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40 in 40: Throwing it back with Dangerfield

From the English first division to the NASL to Earthquakes analyst, it's no suprise that Chris Dangerfield is well-versed in the game. We picked his brain on his move to the United States, his favorite NASL memories, and of course what he's most excited about come 2015. 

Read on to hear his take on the "greatest Quakes team ever," how he got the nickname Danger and more. 

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SJEQ: What made you come over to the United States and stay considering you played in the English youth system?
Chris Dangerfield: I was a professional with the Wolverhampton Wanderers who were in the first division, which is now the EPL in England. I was playing with the reserve team there when I was nineteen and I just played for England’s U18 national team. An opportunity came along for five of the Wolves’ players to come out to Portland to play for a summer for the North American Soccer League for the Timbers. The coach was from the Midlands area who used to coach and play for Aston Villa -- Vic Crowe. Most of the players on the Timbers the first year came from the connections from the Birmingham area including Villa, Birmingham City, and the Wolves. So five of us came over and played a summer for the Timbers and that summer turned out to be a fabulous experience for everybody because it went from really nothing to being a big success for the city of Portland. The team got to the final that year of the Soccer Bowl in 1975, which was played here in San Jose. For a nineteen-year-old kid I got to play in the final, and then they asked me to come back the following year. I then turned down a contract with Coventry to sign a two-year contract to come and play in the United States with the Las Vegas Quicksilvers. I was looking at the fact that I was really enjoying my life in America, I was playing in the first team in front of big crowds versus going back and playing on the reserves. I chose to follow my heart and to give it a go in America because I thought the NASL was going to be big time.

SJEQ: We hear that the 83’ Earthquakes are rumored to be the best Quakes team ever because we were undefeated at home and many ex-internationals were playing. Do you agree? What was your best memory from that season?
CD: Yes I think that it was the best NASL Quakes team for sure. We were unbeaten at home, and we were a very entertaining team and very attack-minded team. I was always a forward or attacking midfielder. [Laughs] The only way I could get into the team was playing defensive midfield because we had so many attacking options. I was getting more experience, so I was able to start into a new role. All of the games were sold out at the old Spartan Stadium - sometimes they would open the top tier to get more people in there. It was a special year. We only lost in the semi-finals to a shootout in Toronto. It was a fun year because not only were we unbeaten but we played wonderful attacking football. You can't forget the Earthquakes that won the MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003 though. They were great too. 

SJEQ: What current player reminds you of yourself?
CD: I worked very hard, chased everything and gave 100%. I played mostly in the midfield here in San Jose. I would say I’m a mixture of Sam Cronin and Shea Salinas.

SJEQ: I hear you were the coach of the San Jose Oaks and won the 1992 US Open Cup.
CD:  I believe that I’m the only person to be a player coach that won the Open Cup. The Open Cup had a lot of great connections with the area - it wasn’t just the Oaks, the Greek Americans won it, El Farolito won it. There’s also an Over 30’s group in the Open National Championship and the Oaks were in it and won that at the same time, which I played and coached in as well.

SJEQ: In 1994 when the Brazil National Team came into town and were training at Santa Clara University, did some of the guys play against the Brazilian national team with you?
CD: Peter Bridgewater knew it was so important in getting a venue here in the Bay Area to get the World Cup a part of California. He asked Laurie Callaway to take care of the Brazilian National Team while they were over here. Whatever they wanted soccer-wise, Laurie made sure they had it. He sorted out the training facility, made sure they had what they wanted. If they wanted to have an inter-squad scrimmage, they would always be a couple players short. Some of us scrimmaged with them to make up the numbers. You show up at Buck Shaw, which is where they were training, and next thing you know I’m peaking a ball over the top for Ronaldo to run onto it when he was just seventeen.

SJEQ: You’ve been involved in every single era of the Earthquakes from NASL, WSA and now MLS. What makes you proud to be an Earthquake and to be a part of this organization?
CD: When I first came to San Jose in 1975 with the Timbers, it was madness at Spartan Stadium. The atmosphere, the palm trees, the weather, [laughs] Krazy George dragging some big Bengal tiger onto the field for some reason we don’t know why. It was all madness. The passion and enthusiasm of the crowd and the way that the players took it upon themselves to integrate themselves into the community and what they got from that -- the Johnny Moore’s of the world are still here making their living in San Jose. I always knew it was a special place: a great area as far as soccer is concerned. I think that when they move it to the new stadium next year we’re going to see that fever, and it’s going to be a great year in 2015 for the Quakes.

SJEQ: And finally, has your nickname always been Danger?
CD: Yeah, my brother’s called “DD” and I didn’t want to go by “CD” so I went with Danger. I liked it, I picked it up while I was playing and it stuck. 

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