Shep Messing back in the day when he played for the Cosmos.
By Michael Lewis
In the two games he faced the great Gerd Mueller while playing in the North American Soccer League, Shep Messing never conceded a goal to the West German scoring machine.
But that didn’t mean the former goalkeeper didn’t have loads of respect for Mueller, who passed away Sunday. Mueller was 75.
In fact, when he played with the Cosmos, Messing had an opportunity to see Mueller up and close and personal. Franz Beckenbauer brought several young Americans on the team, including Bobby Smith, Werner Roth and Messing to train with Bayern Munich, Mueller’s team, in the offseason.
“We’d go train with via Munich in the offseason for a month or two,” Messing said on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show in June. “So, of course, I knew Gerd Mueller and then some. You guys know what kind of player he was. He was built like a fire hydrant.
“But the thing about him is release, his is quick turn and release in a nanosecond. The guy can get a shot off with velocity quicker than anybody I ever knew.”
When he played for the Rochester Lancers, Messing and the team met Mueller and his NASL team, twice during the 1979. Der Bomber did not solve Messing.
In his three-year NASL tenure, Mueller scored 38 goals in 71 appearances, more than a 50 percent strike rate.
“We did a job on them,” Messing said. “They struggled against us.”
They Lancers defeated the Strikers in their both encounters that season by 2-1 scores.
Mueller twice had come close to scoring in the Aug. 1 home game. Messing barely deflected his first shot with his foot. The second attempt went inches wide of the left post.
“It’s an honor to play against Gerd Mueller,” Messing was quoted by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in 1979. “I just didn’t want to add his name to the list of great players who have scored off me.”
Messing, who is the Major Arena Soccer League chairman and the Red Bulls TV analyst, and the Lancers also stopped Mueller and Strikers in Rochester July 14.