Los Angeles Soccer: National Soccer Hall of Fame
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.
Cobi Jones is one of the most beloved players, and one of the finest, ever to pull on a U.S. jersey, but as he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in a ceremony before Saturday's U.S.-Spain friendly in Foxborough, Mass., he recalled one fan who wasn't much of a fan.
"There was this one guy that would always give me some stick before the game," Jones said, according to Steve Goff's outstanding account of the occasion for The Washington Post. "One game I was warming up, Eddie [Pope] happened to be near me and asked me why that guy was like that. I said, ’I don’t know. He’s always saying, "Cobi, you are terrible! You are the worst! You should just quit!" ’
"A week later, we had a national team game in D.C., and I saw the guy. Eddie is jogging with me, and I thought he’s going to be supporting me now. So Eddie said, ‘Let’s get closer to him.’ The guy is there, we’re jogging up, he said, ‘Cobi!’ I looked up. He said, ‘You’re terrible! You’re the worst player!’ I could never get a break there.”
Jones, a speedy winger who could create or score goals, played a record 164 times in 12 years for the U.S. national team and competed in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He was a slam-dunk first-vote Hall of Famer, listed on 87.13 percent of the ballots.
Also inducted were Pope, perhaps the finest defender in U.S. history; Dutch-American midfielder Earnie Stewart, one of the greatest of the U.S.'s foreign-born and -bred players; Bruce Murray, the national team's all-time scoring leader before Eric Wynalda and Landon Donovan; and Bob Gansler, who guided the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup.
Cobi Jones, the speedy winger who played more international games than any other American, was a no-brainer. So was Eddie Pope. And Dutch-born Earnie Stewart certainly was deserving after missing the cut twice before.
The three former U.S. national team stars head to National Soccer Hall of Fame's Class of 2011, U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday.
Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), who spent most of his professional career with the L.A. Galaxy, and Pope were first-ballot selections. Former U.S. star Bruce Murray was voted in by the Hall's veterans committee and former U.S. head coach Bob Gansler made it through the builders category.
Jones, 40, played 164 times for the U.S. and played in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He was with the Galaxy from 1996, Major League Soccer's inaugural season, until his retirement in 2007 and spent three seasons as a Galaxy assistant coach before joining the New York Cosmos in January as associate director of soccer.
Pope, 37, was the finest defender of his generation -- and possibly the finest backliner ever to feature for the U.S. He made 82 international appearances, played in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups and spent 12 seasons in MLS, with D.C. United, New York and Real Salt Lake.
Stewart, 42, was the son of an American serviceman who married a Dutchwoman and settled in Holland. The attacking midfielder joined the U.S. national team in 1990 and made 101 appearances over 15 years, playing in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He played two seasons (2003-04) with D.C. United and otherwise spent his career in the Netherlands, with VVV Venlo, Willem II and NAC Breda.
Stewart and German-born Thomas Dooley, a 2010 Hall of Fame inductee and also the son of an American servicemen, were the most prominent foreign-born players brought into the national team program as the sport grew rapidly in this country leading up to and following the 1994 World Cup.
Jones was listed on 87 percent of ballots, Pope on 74 percent and Stewart on 71 percent. Full disclosure: I have a vote, and Jones, Pope and Stewart were the first three names on my ballot.
Murray, 45, was the top U.S. scorer with 21 goals before Eric Wynalda and later Landon Donovan set new standards. He played in the 1990 World Cup and played with minor-league U.S. teams and in Switzerland, England and Scotland before retiring in 1995.
The Hungary-born Gansler, 69, was the U.S. coach in Italy in 1990, the Americans' first World Cup in 40 years. He also was head coach of the Kansas City Wizards from 1999 to 2006.
Among those passed over were Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser and assistant coach Carlos Llamosa, former U.S. national team stars Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS) and John O'Brien (Playa del Rey/Brentwood School), and Galaxy legend Mauricio Cienfuegos.
Induction will take place this summer; details on the ceremony have not been finalized.
He's a slam dunk. So is former U.S. national team backline anchor Eddie Pope, also among six newcomers on the eligibility list.
Others making their first appearances are Chivas USA assistant coach Carlos Llamosa, former Galaxy midfielder Chris Armas, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis and former U.S. women's standout Danielle Slaton. Armas, among the four, is the best bet for first-year induction, although it is more likely one or more of 18 holdover join Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA) and Pope in the class.
Our first choice among the holdovers: Dutch-born former U.S. star Earnie Stewart.
Others holdovers include Chivas USA head coach (and former Galaxy defender) Robin Fraser, former Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos, former UCLA standout (and Seattle Sounders technical director) Chris Henderson, and two local players: former U.S. national team stars Joe-Max Moore (Irvine/Mission Viejo HS and UCLA) and John O'Brien (Playa del Rey/Brentwood School).
Others on the player ballot: Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes, Philadelphia Union head coach Peter Nowak, New England Revolution VP of player personnel Mike Burns, former U.S. national-teamer Steve Trittschuh, former MLS stars Raul Diaz Arce, Marco Etcheverry, Roy Lassiter and Carlos Valderrama, indoor legend Victor Nogueira, and former U.S. women's national-teamers Shannon MacMillan, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts and Tisha Venturini-Hoch.
The 10 names before the veterans committee include San Jose Earthquakes GM John Doyle and the late, great George Best, who spent a little time with the old L.A. Aztecs; Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid (Torrance/Bishop Montgomery HS and UCLA) is one of seven men up for consideration by the builders committee.
Votes are due in by March 11 and results will be announced in early spring.