CAN I KICK IT?: MAURICE EDU

If you have followed US soccer in the last decade, you definitely have heard Maurice Edu’s name. Early on in his career he solidified himself in the defensive part of the park and remained there for some time for the red white and blue. After being drafted #1 overall by Toronto in 2007, Mo went on to play for storied Scottish club Rangers, winning 3 league titles. Later he made stops at Stoke and the Philadelphia Union. And who can forget that infamous no-goal call on a Mo’s volley in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

We understand most people know that side of Mo, Mo on the pitch, but we wanted to dig deeper and get to know the man off the field. So we bounced over to his house in the Inland Empire of California and sat down to chat about making the transition from playing to commentating, what it is like being an example for kids like him, his love for the artist KAWS, and of course, kicks. Check out each part of our conversation below and make sure to follow Mo on Instagram @MauriceEdu.

Mo on going from playing to commentating

One thing is clear when you sit down and talk to Mo Edu. He loves soccer. That passion led to a successful professional career. It led him to the World Cup. That same love for the game as led Mo into broadcasting and analyzing the sport on TV. Part of his aim with his new position in the sport is not all that different from what meant a lot to him when he was a player: provide a unique voice and connect with audiences and demos that may not have always connected to the game. Mo wants to help grow the sport by bringing in new fans that look like him and connect with him in an authentic way.

Being an example to  kids like him.

Part of Mo Edu’s ethos as a player and as a broadcaster is exposing the sport to young black kids. It is important for him that he is an outlet for this community, that they can look to him and see what is possible, and hopefully see themselves taking a path similar to his. Mo mentioned a few times that when he was growing up there were not very many people like himself that he could look up to and relate to. He has been fully aware of this throughout his career. This has given him the opportunity to be someone that young black soccer players can look up to and aspire to be.

Mo and his sneaker journey.

Like many of us Mo loves sneakers. Mo caught the sneaker bug early. But, as most of us can relate to, his parents weren’t copping sneakers for him when he was young. By high school, Mo’s love of sneakers, especially Jordans was in full swing, and in order to satiate his love for sneakers, he got his first job at a pizza joint. The money he earned from the pizza spot went directly into Mo beginning to get more involved with the sneaker game and it was then that he started building his impressive sneaker collection.

Memory Lane

Mo takes us back to that night in South Africa, a goal that should have stood.

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: CARA WALLS

Hailing from Wauwatosa, WI, Cara Walls has repped her state at just about every level within the sport. From winning national championships at the U-18 level with her club team to representing the University of Madison, Wisconsin at the collegiate level Cara has done her state proud. We recently caught up with Cara to learn a bit more about her career, what it was like to play with players like Christen Press and about her new undertaking studying architecture and urban planning.

Follow Cara: @ckaydub

Photos: @ts_xiv

Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from and your early days with the sport?

I’m from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and I started playing soccer at an early stage. I played for FC Milwaukee, which was the only team in the area that could compete with some of the bigger clubs in the Midwest as well as teams from around the country. My final year of youth soccer we won the U-18 national championship which was really cool.

So you win the U-18 national championship and then get to play college soccer and continue repping your state. What was your collegiate experience like?

I loved the university, the people, just the culture that they created…like competing and being competitive, being a leader. I was able to be captain my junior and senior years. I won some individual awards like the offensive player of the year. It was really a blessing that soccer offered me the opportunity to go to school at Madison and to have an unforgettable experience there.

Post-college, you end up getting drafted and playing for the Chicago Red Stars. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It was an amazing experience and one that, once again, soccer provided for me. That was beautiful for me. I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked to though. I think I started two games my first year and five games my second year (and scored two goals). My second year was an improvement but I’m playing with some of the best players in the world at this time. I’m playing behind Christen Press and with some of the greatest players in the world. So although I wasn’t starting as much as I would have liked it was a great experience for me. 

In the middle of my third season there I got released and ended up signing with Saarbrucken in Germany. I loved it there. It was another example of soccer providing me with an amazing opportunity. This time to travel to a new country, meet new people and to just really grow as a person. I played a season there, traveled around Europe quite a lot and had a great time. After that season I wanted to see myself doing different things. I didn’t see myself on the road and traveling for the next five years. So I decided to go to grad school and invest in another career. That’s where I found myself now.

When I started to play there was hardly any women’s football on television. It was not broadcasted and the Dutch Women’s team at that time was not participating at the big tournaments. So I had to watch Eurosport in order to see a little bit of international women’s football and that started during the Women’s World Cup in 99. Especially the USA women’s team stood out for me. They were playing for big crowds, winning the tournament in the end. Really special to see that on tv and to see all these great players from the different countries at that stage.

