No surprises at all in Tuesday’s National Soccer Hall of Fame announcement. Tony Meola and Claudio Reyna, two slam-dunk picks, were voted in, and nobody else got the votes.
Meola, a starter at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, is one of the four great goalkeepers in modern U.S. Soccer history -- along with future inductees Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard.
Reyna, a U.S. starter at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups (and an injured teen on the roster in 1994), is arguably the most important U.S. field player before Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.
Former U.S. defender Desmond Armstrong, who played at the 1990 World Cup and was the final player cut from the 1994 roster, was voted in by the Veterans Committee, and 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup coach Tony DiCicco, whose accomplishments are merely topped by that iconic triumph, made it in as a Builder. The induction ceremony is expected for mid- to late summer.
The Hall itself is alive merely in archives -- the building, in Oneonta, N.Y., closed two years ago -- and it would be nice to see it reestablished. My thoughts are that it belongs in Chicago (home of U.S. Soccer), Los Angeles (home to the national team for most of the past two decades and one of the hotbeds of the sport), St. Louis (the most historically important city in the sport’s early development) or Portland (probably the most rabid soccer town in America. Sorry, Seattle).
It’s worth noting that Bob Bradley (former U.S. coach, of course, based in Manhattan Beach when in America) finished fourth in the Builder vote and Torrance’s Sigi Schmid (the Seattle Sounders’ coach, formerly in charge at UCLA and with the Galaxy) was sixth.
It’s a shame Meola and Reyna were the only selections from the Player Ballot. Only Marco Etcheverry and Joe-Max Moore also received more than half of the votes, and neither hit 60 percent. The threshold for induction is 66.7 percent.
Voters are allowed as many as 10 votes, and I used all 10 of mine. Here is who I voted for and why.
Claudio Reyna: Most obvious choice on the ballot, illustrated by his appearance on 96.08 percent of ballots. (What’s up with the other 3.92 percent?)
Tony Meola: Obvious, too, and he received 90.2 percent. My vote had nothing to do with a 1994 trip to Kearney, a visit to his father’s barber shop (where my hair was trimmed) and dinner at the Meola home (wonderful, with some of Tony’s friends dropping by right at mealtime, even though Tony wasn’t there).
Peter Nowak: As much for his brief time as a player in Major League Soccer -- the Polish star was the foundation of the expansion Chicago Fire club Bob Bradley built to win the 1998 MLS Cup title -- as for his influential time as a coach, winning an MLS Cup with D.C. United (the only man to win MLS titles as a player and coach), as Bradley’s chief assistant with the national team (including dutues as Olympic coach) and in quickly turning the Philadelphia Union, in its third season, into a competitive MLS side.
Joe-Max Moore: Insane talent matched by accomplishment, internationally and in the European club game. The former Mission Viejo star from Irvine might be the greatest player in UCLA history -- it can be argued -- and he’s done something no player (including himself) has done: score six goals for the U.S. in an international match. (One of the six snuck through a hole in the side-netting, and the ref didn’t see it.)
Chris Armas: A criminally undervalued holding midfielder -- not by his peers, mind you -- who would be a slam-dunk choice had knee injuries not deprived him of two World Cups.
John O’Brien: The greatest player to ever wear a U.S. jersey, and that’s why I vote for him. Sadly, injury ended the Brentwood High alum's career far too early.
Peter Vermes: Sporting Kansas City’s coach was a workmanlike World Cup forward in 1990 who reinvented himself as a center back and nearly made the ‘98 team. He was pivotal in K.C.’s 2000 MLS triumph.
Robin Fraser: Chivas USA’s head coach also is underrated, at least in this forum. He and Eddie Pope were the two best center backs in Major League Soccer’s first decade, and by a decent margin. He deserved better than he got with the national team, and international duty holds much sway over the voting bloc.
Victor Nogueira: Indoor soccer is part of the landscape, and its greatest figures deserve to be there. That means Nogueira -- better known today as father of women’s pro Casey Nogueira -- belongs.
Marco Etcheverry: Major League Soccer’s story can’t be told without the Bolivian midfielder, the league’s finest player in the first decade.