Sept. 4, 2002
By Amy Rosewater, special for USA TODAY
It's hard to stand out when you're Joe Cannon. He might be 6-2 and 190 pounds, and he might top Major League Soccer statistics columns as goalkeeper for the defending champion San Jose Earthquakes. But his personal achievements are often overshadowed because of the wealth of talent on his team.
Less than a month before MLS playoffs begin, (the former Santa Clara Bronco) Cannon is tops in the league with a 12-8-3 record, eight shutouts and a 1.03 goals-against average. But two-time World Cup veteran Tony Meola and popular up-and-comer Tim Howard seem to get all the ink.
It doesn't get any easier when Cannon is just hanging out with his family. Cannon's twin brother, Jon - born six minutes before Joe on New Year's Day 1975 - is a pitcher for the Shreveport (La.) Swamp Dragons, the Class AA affiliate for the San Francisco Giants. Another brother, Cody, played water polo at the University of the Pacific and was on the junior national team. His youngest brother, Colt, is a skateboarder who was an amateur world champion who has competed in the X Games.
"I've got to pretend I'm an only child," says Joe Cannon with a laugh. "I always have to share the attention with my brothers."
In the soccer world, however, Joe is the only member of his family in the spotlight. He didn't start out as a soccer player, though. He and Jon were avid skiers. The Cannon family split residencies between the Bay Area and Idaho, since Joe Cannon Sr. was a country-western singer who performed in both parts of the country. One day, Cannon's mother, Barbara, thought soccer would help her sons build knee strength for their skiing careers. By the time Joe was 12, he stopped skiing and was totally entrenched in his youth soccer club, which won a national title. His brother, Jon, meanwhile, went in a different direction, pursuing a baseball career.
It's no surprise that the Cannon boys became athletes. They grew up about an eighth of a mile away from a baseball field, a quarter of a mile away from a country club, which had a pool and tennis courts, and they had a basketball court at home. They live miles apart now, but they keep a close check on each other's careers.
"I usually watch the ticker on TV to get the results of his games," says Jon Cannon, who catches highlights in the Swamp Dragons' clubhouse. "But I hate watching it if he loses. It breaks my heart."
Last year, Jon didn't have to watch TV to find out if Joe won or lost. When Jon played for the Giants' Class A team in San Jose, there were days when both Cannon brothers would play their respective sports just a few hundred yards away from each other.
"There were times when I would be on the mound, and the crowd across the street would get really loud," Jon says. "I would wonder what happened. If the cheers were really long, then it was good. If I heard boos, then it was bad. If I heard, 'Aaaaw,' then that meant the ball hit the post."
Growing up, interestingly enough, it was Jon who started out as a goalkeeper, not Joe. "Joe kind of took my job," says Jon, chuckling. "Then I played at forward."
Joe Cannon has been a goalkeeper ever since. And he's not about to relinquish that spot.
"It's a pressure position," Joe Cannon says. "I don't like to blame anyone else for a bad result, and I don't mind being the guy who carries the 'failure' of the team. I strive to be perfect, and I know in this position you can't be. There's always room for improvement."
Cannon is playing for the team with the best record in the league (13-9-3). The Earthquakes have a mix of veteran and young talent in Jeff Agoos, Landon Donovan and Ariel Graziani.
Winning a second championship for San Jose, which went from worst to first, won't be easy.
On Saturday, despite two goals from Donovan, the 'Quakes lost 4-2 to D.C. United. It was their sixth consecutive road loss and first to United since 1998. Western Conference foes Los Angeles, which is tied with San Jose for the best record. Dallas and Colorado clinched playoff spots.
"Last year was just amazing," Cannon says. "It was the best feeling. I'd love to be able to win a championship again."
Maybe then he'll have a special spot at the Cannon family reunions.