Soccer has taken you on a number of journeys and now you are on a new one. What’s this career path you are undertaking?

I’m studying architecture and urban planning and I have an emphasis on landscape architecture, sustainable building with an interest in futuristic design and creating community spaces. So that’s the program I’m currently in. And I’m still involved with soccer – I’m an assistant coach for the women’s team.

Architecture is giving me an opportunity to try and find solutions for problems that we have created and to really try and find solutions through sustainability.

Let’s transition for a minute here. We’ve talked about your soccer career. Your love of design and sustainability. What about any interest you have from a cultural standpoint? Is music, or sneakers or fashion anything you have particular interests in?

I love music. It’s like the heartbeat of everything for me so I’m always keeping an eye for new music.  I’m definitely a hip hop and R&B person. I like fashion and sneakers although I’m not a hardcore sneakerhead. I do like cleats though. I like collecting cleats.  I have a thing for old Predators. I probably have five or six pairs of adidas Copas that I’m always wearing. I like the classic adidas three stripe sweatpants. 

I’m a fan of Diadora and some of the old school stuff from the ’90s as well. 

You mentioned your love of music, give us three artists you are into right now.

I would go with Lil Baby. I also like Drake, 2 Chainz, Chance the Rapper, Lauryn Hill. I’m a 2Pac fans as well. We have the same birthday.

You and 2Pac having the same birthday is a fun fact. What’s your favorite Pac song?

God bless the dead. I really like that one. 

So back to soccer, did you watch the Women’s World Cup?

Of course. I went to school with Rose Lavelle. She’s a bit younger than me but we played in college. We played together in my junior and senior years. My senior year we just kind of took over and ended up winning the Big 10. She’s awesome. And it’s been so fun to see her putting on for Wisconsin. She just looks majestic on the ball. She’s insane. 

We’ve seen the women’s side of the sport really grow and the attention around it heightened in recent years. What are your thoughts on that?

I think it’s definitely changed for us for the better. I think social media and the kind of visibility around the sport is important. Seeing an Instagram account for the NWSL, seeing posters and campaigns from Nike. The visibility is important because I don’t think it was there in the previous years and I think it is having an impact. Like the Nike campaigns, the Nike commercials are really powerful and something that had just been missing. It really hasn’t been there like the last 10 years. So I think the advertising and branding itself is really important. Getting the message across that we have a really powerful team. 

We have a certain privilege of actually training these women. And getting them the resources they need to have a really competitive team and that’s, that’s a beautiful thing that not all countries have. So I think being able to support that and kind of showing the progression of women through soccer is really powerful. And I think that’s what’s happening right now. And I think it’s because of the growth of the NWSL. 

There’s really talented women all over the world, but a lot of times they don’t have the resources or the support from the country. So I think it’s really good for the United States and the developed world that were supporting the women’s team. And we have a really powerful women’s team. I think it’s a really good image for younger women that this is an option for them. You know, you can now grow up dreaming of being a professional women’s soccer player because that’s something, even as a really talented young player, I didn’t have that vision because I didn’t really know what existed. I think that’s great. And I think it’s all part of the US moving forward and us progressing as a country of supporting what we have going on with the women’s side of things.

Last questionnow that you have been away from the sport as a player for a bit and are back in school for architecture—how do you see soccer having a role in your life going forward?

I had played soccer for 24 years and it was the dominant thing in my life. So I was really excited to try and do other things in other fields. But I already miss playing soccer and I’ve had a couple of opportunities to play again at a high level. One of which was in a summer league in Iceland. So I want to continue to try and play at some level. 

I’m currently an assistant coach at the college I am attending and I do private sessions as well. I feel like I have a lot to offer and things to pass on to young players and I really enjoy that. So through coaching and being able to spread the knowledge, I’ve learned through the game and then, maybe, getting back and playing in a summer league in Iceland or somewhere closer to home would be great.

PORTLAND VIBES WITH LINDSEY MILLER

If your idea of a perfect job is something that blends your love of soccer with the opportunity to travel all over the world to new and exotic locales planning events with some of the most incredible and talented people all over the globe you probably want Lindsey Miller’s job. As the Event Manager for adidas Soccer North America, Lindsey finds herself deeply involved in many of the releases, events, and activations that so many of us follow along with on social media. Lindsey has been able to take her passion for the sport and apply it to a career that is so much more than just a job. Full of passion, intelligence, and hustle, Lindsey is in the epicenter of what adidas Soccer is doing in North America and is a key part of the brand efforts to grow the sport in the US.

We sat down with Lindsey to hear more about her story, her role with adidas, and some memorable projects that she has worked on.

Follow Lindsey: @ellkayyemm

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Nashua, NH

Can you tell us about your soccer experience growing up? Did you play college? Where?

