USA Soccer: July 4th Ranking of the 10 Greatest Players in American History
It's the Fourth of July, also known as American Independence Day.
For many, it's a great day to barbecue and enjoy the day off of work. For all, it's a day to remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence some 236 years ago and take pride in and celebrate the accomplishments of the nation.
What better way to appreciate the greatness of the USA than to reflect on the greatest football (or soccer) players to ever grace the pitch.
Here are 10 players who brought pride to their nation in the world's game.
No, what you see above is not a picture of two creepy self-help gurus trying to sell you their books, just two of the honorable mentions.
With only 10 spots to fill, there were some very good players I was forced to omit.:
Current keeper Tim Howard.
Eddie Pope and his strong defense
Alexi Lalas and his sideburns.
John Harkes and his home-wrecking.
The list goes on.
If there's someone who you wish was on here, just assume they were 11th.
10. Cobi Jones
Cobi Jones is the most capped player in US men's history with 164.
He represented his nation in three World Cups, including the 2002 run to the quarters.
He is also noted for returning from overseas to be help build MLS when it first began.
Here are some highlights of the midfielder.
9. Brian McBride
McBride had 96 caps, 30 goals with the USMNT and played in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
In 2002, he became the first player in US history to score in two different World Cups.
He will be remembered in his last appearance for playing on despite being extremely bloodied by a viscous elbow delivered by Italy's Daniele De Rossi.
Here is a highlight package of McBride.
8. Thomas Dooley
When the US started searching for possible players overseas for their 1994 World Cup appearance, Dooley arose and became a staple of the USMNT.
Eighty-one caps and seven goals later, he became a legend.
Now, he is an assistant under Jurgen Klinsmann.
Here a video of his Hall of Fame career.
7. Brad Friedel
Friedel was a great goalkeeper, but has morphed into a marvel over the past few years.
He was the first choice keeper for the US in 1994, when they advanced through the group stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1930.
Incredibly, at the age of 40, he was the first-choice keeper for Tottenham last year, as they finished fourth in the league.
Here are some highlights of his play this past season at Tottenham.
6. Paul Caligiuri
Did you think the "shot heard 'round the world" was a baseball thing?
Well, it is, but there's also one for US soccer.
In a qualification for the 1990 World Cup, USA went into the final match with Trinidad and Tobago needing a win to make the final tournament.
It was defender Caligiuri who rose to the occasion, scoring the only goal of the match to get the USA to Italy.
Other than that, he had 110 caps and five goals, but he will forever be remembered for one of the biggest goals in USMNT history.
Here's a video of that goal.
5. Eric Wynalda
Ten years with the USMNT, 107 caps and 34 goals.
He played in three World Cups, scoring an all-important equalizer against Switzerland in 1994.
At the 1995 Copa America, he was in the surprise team of the tournament.
At the time of his retirement, he was the all-time leading scorer in USMNT's history.
He now serves as a commentator on Fox Soccer Channel.
Here are some highlights of Wynalda's career.
4. Clint Dempsey
The current US great has had his career take off in the past few years.
For his nation, he has 27 goals in 86 caps, with nine of those goals coming in the past year-and-a-half.
At the club level, he has probably the biggest goal in Fulham history to his name and this past season became the first American with a Premier League hat trick.
And 29 years of age, Dempsey has some time left to improve on his career.
Here is a highlight package of his play this past season.
3. Claudio Reyna
Claudio Reyna began his international career in 1994. He was in the team that went to the World Cup that year, but did not actually play.
From there, he participated in three consecutive World Cups.
In 2002, he was a key cog in the Americans' run to the quarters and was named to the World Cup team of the tournament.
Afterwards, he became a Manchester City player, scoring four goals in 87 matches.
Before the 2006 Cup, Reyna became Captain America, leading his team into the tournament in Germany.
Reyna earned 111 caps and scored eight goals throughout his time with America, definitely establishing himself as a legend of the nation's history.
2. Landon Donovan
There has been a lot of talk recently about Donovan not being the best player to don a US shirt, with Dempsey being suggested as an alternative.
While there is some legitimate reasoning behind this argument, the importance of Donovan's contributions to American soccer cannot be understated.
In 2002, Donovan played incredibly in the World Cup as he scored two goals, helped the team to the quarterfinals and was named the best young player in the tournament.
His performances in the most recent World Cup in 2010 are already in the USMNT's lore. He scored a goal against Slovenia to begin his side's comeback to nab a draw, scored the last-minute winner against Algeria to get his team through the group and netted a penalty against Ghana that got their Round of 16 match to extra time. Those performances have boosted soccer's popularity all the more in the states, as made clear by Euro 2012's ratings numbers.
In all likelihood, Donovan will be in yet another World Cup in 2014, making him the first American to appear in four.
Here is a video of the biggest moment of Donovan's career with the USMNT, as he scores against Algeria.
1. Mia Hamm
What, you expected something different?
Probably the greatest women's soccer player in international history, Hamm has an astounding 158 goals in 275 appearances with the US women's national team.
In four World Cup appearances, she won the title twice and finished third twice.
In three Olympics, she won two gold medals and one silver.
Most importantly, though, the 1999 team she led to the World Cup title probably provided the biggest moment in US soccer history. Their victory on penalties in the final proved to be a major turning point for soccer in America.
Who knows what would have happened to the popularity of the sport in the US had they not won in '99?
Here is a highlight package of Mia Hamm.
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