Dave Lange Interview


Most of you reading this are familiar with the history of soccer in St.Louis.  But how much do you really know? In 2011, "Soccer Made in St Louis: A History of the Game in America's First Soccer Capital" written by Dave Lange, was published and made available to the public. This book became an important part of the ever-growing popularity of soccer, and a great reminder of our past and how important our city was, and still is, to the beautiful game. Mr. Lange took a break from writing to answer a few questions for us:

1. Tell us a little about your background and how it relates to soccer. I started covering St. Louis Stars games while I was in college working as a stringer for the weekly St. Louis Suburban Journal Newspapers starting in 1971. The Stars emphasized playing St. Louis players, so I was lucky to see, interview and write about future U.S. Soccer Hall of Famers Pat McBride and Al Trost, as well as Pele and other great foreign players who joined NASL teams in the later stages of their careers. I began my college studies at Meramec Community College, and then I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in return for working part-time in the sports information office. SIUE at that time was one of the top men's college soccer programs in the nation and was coached by the legendary Bob Guelker, who was assisted by the equally legendary Pat McBride and future UMKC men's head coach Rick Benben. I also wrote articles about St. Louis soccer for Soccer America magazine while in college. Through those connections, I met and wrote about some of the great St. Louis soccer coaches at that time, such as Mr. Guelker and his counterpart at St. Louis U., Harry Keough, along with players who later would play in the MISL and NASL. I was hired as a full-time sportswriter at the daily St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1976. I took over the soccer beat in 1979 when the St. Louis Steamers indoor team started. That was a lucky break because the Steamers became the hottest sports ticket in town. I covered home and away games and often went to training to interview players. They included U.S. National Teamers and Olympic Teamers on the Steamers and other MISL teams. The Globe-Democrat went out of business in 1986 and I transitioned to corporate public relations at McDonnell Douglas, General Dynamics and Anheuser-Busch. I reconnected with soccer when I started coaching our son Will's U-9 team at Busch Soccer Club. I was the head coach of the team from U-10 through U-18. Along the way, I obtained a U.S. Soccer Federation D national coaching license and a coaching certificate from the Royal Dutch Football Association (Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond, or KNVB).Through all of this, my wife, Janet, has endured, and supported, the countless hours spent at soccer games and on soccer trips. 

2. Did you play soccer growing up? Or at anytime in your life? I grew up in a neighborhood in Kirkwood where kids played pickup games in all sports, including soccer. I never played organized soccer. My grade school was so small that we did not have enough boys to have an organized team in any sport and my high school did not have a soccer team until my sophomore year, by which time I was playing high school football. My one shining moment in soccer was as a high school freshman when I played goalkeeper on my homeroom's intramural team. I was named the freshman class all-star goalkeeper. But I decided not to try out for our school's inaugural varsity team a year later. Long after I graduated, my high school - Vianney - became one of the area's soccer powerhouses. 

3. What made you decide to write your book, "Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America's First Soccer Capital", which was published in 2011? How long did it take you to research and complete it? The idea for the book came from Jeff Cooper, a former college soccer player who is an attorney on the East Side. Jeff was attempting to obtain an MLS franchise for St. Louis from about 2005-2010. Jeff and a St. Louis publisher, Reedy Press, agreed to partner on a book about the history of soccer in St. Louis. Jeff's efforts to obtain a franchise came close, but MLS expansion fees grew too high and it didn't work out. Reedy Press had contacted me to write part of the book, and then asked me in 2009 to take over the entire project after Jeff's MLS efforts failed and he ended his role in sponsoring the book. The book took about two years to research and write. A publicly available book on the history of St. Louis soccer had never been done. The only comprehensive history was a doctoral thesis by James Robinson, a teacher and coach at St. Louis University High School, that was completed in 1966. His thesis is excellent, but it ends 55 years ago. So I had to start from scratch, for the most part, in terms of research, interviews and writing. I interviewed 90 people and spent countless hours in libraries searching through newspapers and archival soccer materials. The Louisa H. Bowen University Archives and Special Collections at SIUE's Lovejoy Library has one of the most important historical soccer collections in the United States dating back to the 1890s, most of it about soccer in St. Louis. I spent two solid weeks going through the 20 boxes of materials that make up that collection. 

4. What are some of your favorite soccer memories in St Louis? Ones I have seen, covered or participated in include: 

• Watching the St. Louis Stars defeat the Rochester Lancers, 2-0, in the NASL semifinals at Busch Stadium on Aug. 15, 1972

 • Covering the 1973 Bronze Boot Game at Busch Stadium, matching the nation's No. 1 and unscored upon team, SIU-Edwardsville, against No. 2 St. Louis University before a crowd of 20,112, then the largest to see a college soccer game in the United States. St. Louis U. won, 1-0, on a goal by Dan Counce. 

• Covering the 1975 St. Louis Stars, who had a mix of excellent St. Louis and foreign players. Somehow, the Stars signed Peter "the Cat" Bonetti, one of England's goalkeepers in the 1966 and 1970 World Cups, to be their keeper. The Stars made it to the NASL semifinals, where they lost, 1-0, on the road to the Portland Timbers. 

• Covering the 1979 SIUE men's team at the NCAA Final Four in Tampa, Fla. The Cougars, an almost all-St. Louis team, beat Clemson, and almost all-foreign team, in the final. That's the last time a St. Louis team has won an NCAA Division I soccer championship. 

• Just about any St. Louis Steamers game from 1979-82. Only someone who was at a Steamers game at that time can understand what a phenomenon that was with the games drawing upwards of 15,000 in the 18,000-seat Checkerdome. There were games when I was covering the match from the press box and could feel the building shake from the noise the crowd made, especially when the New York Arrows or the Wichita Wings came to town. The Wings fans who made the trips to see games in St. Louis called the Checkerdome "the St. Louis zoo." 

