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Along with being one of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer, Joe Cannon has always had a reputation for being one of the league's most outgoing and free-spirited players. The San Jose goalkeeper has never been afraid to speak his mind or voice an opinion, and that free-wheeling approach carries over into his play on the field.
Having played for the Colorado Rapids, Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, Cannon has starred for three different fan-bases and won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors with two different clubs. A spell at RC Lens in the French first division has been Cannon's only time away from Major League Soccer, where he has established himself as arguably the best American goalkeeper in the world with a full head of hair.
Cannon shared his experiences and offered some insight into his career and development as a player in the latest episode of the SBI Questions. Never one to be short on something to say, Cannon provided enough insight to have his session split up into two parts (The other will run on Thursday).
In this installment, Cannon discusses his time in France, his favorite drink, his favorite goalkeepers growing up and his time in Los Angeles with the Galaxy (with some answers sure to cause a stir).
JIMMY BOBO– Joe, What went wrong in France? I really thought you would do well in the French League and you came back to MLS quickly. What the hey?
JOE CANNON– That’s a fair question but to be honest, nothing went wrong. People need to understand that there are two types of Americans that go to Europe. There are those who were searched out by teams, like a Tim Howard or Jozy Altidore. The other type are the players who go to Europe looking for a job.
When I got to France I thought I was playing very well but they had a young kid they wanted to try and give him the benefit of the doubt. To the credit of the young kid, he played very well. We had a Champions League team there and the first four or five games I was there we posted shutouts. There’s nothing you can really do. It was just the situation, but I do think it’s different if it’s a case where Lens comes here and inquired about me and signs me. When you get over there they ask you two questions: How old are you and how many caps do you have, and I didn’t really have any caps at the time.
I wasn’t too disappointed because I never really got a break. The hardest part was trying to keep my confidence. When I got there I thought I was playing some of the best soccer of my career, and when I left I thought I was a better goalie because being with this team that was a Champions League caliber team was a good experience. I wanted to stay in Europe but the problem was MLS came with an offer and there was nothing really concrete over there and since I had a mortgage I really couldn’t just wait it out.
Nothing went wrong. The guy who was in front of me (Charles Itanje), he’s now the back-up goalkeeper at Liverpool. He just played well and I have to give him credit. He played well and at the end of my tenure there they offered him a three-year contract. I figured then that I couldn’t stick around and spend years 28 through 31 or 32 on the bench. Nothing really bad happened.
For me, I was more disappointed with an offer not coming from my trial at Feyenoord before I went to France. I really felt I could have won the job there.
The other thing I’ll say is that the French aren’t as mean as people make them out to be. They’re actually pretty decent people. I was over there during the war, so that probably didn’t help me either.
SEAN MONOGHAN– who are three guys on the galaxy you still remain very close to?
JOE CANNON– It was Ante Jazic, who got traded Chivas, and just Landon really. I don’t really talk to anybody else. They pretty much gutted the team from when I was there. Now that it’s just Landon it’s easier to not like those guys, and vice versa.
SOCRATES– Joe: Yourself excluded, who do think are the top 2 goalkeepers in MLS?
CANNON– I like Matt Reis, I like his game. You can obviously say (Kasey) Keller’s up there, but the two best, besides Andrew Weber, our other goalie with the Earthquakes, I’d say Reis and (Pat) Onstad.
I do like (Columbus goalkeeper Wil) Hesmer. I think he’ll be good. You’re seeing for the first time, that expansion is catching up to the quality of goalkeeping in the league. It’s tougher now to find. It was just a couple of years back where you could say that the starter and the back-up were pretty good. You can’t say that now. It’s an interesting time so we should see some new names. Another problem is that you see a lot of good goalkeepers leaving.
MARK– Joe, who has the hardest shot in the MLS or abroad that you have faced?
CANNON– A guy named Tony Vairelles, who actually had a stint in training with Toronto, had a pretty tough shot. A guy named Cyril Rool had a left-footed cannon when I was at Lens. A guy at Feyenoord named Pierre van Hooijdonk had an incredible bomb.
In MLS, you’d have to say Dwayne DeRosario. When he goes to strike it, I don’t think he has a clue where he’s going to strike it but he hits it really hard.
JEMAINE– Joe, what was the Galaxy locker room like during the year Beckham arrived?