I’ve played soccer for as long as I can remember. I followed around my older brother in our backyard and our basement and we’d play wherever we could. I played on an all-boys team until I was U-12. For club soccer, I played my most competitive years for Seacoast United (New Hampshire), as well as on the NH ODP team and then Varsity High School for 4 years at Bishop Guertin High School. I then was lucky enough to get a scholarship to play at the University of Virginia—GO HOOS! It wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I committed to play at UVA(that I knew I was going to play soccer in college) as I was pretty sure I was going to end up playing college basketball instead. Looking back I can’t have imagined going or playing anywhere else.

Can you talk about your path to working at adidas? How did you end up there and what your role is with the brand?

Out of college, I knew I wanted to work in something around sport or athletics and got pretty lucky getting hired for a small event production company based out of Colorado. We owned and produced events—anything from triathlons, mud runs, and 5Ks to beer festivals. I was at that company for around 5 years and then my old roommate/colleague got a job at adidas HQ and he then basically convinced me to apply for an events role that had opened.

A few interviews later, I was hired! My current role is within our Marketing/Communications team as the Event Manager for all North America soccer activations—so anything from product launches to grassroots events to working with our European clubs to activate when they are in the US.

What have been some of your favorite events or launches that you have worked on?

Working on anything around World Cup was obviously a dream come true as it’s incredible to see the planning that goes into it. I think the Predator relaunch in 2017 was also a really cool project just because Predator is such an iconic franchise and seeing the excitement from it being brought back into the market was amazing.

As a kid that grew up playing soccer, what has it been like to work with an iconic soccer brand like adidas?

The last 3 and a half years have flown by and sometimes I have to take a step back to realize how lucky I am to work at adidas and do what I do. Being able to work in the world of soccer has been an absolute dream and I love coming to work every day.

My job has given me opportunities to not only meet an incredible group of people but also has given me experiences I’d never imagined I would get. I got to go to the World Cup final in Moscow last year and am going to the Copa America final in Rio this year. I’ve been in the same room as Messi and Kaka. It’s humbling to think about how lucky I am.

How would you describe the football culture?

The great thing about sports and soccer, in particular, is that you can connect with so many individuals across the globe. And that’s probably my favorite part about it. It is not just one-sided. There are so many aspects to the soccer culture that some people forget to recognize. There’s fashion and there’s a cool factor to it. There’s a language to it and there’s a community. I love that.

That predator relaunch was amazing as have been some of the experiences you’ve had through your career. Is there any advice you can pass on for people looking to start a career in soccer?

My advice for anyone looking for a career in anything they are passionate about would be the same—it’s all about managing and engaging in relationships with people that you already know, and then getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with people you don’t.  You’d be surprised at how deep networks run.  To be connected, all you need to do is ask and set up a phone call with the right person.

I’ve always had a hard time reaching out to people I don’t know, but it’s much easier to connect with someone if you have a mutual friend to do so. Long story short, just network as much as you can—and be a sincere person. That always helps.

If you had to choose one, Predators or Copas?

AH! This is not a fair question!!! The new Preds are SO comfortable and I love that I don’t have to break them in. They feel like slippers. The Copas are just classics though!  You can’t really go wrong either way, but if I had to choose, I’d go Predator.  Also, younger me would be mad at older me if I DIDN’T choose Preds because they were my favorite cleat growing up.

Sambas or Gazelles?

Gazelles! In all of the colors, please!

SOCCER FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE W/ SOCCERGRLPROBS

What started as a side project among three friends in college, SoccerGrlProbs has grown into a cultural phenomenon for women’s soccer. Started by Shannon Fay, Carly Beyar and Alanna Locast, SoccerGrlProbs was first started in 2011 during their collegiate soccer preseason. What originally started by sharing tweets that every female soccer player could relate to, quickly turned into much more as they struck a cord that resonated with their core audience. Within a couple of weeks of launching their Twitter page, Soccer GrlProbs was racking up thousands of fans and they were being inundated with requests for videos. Capturing on the trend at the time of such videos as “Sh*t Girls Say”, Carly, Alana and Shannon set out to create their own video aptly titled “Sh*t Soccer Girls Say.” You can see the video here.

They shot this video on an iPad, put it up on YouTube, and the next day the video already had one million views. Clearly the video resonated with people as it was relatable, hilarious and authentic to who the girls are. Their online presence was growing, their fanbase exploding and demand for all things SoccerGrlProbs related was only growing.

Fan requests continued to roll in for more content as well as merchandise. SGP decided to take three funny tweets that they had put out and turn those into t-shirts. Once again demand was strong and the shirts sold out in five hours. Everything that SGP did was working as it struck a chord with a niche group of women which helped to create a strong sense of community among global lady ballers.

