USMNT coach Anthony Hudson shares is passion for helping dogs
Anthony Hudson likes a lot of things but he’s passionate about just two: dogs and soccer.
He ranks them in that order, apparently, because on the biggest day of his professional career, Hudson almost left the World Cup to look after his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, who were locked in a high-rise Chicago apartment half a world away.
When Hudson, then Gregg Berhalter’s top assistant coach with the U.S. national team, departed for Qatar last November, he left the dogs with a caretaker. But when the sitter was involved in a car accident, the abandoned animals, hungry and lonely, began howling.
Soon Hudson’s neighbors were calling. With no one to care for them, who’d let the dogs out?
“I was ready to leave, walk away from the bloody World Cup,” he said. “I was ready to fly back to make sure they’re OK.”
“We wanted to use soccer and our contacts to raise money for programs that are doing really, really good things.”
— Anthony Hudson, on his decision to start a foundation to help dogs
Crisis was eventually averted, allowing Hudson to stay with the team, but the moral of the story remains: “I naturally just love dogs and want to help dogs,” said Hudson, now a caretaker of sorts himself as interim coach of the men’s national team. “I can’t stand seeing the mistreatment of dogs.”
Hudson’s passions were split once more this month, with soccer again forcing him to leave 12-year-old Dyer and Junior, 7, to coach the U.S. to Nations League wins over Grenada and El Salvador, the second coming Monday night, 1-0 in Orlando, Fla. The two victories, in Hudson’s first two competitive matches as U.S. coach, qualified the team for both the Gold Cup and Nations League Final Four this summer. The Americans are the defending champions in both tournaments.
Away from the field, however, Hudson spends much of his time working with the Forgotten Dogs Foundation, a nonprofit he founded to help homeless dogs find safe haven through creative work with communities, shelters and animal care and rescue programs across the country.
“The pet overpopulation in most countries, but especially in this country, is the issue,” he said. “People are breeding these dogs and they’re literally just ending up on the streets. If they don’t get adopted, they get killed. That’s where it starts.”
The idea for the foundation was one Hudson, 42, long considered but repeatedly put off because of soccer. After a 10-year playing career with four teams in three countries, Hudson embarked on an even more peripatetic coaching career, working in Wales, Bahrain, New Zealand and MLS before joining U.S. Soccer in Chicago three years ago.
“I kept saying, ‘I want to do something,’ and then because of my job, I always said I was too busy,” said Hudson, who has used his travels to volunteer at animal shelters around the world. “When I came to Chicago, I’m like ‘I’ve got to stop using that as an excuse.’”
Instead, he used soccer as a platform, naming former Premier League coach Harry Redknapp and women’s national team players Rose Lavelle and Jane Campbell to the foundation’s 10-member board while holding soccer clinics and tournaments as fundraisers.
“We wanted to use soccer and our contacts to raise money for programs that are doing really, really good things,” he said.
Those programs include Tails of Redemption with the Cook County (Ill.) sheriff’s department, in which jailed detainees work with troubled shelter dogs to increase their chances for adoption. Or the MLS’ Chicago Fire assisting with fundraising soccer camps and the Chicago Red Stars taking the pitch before an NWSL game last season alongside shelter dogs needing forever homes; all four dogs were quickly adopted.
There are budding partnerships between the foundation and homeless facilities in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago that provide space, food and other supplies for people seeking refuge with their pets.
“Shelters here in Chicago wouldn’t allow dogs in and the city doesn’t provide anything for dogs,” Hudson said. “That’s something the foundation is trying to change.”
In California, his foundation has supported Assembly Bill 1215, which would make it easier for shelters to accommodate and care for pets, a law that would have immediate benefits for as many as 7,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County.
While all that has proven to be a labor of love, Hudson also has other labors to worry about.
After Berhalter’s contract with the national team expired in December, Hudson was appointed interim manager while U.S. Soccer conducted its standard performance review of the former coach. That process has since been complicated by Berhalter’s admission he was involved in a physical altercation 32 years ago with the woman he would later marry, and by the departures of Earnie Stewart, the federation’s sporting director, and Brian McBride, general manager of the men’s national team program, the two men charged with conducting Berhalter’s review and selecting a new coach.
As a result, Hudson’s temporary gig has been extended indefinitely — meaning more time away from home and his Ridgebacks. For Hudson, who is unmarried and has no children, it’s like leaving family — which is why he grimaces when people ask if he’s ever hounded by his devotion to the dogs.
“My mom — she knows my schedule and the responsibility — she says, ‘do you ever regret it?’ It’s never crossed my mind,” he said.
“There’s mornings I walk around the city with my dogs and people are rushing to work and there’s always a moment where someone will walk past and they’ll look at the dogs and smile. Who else can have that effect?”