Player Profile: Alexi Lalas
Date of Birth: 01/06/1970
Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
National Team: United States Men’s National Team
International Caps: 96
International Goals: 9
Alexi Lalas’ professional career nearly began with Arsenal after his performance at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. The American had a trial with the London-based club in the winter of 1992, but after a few training sessions with the reserve team he was cut loose.
It was another international tournament, this time the 1994 World Cup on home soil, that Lalas finally landed his first professional contract. While that seems late for a player of his eventual quality, it is important to remember that there was no major professional soccer league in the United States at this time.
Finally, the deal did come and it was groundbreaking. Lalas became the first American to ever play in the Italian Serie A when he signed with Padova. During his first season with the Italian outfit, Lalas helped anchor the Padova defense and scored 3 goals, all from set-pieces. Lalas and Padova finished 14th, which put them in a relegation playoff to stay in the first division.
While Padova managed to stay up, they lost their American star. Major League Soccer was set to kick off in 1995 and that was too much to the American pioneer to pass up. When the league’s start was delayed until 1996, Lalas was loaned back to Padova for the 1995-96 season. He played a total of 33 matches for Padova, scoring 3 goals.
In 1996, Lalas was allocated to the New England Revolution, based in Boston. For two seasons, he was an integral part of the Revolution defense. He played 57 times, scored 3 goals and was named an MLS All-Star in 1996.
Because of the relatively short MLS season, Lalas took a loan move to Ecuadorian club Emelec in order to stay fit and sharp in the long offseason. He was only in Ecuador a month but has told many stories about his experiences of being forced to live in the stadium ahead of matches, and about the challenges of playing in that climate.
When Lalas returned to the States after his month-long loan to Emelec, it was to a new club. Lalas had been traded to the NY/NJ MetroStars and he spent one short season with the club before he was once again on the move. During his time with the club he played 25 times and scored 2 goals.
His next destination was Kansas City, where he played 30 times for the Wizards and scored 4 goals. In October 1999, Lalas announced his retirement. But he’d be back.
In January 2001, Alexi Lalas signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy and it was with this club that he was able to lift his first pieces of professional silverware. In 2001, his Galaxy side lifted the U.S. Open Cup and Lalas played in 11 games, scoring twice.
In 2002, a Lalas lead Galaxy side won the MLS Cup and the MLS Supporters Shield, which is a trophy given to the team with the most points in the league at the end of the regular season. In addition to this, Lalas was named to the MLS Best XI team for his performances.
Following the 2003 MLS season, Lalas retired again, this time for good. In total, Lalas played 225 professional matches in his career and scored 19 times.
Alexi Lalas retired at the age of 34, after 8 seasons as a professional. He left the game as one of the most recognizable American soccer players, at a time when Americans had trouble getting respect abroad. His generation helped pave the way for future American stars in Europe such as Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and now Christian Pulisic.
Lalas’ international career began in the highest-pressure environment an American can play in, a 2-2 draw against arch-rival Mexico. Despite the early call-up, Lalas did not cement his spot in the starting eleven until just before the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
It was that tournament that made Lalas a breakout star. Not just for his play on the field, but also because of his unique look. Sure, he played great in all four of the United States’ matches in the tournament and earned himself an Honorable Mention award for the World Cup All-Star team.
But what really made Lalas stand out was his unique look. You’ve all seen it, the bright orange goatee and a long mane of hair sometimes held in check by a headband, but often left to cover the space around him like an extra defender. He was a vision of American potential in the world game.
The 1998 World Cup was a different story for Lalas and the Americans though. He was on the roster for the Yanks in France but never saw the field. The United States crashed out of the tournament in the group stage, losing all 3 group stage games and scoring just 1 goal.
Lalas’ final international cap came in the final U.S. friendly before the tournament.
In total, Lalas played 96 times for the United States, scoring 9 times. He played in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games and was on two World Cup squads. In 2006, Lalas was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Dallas, TX.
Where is Alexi Lalas Now?
Alexi Lalas has stayed an important part of the American soccer community since his retirement from the game. He was the General Manager of the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS from 2004-2005 and filled the same role with New York Red Bulls from 2005-2006.
From 2006-2008 he served as president of the Los Angeles Galaxy and it was during this time that Lalas oversaw the transfer of David Beckham to the California-based club.
Following his time with the Galaxy Lalas transitioned into a role as one of the most important voices in American soccer. He has spent time working as a commentator for ESPN and currently works for Fox Sports as a commentator and analyst. You can also find him sharing his thoughts on the U.S. soccer-focused podcast, State of the Union.
Did You Know? Interesting facts about Alexi Lalas
– Has Greek citizenship through his father.
– Speaks English, Spanish, Italian and Greek.
– Lalas plays part-time for Hollywood United F.C., an amateur soccer club based in Southern California which is made up of celebrities and former professionals.
– His band, The Gypsies, opened for Hootie and the Blowfish on their 1998 European tour.