JOE CANNON– I almost want to write a book about how bad it was. That was the most disappointing part to that whole year. Everything was so, it had to do more with what it looked like on the outside. To give people a breakdown of what it was like. It was Frank, the guys he brought in, mixed in with old time Galaxy players on the opposite sides, with a bunch of people in the middle. I’m never really one to back down and I felt that when David got there he just magnified the split. He didn’t help alleviate it. I think at the time, I don’t know if it was his first concern. You can’t push the leadership onto a new player. I’m sick and tired of people kissing other people’s ass. I read the articles about this and that and I’ll be honest, it was a disappointing time to see such good professionals act like such little babies about the dumbest things.
An organization like LA, that I really looked up to for so long from the outside, ended up being like that. It was just really disappointing. There were a lot of good people who worked there, but there was a handful that ruined it for everybody else.
ISAAC– Where in Europe would you love to play?
JOE CANNON– Probably Italy or Spain just for the climate. Obviously England is the probably the top league right now, but when you look at how happy a guy like Darren Huckerby is in California, it really makes you think. I’d really want to play in a place like Spain or Italy, where you can do something you love but also enjoy life a little bit more after practice.
GEL65– Joe,who was your favorite goalie and biggest influence while growing up learning the goalie position?
JOE CANNON– I would watch videos of guys like Jean-Marie Pfaff and (Rinat) Dasaev, because I had this one Mexico 86 World Cup highlight video and I watched it hundreds and hundreds of times. I was lucky enough when I was in France to meet Jean-Marie Pfaff when I was at Lens.
At that time, there was no professional league so it was tough. Guys like Mark Dougherty, who played locally, were big. I got to work with him in Colorado, which was huge. He had a really successful career and was a really good goalie. Guys like that are who I looked up to.
Peter Schmeichel is another one. The coolest thing about Schmeichel was that he was so unorthodox but he was such a presence. He had such a confidence. I also liked Oliver Khan. Guys who personified the position.
It was really difficult being a young kid when I was growing up because you didn’t have Fox Soccer Channel. You read about the games in Soccer America and that was about it. There was no internet, so it was much more difficult.
MARK– When you and Scott Garlick had a war of words (I hesitate to call it that but for lack a better term I'll use it) in the media over who would be the starting keeper when you arrived in Colorado. Had you thought up your response to his Joe Cannon/Joe Bazooka comment ahead of time, or was that off the cuff? Either way it was a classic. Scott Pepper or Scott Salt, well played…
JOE CANNON– That was a conversation that Landon and I had on the phone and the reporter was on the other line so Landon said I should say it so I said it. I should make more comments like that all the time. That was just something that came up and thought of right then.
BOB– Had LA kept you last year. Would they have made the playoffs? I say yes, that's how good you are.
JOE CANNON– Oh, for sure. That’s my Peter Schmeichel coming out.
YALALAA– What's your favorite beer and what's your favorite cocktail?
I've heard all your answers to soccer questions before. 😉
JOE CANNON– Favorite beer is a tough one because I’m all over the shop, but I really appreciate the thicker beers. I like a Hepper Weissen, in the summer it’s a great drink. I tried to stay away from beer. When we’re talking cocktails it’s the Long Island Ice Tea for sure. You’re talking four drinks in one right there. Andrew Weber, our other goalie, likes the Cape Cod.
STEVE– What is your relationship with Frank Yallop like? Obviously, he thinks highly of your ability, bringing you to San Jose with him.
JOE CANNON– Frank and I really respect each other. I think he understands me more than anyone in the sense that he doesn’t really try to change who I am or what I’m about. To be honest, I’ve calmed down a lot in the past couple of years. I’m hoping to recapture a lot of that intensity. That’s just who I am and I think for a while I went away from that.
I respect Frank. He’s the type of coach who wants to win and he wants to put it in perspective of life. He’s a person that understands that when you’re in the game and you’re a professional your life is the game, but when the game is over there are other things in life like family and stuff. He lets you be and he doesn’t try to play mind games with you or control you. He pretty much lets each individual succeed on their own. I think that works with guys who are really self-motivated. With guys that aren’t sometimes that might backfire. That’s why I think Frank’s one of the top coaches in the league.
What did you think of Cannon's responses? Share your thoughts below (and be sure to check back in for part two later this week).