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International: Moore faces competition at Everton
August 31st, 2000 12AM

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American will have to battle international array of strikers for playing time

How has Joe-Max Moore's life changed since he left Major League Soccer for Everton?

His wife is expecting their first child this winter, he no longer has to play coy about his living arrangements, and the locker next to his belongs to a guy named Gazza.

He's also making far more money than the official MLS maximum of approximately $247,000 annually. Foxboro was fun, and he lavishly praises the Revs' fans, but cash is just one reason the move had to be made.

"Even if the money was the same, which obviously it couldn't be, I would have gone to England," said Moore, who scored 38 goals in 77 regular-season and playoff games for the Revs. "There was interest from Germany, but once I found out about Everton, they moved to the top of the list pretty fast."

Manager Walter Smith gave Moore a lot of playing time last season after an injury to England U-21 international Francis Jeffers, and Moore rang up six goals in the next seven games.

A strained MCL ended his season in early April. With eight goals in 19 league and cup games, Moore had seduced the Goodison Park fans, but his club commitments and the knee injury kept him out of a U.S. shirt for nine months.

His two-goal game against Barbados at Foxboro Aug. 16 marked his first U.S. appearance since a 2-1 loss to Morocco in Marrakesh last November and upped his international tally to 22 goals, second on the U.S. all-time list behind Eric Wynalda.

"He brings a lot of energy, he brings us leadership," says U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. "He gives us a composed player in front of the goal."

STINTS IN GERMANY. His previous stints overseas were with German Second Division clubs Saarbruecken and Nuremberg in the mid-1990s. Financial problems wracked both teams, and both were fined and penalized points by the German soccer federation for their shady bookkeeping.

"I had enough success that if another chance came around," he says, "I was going to take it."

As the 1999 MLS season wound down, Moore probed the overseas market through England-based agent Paul Stretford. Nuremberg inquired about bringing him back.

Moore had an ally at Everton. Defender Richard Gough, who had left San Jose during the MLS preseason to sign with Nottingham Forest, had moved to Everton during the summer. Smith needed strikers, and Gough mentioned Moore.

MLS permitted Moore to train with Everton after the 1999 MLS season was over, and eventually the club signed him on a free transfer.

VIOLATING PROTOCOL. U.S. teammate Brad Friedel, a member of bitter rival club Liverpool, violated Merseyside protocol by suggesting Moore live with him. Moore said living with Friedel wasn't a problem, since most people in Liverpool didn't know.

"I tried to keep that quiet, to be honest," said Moore. "You know how some fans are. And I don't want anybody to know where I live now. It's about 15 or 20 minutes outside of Liverpool.

"We have a nice place, and I'm looking forward to living and playing a whole season in England. I like it there. The only thing is the weather. It can be pretty rotten, but I'm not there for the weather."

His wife, Martha, is pregnant with their first child, and he says he's looking forward to fatherhood. His dad, Carl, made a fortune in the oil business and spent a lot of it on soccer, both as an investor in the NASL Tulsa Roughnecks and as a provider to Joe-Max.

Joe-Max's notoriety in England is mixed, however: He is still referred to as Joe Max-Moore by certain English sources, including Soccernet.

By any name, he faces tough competition for playing time this season. Smith has a slew of new faces up front and in midfield.

A half-dozen players besides Paul Gascoigne have joined Everton at a combined outlay of more than $20 million. Among them is Scottish swashbuckler Duncan Ferguson, a forward renowned for muscling defenders and brawling with anyone. He should be the ideal minder for Gazza.

"He took my socks the first day," says Moore of Gascoigne. "You have to watch him. He's a funny guy, and on the field you can tell he still has that talent."

Ferguson replaces fellow Scotsman Don Hutchison, who was sold to Sunderland. Swedish international striker Niclas Alexandersson has also joined Everton from relegated Sheffield Wednesday.

This saturated roster might prompt Smith to shift his pieces around to find the right mix. Yet three days after playing for the U.S. against Barbados, Moore played the last 26 minutes as a sub in Everton's 2-0 loss in its season opener.

"I've only played striker [at Everton]," Moore says. "I can play in the middle of midfield, and maybe he'll play me there in the future, but he knows I'm a forward. I think he has a real talent for finding what a player does well and putting him in the right position to succeed."

MAN WITHOUT POSITION. For much of his U.S. career, Moore has been a man without a position. Former head coach Steve Sampson tried him at forward as well as in a variety of midfield roles, including defensive anchor and on the flank.

"It did frustrate me and set me back, to be honest," says Moore. "It's never easy for a coach to keep all of his players happy, but I've always said I'm a forward. The closer I am to goal, the better."

by Soccer America senior editor Ridge Mahoney



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