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An Interview With Thomas Rongen and the Directors of Next Goal Wins

Thomas Rongen was the coach who brought American Samoa to their first-ever World Cup Qualifying win, and his feat is documented in the film Next Goal Wins. Seth Macomber spoke with Rongen and the movie's directors, Mike Brett and Steven Jamison.

After their 31-0 drubbing by Australia in 2001, America Samoa was labeled as the worst team in the world. Ten years later, the team tried to erase those memories as they prepared for their World Cup qualifying matches.

Directors Mike Brett and Steven Jamison were there to document America Samoa’s quest in a movie called Next Goal Wins. The duo spent 14 weeks on the island, immersing themselves in the culture and experiencing the soccer. The record they produced is nothing short of inspiring.

The squad that topped Tonga 2-1 for America Samoa’s first ever win in World Cup qualifying features unique personalities like Jaiyah Saelua, a transgender player, and Nicky Salapu, the goalkeeper in the infamous loss. The team is guided by former MLS and US under-20 coach Thomas Rongen, who was the loan applicant for America Samoa’s call for help.

Seth Macomber talked to the directors and Rongen about the movie and soccer life on America Samoa on a special edition of the Olimpico. The interview includes discussions on scenes that were cut from the film, strategies that America Samoa can use to improve in the FIFA rankings and unique nicknames received by the crew.