Since 2011 (and that first video in 2012) SGP has continued growing their brand and their following and it works so well because they know exactly who they are, their fans know who they are and their success is proof that authenticity matters most. Whether sharing content, telling stories or selling product. Being true to who you are matters.

I’ve seen firsthand the support they have and the passion that their fans have for them and what they do. Years ago we were in a suite in a stadium watching a game. They had tweeted out that they were at the game and within minutes there were close to 100 young soccer players standing outside the door waiting to meet them. This is what SGP means to female soccer players and it is incredible to see what they have built. And even though they are eight years in the game, it feels very much like this is just the beginning for what is to come.

With the Women’s World Cup taking place right now, SGP finds themselves in France doing what they do best. Creating content, meeting new people, sharing their love of the sport and being ambassadors for the women’s game. They were also recently featured on the Fox segment “She’s Next” in which they talked about how girls can exceed beyond the field when they stay in sports.

And that is an important part of this story. Their desire to empower young girls, to show what is possible on and off the field all while helping to grow the sport. When asked what more can be done to help women’s soccer grow in the US, they answered quickly and decisively. They want more people to support the NWSL. The support that is shown during the Women’s World Cup is great, but they want to see more being done daily with fans getting out and supporting the league, the players and their favorite teams. They know that to grow women’s soccer in the US requires daily support and engagement from fans around the country. That kind of daily involvement is exactly what we see from SGP and they are the leaders in helping to not only grow the sport, but to help young female soccer players drive for greatness and achieve their dreams.

Follow SoccerGrlProbs:

YouTube – SoccerGrlProbsVids
IG – SoccerGrlProbs

And their latest endeavor, Sh*t Soccer Girls say Podcast where they talk all things soccer and life on and off the pitch. – Check it out on iTunes here.

 

Photoshoot Cred: @thomvsfrs

 

THE ASSOCIATION SEASON 2 | FUTSAL MEETS LIFESTYLE

We live in a beautiful time where soccer and culture are overlapping more than ever. The unique ethos of the beautiful game and everything that surrounds it continues to evolve with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives shaping its culture and helping it grow. 

There is no better example of the collision of soccer and culture than the Los Angeles based soccer league, The Association. Born out of a desire to grow the sport through culture, The Association blends the best of music, art, and fashion with some of LA’s best brands and most influential social media personalities.

Started in 2018, the goal of The Association was to create the most dynamic and interesting soccer league in the United States. A league that wasn’t based solely on the competitiveness on the pitch but the culture and the people vying to make soccer more than just a game but a culturally diverse movement. The Association has become a hub for LA’s creative community that also happens to have a deep love for the beautiful game.

In the second installment of the league, The Association has brought back six original teams from season one (Beats by Dre, Complex, SpaceX, 424 on Fairfax, Niky’s Sports and Dash Radio) and added two new teams for season two (ShoeSurgeon and Guess). These brands represent some of the best that LA has to offer in terms of tech, fashion, media, music, and retail. And as diverse as the teams are, each of them shares a deep love for soccer, the culture and they all have a desire to help grow the sport not only in Los Angeles but across the US.

Each team in the league is given the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and design one of a kind kits that can only be seen on Association game nights—custom made kits by SpaceX, The Shoe Surgeon, 424, Guess and other paragons in their fields. These uniforms have helped drive the story around creativity within the league and pushed the boundaries of what a soccer league looks like.

The Association is truly an example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The teams, players and kits are just a part of the story. Each game night is designed to give fans and players an experience that goes above and beyond the games. Through partners adidas, el Jimador, and Kona fans are treated to the incredible music from resident DJ Kappa as well as free tacos, tequila, and beer.

For more hands-on experiences, FutPool provides a novel soccer-meets-billiards competition. There are also FIFA video game stations onsite.

In addition to the music, the food, and the drinks, each game night features a unique activation. In the spirit of competition, season two includes a number of exclusive battles including a live art battle curated by Secret Walls, a barber battle featuring some of LA’s flyest barber shops, and a B-Boy battle that brought back serious 1980s breakdancing vibes. With three weeks left of season two and the playoffs beginning this week, The Association team has a few more tricks up its sleeves for the final activations.

The Association is a celebration of soccer and the culture that it inspires. The goal of the league has always been to elevate the sport for existing fans and use culture as a bridge to new fans.

Season two of The Association has three weeks left. If you are in Los Angeles on a Thursday night between now and June 13th, stop by for a drink. Eat a taco. Watch some incredible games and connect with the beautiful community that we are all a part of.

The Association

Thursday nights from 8pm-11pm The Base LA

352 N. Ave 21

Los Angeles, CA 90032

Entry is free and The Association is open to all ages.