NEW YORK – Alexi Lalas isn’t worried about whether the United States men’s national team will book their ticket to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In fact, he doesn’t even think it’s a question.
“Qualifying? Yeah, we’re going to qualify,” Lalas told MLSsoccer.com from the FORWARD25 event on Wednesday to present this season's MLS kits.
"I feel that the epic failure of not qualifying for 2018 was an aberration, an anomaly," he added. "It was also an important kick in the ass that we needed, which is okay. I think Gregg is doing things that are very different, at times very challenging. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
The former USMNT defender was the New England Revolution's shirt model at the event, a club he spent two seasons with during MLS's first two years. He went onto play for the MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards then LA Galaxy, who made the splash of the offseason this year in acquiring Mexico superstar Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Since joining, a debate has sparked surrounding Hernandez and his friend-turned-MLS-rival Carlos Vela, with the two now sharing the same city. When it comes to choosing between the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Mexico's all-time leading scorer, Lalas has no hesitations.
“Oh, I like Vela’s game more," Lalas said. "I think he can do more in more situations, I think he’s less predictable and stays onside. I don’t think it’s a question. You ask these questions where you have to pick one, but I don’t think there’s a coach in the league where if you got them up in the middle of the night – when we are our most honest and most vulnerable – and were asked if they’d take Chicharito or Vela, they all would take Vela.”
With less than four weeks to go to MLS's 25th season, with all clubs working towards opening day, the pressure is on. Lalas has his eyes on one expansion team in particular.
“Miami is most under pressure," Lalas said. "Coming into the league, a league that bends over backwards to give you the opportunity, ability and resources to be competitive from the start. We’ve seen examples of a hard launch and a soft launch, and I don’t think Miami can afford a soft launch. This is a team with one of the most famous faces behind it, so it’s not just a reflection on David Beckham but the David Beckham brand. I don’t think they can afford to have a soft launch on or off the field.”