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Jun 12, 2023

American followers of the "beautiful game" undoubtedly know the name Thomas Rongen - but can easily be forgiven for not remembering just exactly how.

Of course, there's his current color commentary work for today's Major League Soccer Inter Miami CF - but fans of a certain age will recall the Dutch-born, mop-topped midfielder from his on-field (and in-arena) antics during the halcyon days of the old North American Soccer League alongside international greats like Johan Cruyff, George Best and Alan Willey on clubs like the Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, and two flavors of Strikers - Fort Lauderdale and Minnesota. 

Younger aficionados might place their earliest recollections of a fiery presence on the sidelines coaching a wide array of pro clubs ranging from successor ASL/APSL versions of the Strikers in the late 80s/early 90s, to early MLS sides like the 1996 Tampa Bay Mutiny, 1997-98 New England Revolution, 1999-2001 DC United, or even 2005's version of Chivas USA - not to mention his two stints helming the US Men's U-20 National team before and after.

However, most will undoubtedly know Rongen from his memorable turn as the head coach of the American Samoa national team during FIFA World Cup qualifying in 2011 - forever immortalized in the epically joyous 2014 documentary "Next Goal Wins", and soon to be refashioned as a major motion picture drama of the same name this fall - in which he wills one of the world's perennial soccer minnows into surprising respectability.

We cover all of it - and more - with one of the country's most endearing soccer personalities!