Eric Wynalda Talks UCL Final and New York’s New Soccer Team

The Fox Soccer personality, who played in Germany, takes us inside the heated Bayern-Dortmund final.

The Fox Soccer personality, who played in Germany, takes us inside the heated Bayern-Dortmund final.

(Photo: John Todd / MLS via Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013)

The UEFA Champions League final is two German teams for the first time ever. So, for teams that play each other multiple times a year, what’s at stake in this game?

So much is at stake for people who watch German football; no matter how many times they play you always they want to see it. It’s kind of like Dortmund is the little brother grown up, and he wants to fight. Bayern has always been the strongest – but lately, Dortmund has been a very difficult puzzle to solve for them and I think it’s for several reasons: they have a very young, vibrant new manager who’s got different ideas, and he’s been able to instill some belief in some younger players that don’t have the most famous names, yet. But I think anytime these two teams play, especially for the purist, it’s a wonderful occasion.

Speaking of young players, it actually just came up that Gotze will not be playing Saturday.

I actually think that might be head games.

You think so?

Yeah, that story could possibly change by the time we get to kickoff. But it doesn’t surprise me that they would start playing mind games with each other. And, Gotze’s story is interesting because he’s obviously going to Bayern at the end of the season and he’s a young guy who might not be able to handle that kind of pressure. The injury might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

In terms of Lewandowski’s possible departure, how do you think that affects Dortmund’s mindset, if at all?

Well, I think both of these clubs are very used to these kind of scenarios. Usually, Bayern Munich is your final destination. Unfortunately, Dortmund is still somewhat of a springboard for some players. But I don’t think their mindset will be affected at all by any of this. I’ve played in Germany, I have been exposed to that mentality, and it is different. It’s a different way of thinking, it’s a different way of viewing the world, it’s a different way of applying yourself to your trade, and there are expectations that are almost taking the humanistic part out of it. You know, because you’re just drilled to just be a machine.

Bayern is very much a favorite, but Dortmund seems to have a knack for not paying attention to that sort of stuff. What do you think they have to do to turn the tide against their “older brother”?

Dortmund just has to stay true to themselves. They are a wonderful team that has such an inner trust. And they don’t seem to be too rattled when they get in a game that isn’t going their way. So whether they have bad luck, and I think they’ve had more bad luck this year than any other top team in the world, I think this is a wonderful occasion for them to just go out and play. They just seem to make runs that most players and most teams and most situations wouldn’t work. You’d stop because you have the belief that it’s not going to work out, or “I might as well stop running now because there’s no way that guy can get the ball to me,” and they don’t do that. To watch them play is different. It’s just different than any other team I’ve seen this year, and it’s the reason for their success. Bayern has players like Arjen Robben, and they play differently when he’s on the field. He loves big occasions but he hasn’t had a lot of success lately especially with a penalty kick miss in the last year’s UCL final and a penalty kick miss in the German final which was also with Dortmund. So, it’s been a rough couple months for Robben and they play different when they have him in there. It’s an interesting game.

As someone who played in Germany, how would you describe the fan culture there?

I played in Bochum which is one of the rivals, outside of Schalke, to Dortmund, and I actually lived in Dortmund. I came down to the bottom of my hill one time, I was trying to go to training and one of the Dortmund players pulled me over and said, “No, no, no, you can’t live here.” I said, “Oh come on, that’s stupid,” and he said “No, you’ll see.” And it really happened! Where I was living, I had to come down a hill and I would get on the autobahn and go to training. And there was a little café right before the autobahn, it was very convenient. I would get a newspaper and a coffee, and then I had an eight minute drive in to training. That was my day, it was my routine. After about a week and a half, the guy that owned the shop refused to sell me anything. And I said to him, “Oh, come one, I just want a coffee and a Zeitung.” he says,  “I don’t want your Bochum money.” It got to the point where he wouldn’t even look at me! He said “Falsche Farbe” which means you’re wearing the wrong colors, the false colors. So they wouldn’t serve me, and I literally had to change my residence because they were so fanatical about their team and about their colors.

You actually moved?

I had to! I was literally on a diagonal line between Bochum and Dortmund and I was in the wrong side of that line, and man, did they let me know. I mean, I would come out of my apartment after about two, three weeks and people would just look at me like, “What are you doing here?” Dortmund fans are probably the most passionate and fanatical fans that you’ll see in the world. They’re well-behaved and all that business, but they are truly fans, you know, to the core. They are amazing.

Do you feel good about giving us a prediction?

You know, I think Dortmund will surprise them. They’re the one team that isn’t afraid, and the pressure got to Munich last time. I think their hearts were broken last year. I expect Bayern to win, but I would not be surprised if they lose. I know that’s a cop out, it’s not really a prediction. I think I would not be surprised at all to see Jürgen Klopp and his group win this thing, for two reasons: they’re not afraid at all and they’ve had some recent success with Bayern, and they won’t treat them the way another opponent would. They will stand toe to toe, with a smile on their face and say “let’s play.” A lot of people think that this isn’t the sexy final. That this doesn’t have Ronaldo, and it doesn’t have Messi, but I think for the purists this is probably the ideal final, it’ll be a wonderful game.

Outside of the European football yesterday, a big announcement was made with NYCFC becoming New York’s second MLS club, with a Man City/New York Yankees ownership group. You scored the first goal in MLS history; where has the league gone since then, and what does this announcement say about the future?

I think there was a model with Red Bull New York; there was the idea that an outside company could own a team. And, it’s almost as if Manchester City and the Yankees have learned from all the mistakes they made. They’ve watched from afar and they’ve said, “It’s a wonderful idea but, done wrong it can be quite a mistake.” I was really surprised at the Yankees involvement in that. I do think, my old teammate, Claudio Reyna [NYCFC’s Director of Football Operations] can be an enormous resource for them. He’s the perfect guy for the job. Now he just needs to hire Tab Ramos to be the coach.

Or you?

I’ve been down that road several times. As far as interviewing for a managerial position, I’ve tried several occasions and been unsuccessful. I’m kind of like Red from The Shawshank Redemption, you know? Where I think I need to just go into that next meeting and say, “Sign your papers and let me get on with my day.” They’ll probably hire me.

Brian Dunseth reported that he has you committed to return to Twitter June 1st. Can you confirm or deny that?

I can confirm that! As much as I enjoy Twitter, there were some things that were very disturbing about it. I’ll be dead honest, I think being forced to comment on a weekly basis on teams like Arsenal left a bad taste in my mouth. And I will single them out because their fans have been crazy, they’ve been abusive, and some of the stuff that came across my board and then through personal messaging was threatening so I had to shut it down. I enjoyed the other part of it; I made a lot of great friends through Twitter actually. I love the interaction. My kids have enjoyed the fact that I don’t feel it necessary to put every single picture of them up on Twitter, too. 

Check out the Champions League final live on FOX this Saturday at 2 PM EST.

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