KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Joe-Max Moore came to town to be honored for his past contributions to American soccer – and along the way found he was inspired to reconnect with the game.
“I have to be honest. I'm getting a little bit of an itch to get back involved,” Moore told reporters on Friday, after his induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. “I've kind of, for whatever reason, been a little bit unattached from the game. I help my son's team out and so forth, so I am still involved to a certain extent.
"I don't know where I'm going to fit in. I've had a few opportunities to do some stuff on TV. I've got a new project with my friends on football.com, where I'm doing some consulting for. But I'm definitely trying to figure out where I might fit in the game right now.
“I think now's my time, and I think I'll have an opportunity or two if I seek it out, to do something in soccer again.”
Whatever route he chooses, Moore – inducted along with former player and current Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes – will bring to it a wealth of experience and accomplishment.
“As a player, I never, never thought about the potential of being inducted into the Hall of Fame one day,” he said. “But now that it's happened, I feel a real pride in what my teammates and I were able to accomplish over the years.”
Moore was capped 100 times for the national team, scoring 24 goals for his country and being named to three World Cup squads –1994, 1998 and the 2002 team that reached the quarterfinals before losing a controversial 1-0 decision to Germany.
“You hear this a lot about a player,” former US teammate Eric Wynalda said in introducing Moore. “'He's talented, but he doesn't work hard enough.' 'He works really hard, but he's not just talented enough.' That's not Joe. He's one of the first guys I ever met that had both.”
As a club professional, he played 11 seasons in three countries and was part of MLS' formative years with New England – where he also finished his career in 2003-04 after three successful seasons in England with Everton.
And on both fronts, for club and country, Moore helped fuel soccer's rising popularity in the US. That was evident on Friday, when Sporting Park – routinely packed for league games – was full again for a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica.
“That's one of the things I'm most happy with,” he said. “Looking at this stadium, seeing the pep rally last night with 400-500 people – I mean, things have seriously changed. I really feel like soccer has finally turned the corner in this country.
"I've never seen the passion, the commitment, people flying in from all parts of the country, singing songs for 90 minutes. That feels like Europe to me, and that part of what we're seeing right now is special.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.