarily benefit you, meaning they don’t look like very good moves, but over the long term they’re the best moves you can make. You have to be willing to sacrifice a little bit in the short term.
Dave was one of those situations. We had a three-year plan and after three years we felt we would be in a very good position to be able to make a lot of decisions regarding our roster. To be frank, we’re only past the second year in the plan and we’re already to do that.
We’re very, very happy with where we’re at. Along the way you have to make some decisions that ultimately effect you in the short term. We always knew Dave was a good soccer. He played in the places he has played because he was a good soccer player. There are other circumstances that made our decision outside of him just being a good soccer player. For us to be able to get stronger in other areas of the field we had to make a decision.
For two years, the Kansas City Wizards weren’t in the playoffs. In the past two years that we’ve been here, we’ve made the playoffs and I’d like to think that our team has gotten a lot stronger over those two years and it’s because of some of the moves, like that, that we had to make.
SCOTT A– As a member of the U.S. Futsal team at the 1989 FIFA Futsal World Championships which placed third, do you think that Futsal can play an integral role in developing U.S. soccer players and technical skills? Should it be given more attention that it currently is?
VERMES– Absolutely. I’m involved with a youth club, Blue Valley Soccer Club, we also run the largest Futsal league in the country here in Kansas City. It’s called the Super-F League (with close to 3,500 participants). All of our competitive teams participate in the winter time in Futsal . It is the best off-season training game because it works on so much individual technique of a young developing player. It provides you with so much of the real parts of the game, but in real tight situations, and I really think it helps with development.
(The 1989 U.S. Futsal team finished third at the Futsal World Championships and even scored a victory against Brazil in group play.)
MICHAEL F.– Peter, you are a Jersey boy, Rutgers, MetroStar. Do you ever see yourself coming back to these parts?
VERMES– You can never say never, but I will say that I’m extremely happy where I’m at. I had a couple of different opportunities last year. We really have a great ownership group that personally learned a lot from, they give me a lot of autonomy. We’re onto something that’s pretty special. You can never say never. As these guys always tell me, you can take the boy out of Jersey but you can’t take Jersey out of the boy, but I am very happy where I am now.
DOUG– Mr Vermes. I remember watching you play on that big green sea of astroturf formerly known as the Rutgers Soccer Stadium when i was a kid. Good times. My question is who do you think the best player to ever wear the #10 USMNT jersey? Tab Ramos, Landon Donovan, or someone else.
VERMES– The kid doesn’t get a lot of respect but I will say that Landon Donovan has been an incredible, efficient, productive soccer player for the U.S. People talk about how at times he isn’t tough enough, or that he should be playing in Germany or what have you. I would take the guy on my team any day. I think he’s a fantastic soccer player. He has all the different components, he’s extremely technical, his physical abilities and athleticism is fantastic. He has an unbelievable engine. He’s a very smart guy when it comes to the field. I also think tactically he understands the game extremely well and understands the tricks of the trade. I would have to say at this present time that he’s the best guy to ever wear it.
Looking at Tab Ramos, If you had taken Tab, with his ability and stuck him with the group of players we have today, with the style we play today, he would probably be unbelievable, just because he’d have so many better technical players to play around him.
You just look at the numbers with Landon. People always say ‘Ah he’s scored so many of his goals in Central America.’ So what. That’s where we compete. We compete in CONCACAF, so he’s going to play those teams more. He dominates. You can have guys you like or don’t like, but when you look at Landon last year, when anybody has a year like Landon had last year they would be getting all the acclaim. He does that consistently.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on Vermes' answers in the comments section below and be sure to look out for part two of this segment on Thursday.