February 17, 2011
Here are the players I will vote for . . .
By Michael Lewis
Just got my latest National Soccer Hall of Fame ballot and I must say it's a doozy.
Voters are allowed to list up to 10 players. Yours truly has fsix on my list.
When I vote for the Hall, I use one basic criteria, did he or she dominate her position or just was outstanding.
In alphabetical order, here's my ballot:
* Chris Armas -- He was the consummate defensive midfielder. You don't believe it? Just ask the likes of three big-time No. 10s -- Marco Etcheverry, Mauricio Cienfuegos and Carlos Valderrama. They are on the same ballot and and the Brentwood, N.Y. native made life miserable for them. Armas scored but eight goals in 218 league matches, but you can't count the goals he helped deny. A mainstay on the National Team, did not play in the two World Cups he was eligible for due to knee injuries. Had he been healthy, Armas would have gone.
* Robin Fraser -- One of MLS's early stars, Fraser earned Best XI honors in four of the first five years for the Los Angeles Galaxy, missing out in 1997. He also was named defender of the year in 1999. Fraser also was an American Professional Soccer League (A-League) for four consecutive years. He played for the Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew, earning defender of the year honors and his fifth Best XI designation in 2004. He performed in 260 regular-season matches and another 30 in the playoffs.
* Cobi Jones -- He better be a shoo-in -- or else. No American player has played in more international games (164), while finding the back of the net 15 times. In MLS, Jones tallied 70 goals in 305 matches, including a career-best 19 for the Los Angeles Galaxy (he did not play for another team) in 1998.. Moreover, the midfielder played on two MLS Cup champions (2002, 2005).
* Jason Kreis -- The current Real Salt Lake coach was a scoring terror during his years with the Dallas Burn and RSL. He became the first player to finish with the league's 15-15 season in 1999 with Dallas (18 goals, 15 assists), becoming the first American-born player to win league MVP honors. Kreis, the first player to reach 100 league goals, tallied 108 goals in 305 MLS matches. He did not distinguish himself with the U.S. National Team (one goal in 14 appearances), but he was an offensive force in domestic competition.
* Eddie Pope -- Injuries may have slowed him down a bit near the end of his career, but Pope was a key part of the U.S. National Team defense for two World Cups. He played for D.C. United's first three MLS Cup championship sides, including heading home the game-winner in sudden-death in the 1996 MLS Cup final. He also performed in three World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006), wearing the red, white and blue 82 times, finding the back of the net eight times.
* Earnie Stewart -- He played but two years in MLS, but he played an integral role in D.C. United's 2004 MLS championship. Moreover, he was a key performer in World Cup qualifiers (30 over three tournaments) and World Cups (1994, 1998 and 2002) for the U.S. He wore the red, white and blue 101 times and played 16 seasons in the Dutch First Division.
And here's an interesting quandary, there are four midfielders -- I call them the four amigos -- who were dominant during their time.
But if you vote for one, do you have to vote for all of them?
* Marco Etcheverry -- The former Bolivian international was the kingpin of D.C. United's attack, helping the team to three MLS Cup championships (1996, 1997 and 1999). A perennial member of the MLS Best XI and a member of the league's all-time team, the man nicknamed El Diablo finished his career in 2003 with 34 goals and 101 assists in 191 regular-season games.
* Mauricio Cienfuegos -- He played all of his eight MLS seasons with the Galaxy, helping the team to the 2002 MLS Cup, his final season. The former El Salvadoran international's playmaking ability allowed him to be elected to the MLS Best XI three times and to play in seven all-star games. Cienfuegos collected 35 goals and set up 78 others in 206 MLS regular-season games.
* Peter Nowak -- The current Philadlephia Union and former U.S. Under-23 coach was a major reason why the Chicago Fire was in the middle of things from 1998-2002. A one-time Bundesliga star and Polish international, Nowak earned MLS MVP honors with the championship Fire in the team's 1998 expansion season. He also was named to the league's all-time Best XI and guided D.C. United to the 2004 MLS title, the only player-coach to do so in league history.
* Carlos Valderrama -- If they had a hair hall of fame, Valderrama would be a first-ballot selection. His stats with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion and Colorado Rapids weren't too shabby either, thanks to his vision and uncanny ability to put a pass on target -- 16 goals and 114 assists while being named to the MLS all-time Best XI. The only mark against the former Colombian international's MLS career is that he never won a title.