• All of the hundreds of games and practices coaching my son Will's Busch Soccer Club team, and watching his high school and college games. 

• Covering the St. Louis Athletica during their brief time in St. Louis. (I was a stringer for a St. Louis sports website at the time.) They had some of the world's best players in women's soccer and were so much fun to watch. 

• Covering the announcement of the award of the MLS franchise to St. Louis for MLSsoccer.com on Aug. 20, 2019 

• Lastly, I've been lucky to build countless friendships with soccer players, coaches, officials, administrators and promoters locally, nationally and internationally. I won't attempt to name them because I'll leave someone out unintentionally. I do, though, owe a tremendous debt to U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Bob Guelker. He was the athletic director, as well as the soccer coach, when I enrolled at SIU-Edwardsville in 1973. He gave me a scholarship out of his budget in return for working part-time in the sports information office. He made it possible for me to get a college education, which led to any career success I've had. 

5. What are your thoughts about an MLS team finally coming to St Louis?  It's a dream come true and most deserved. As the title of my book says, St. Louis is America's first soccer capital. However, the city's incredible soccer history is not justification alone for the franchise. The city has produced 64 players who have appeared in at least one game for the men's and women's U.S. National Teams dating back to the first U.S. National Team in 1916. The area continues to turn out international-caliber players: Brad Davis in the 2014 men's World Cup; Lori Chalupny and Becky Sauerbrunn, who are women's World Cup champions and Olympic gold medalists; Tim Ream, the only St. Louisan to have played in the English Premier League; and Josh Sargent in the Bundesliga. People I've interviewed during my research for the second edition of my book agreed that all St. Louis lacked was someone, or some group, at the top with the willingness to provide the considerable investment needed for an MLS franchise and soccer-specific stadium. The Taylor and Kavanaugh families fill that gap admirably. 

6. What is/are your favorite team(s), not counting St Louis City, of course?  I pull for any St. Louis area team at the pro, semipro and college levels, and, of course, the U.S. men's and women's national teams, as well as MLS, NWSL and international clubs with St. Louis players. Other than those, I follow Liverpool. It goes way back to being a kid when the Beatles came to the U.S., and to knowing Roy Turner, the coach of the MISL's Wichita Wings who played for Liverpool. We were fortunate to see a match in Liverpool in 2009 and experience that incredible soccer culture. 

7. What do you think is the likelihood that the stadium will eventually house the St Louis Soccer Hall of Fame? And if there haven't been talks, perhaps you and Jim Leeker could combine forces to try to make that happen?  It makes perfect sense to have the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame (stlsoccerhalloffame.com) located somewhere in the stadium complex. The Hall of Fame has not had a physical location for the past five years or so, and its large collection is in storage. Those materials should be displayed where soccer fans can enjoy them. There is no better place than the St. Louis City SC complex. I'm in contact with St. Louis City SC for their assistance in arranging interviews with key people in their organization (specifically, Carolyn Kindle Betz, Jim Kavanaugh, Lutz Pfannenstiel and the stadium architects) for the second edition of my book, "Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America's First Soccer Capital." We haven't talked yet, but I would be happy to broach the subject with them if Jim Leeker, the president of the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame, hasn't already. 

8. I've heard that you are working on a new book. What can you tell us about that, and when can we expect it to be available?  There are two projects in the works. The first is a chapter I've contributed on the early history of soccer in St. Louis to "Soccer Frontiers," a book scheduled to be published later this year by the University of Tennessee Press and organized by faculty members in the Kinesiology Department at California State University-Northridge. The book consists of chapters dedicated to individual U.S. cities important to the development of soccer in this country. Secondly, as mentioned in my previous answer, I'm researching and writing the second edition of "Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America's First Soccer Capital." The narrative of the first edition stops in 2010, and the first edition sold out in 2014. So, there is a need to have an updated edition to help satisfy the surging interest in St. Louis soccer. Existing material in the first edition will be updated to reflect information I've found in my research over the last 10 years, and there will be a new chapter covering St. Louis soccer in the last decade, culminating with the arrival and development of St. Louis City SC. The last chapter also will include detailed profiles of St. Louis soccer personalities who have come to the forefront over the last decade, such as Becky Sauerbrunn, whose stellar international career took off after publication of the first edition. In addition to the interviews done in the last year specifically for the second edition, such as with Becky, I interviewed various soccer personalities such as Brad Davis, Jill Ellis, Tim Howard, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tim Ream and Abby Wambach over the last 10 years when they came through St. Louis with the intention of using those interviews for a second edition. I've also written for various media outlets in recent years such as MLSsoccer.com and SoccerSTL.net and will draw on some of that work for the second edition. The second edition is scheduled for publication by Reedy Press in August 2022. (Unashamed plug: Would make the perfect holiday gift for soccer fans, just a few months before St. Louis City SC kicks off in March 2023.) 

9. Anything else you'd like to share?  First, I post links to news items related to St. Louis soccer daily on Twitter @soccermadeinstl. Second, it's important to support soccer in St. Louis at every level, indoors and outdoors. Support means going to the games, of course, but it also means getting involved, whether it's playing pickup soccer (see St. Louis Pick Up Soccer on Facebook), showing good sportsmanship to referees and opposing players and coaches, or just watching/reading about the sport. If you're a youth coach, take a coaching licensing course. If you have the time and the inclination, and are in reasonably good shape, become a referee. There's a crying need for referees in leagues at all ages. If you're a fan, join a supporters' group such as the St. Louligans (stlouligans.com). There's something for anyone who wants to support St. Louis soccer.

by Steve Rusnack

Dave Lange
Dave Lange