25 Greatest Soccer Players in USMNT History
The USMNT has been on fire in 2012. Though the 4-1 loss to Brazil brought the team back to earth, the 5-1 victory over Scotland was the team's fifth consecutive victory under Jurgen Klinnsman, and an affirmation to the American people that the German knows what he's doing.
The USMNT's recent success has raised the question: is this the best USMNT ever?
Clearly, we won't be able to actually answer that question until the team achieves a major trophy or surpasses expectations at the 2014 World Cup, but many already believe that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are the two best American players ever, so surely the answer must be yes, right?
We'll see. Football is a team game, and Donovan and Dempsey by themselves (although they have yet to start together under Klinnsman) won't be enough to carry the USMNT by themselves. Let's see where their teammates rank among the 25 best soccer players in USMNT history.
25. Barth McGhee
Bart McGhee played at least 350 games and scored 137 goals in the American Soccer League between 1921 and 1931.
Towards the end of his career, McGhee made three appearances for the USMNT, scoring twice in the 1930 World Cup. His first goal was the USMNT's first goal ever in a World Cup.
24. DaMarcus Beasley
DaMarcus Beasley's club career has seen him play for clubs like PSV, Manchester City, Rangers and Hannover, a resume which most American players can only dream of matching.
Unfortunately, after a solid debut season in 2004-05 with PSV, Beasley was unable to show the same consistency and potency in attack in subsequent seasons in Europe, and brought his European adventure to a close in 2011 by moving to Puebla in Mexico.
Still, he's had a long and prosperous career for the USMNT, scoring 17 goals in 96 appearances.
23. Bert Patenaude
Like many American footballers of his generation, Patenaude had his career somewhat impeded by the collapse of the American Soccer League in 1931.
Nevertheless, he demonstrated excellent ability as forward in the league, scoring 57 goals in 62 games for the Fall River Marksmen. He maintained an excellent strike rate throughout his career.
Patenaude is best remembered for scoring the first hat-trick in World Cup history vs Paraguay in the 1930 World Cup. His four goals in that World Cup still remain the most scored by an American at a single World Cup.
22. Steve Cherundolo
At the age of 33, Steve Cherundolo is approaching the end of his career. Remarkably for an American international, Cherundolo has spent 14 seasons with one Bundesliga club, Hannover 96, and has made more than 350-plus appearances for the club.
He's also amassed 81 caps and counting for the USMNT, and has been part of three World Cup squads, three Gold Cup squads, and one Confederations Cup squad. He won the 2005 Gold Cup with the USMNT.
21. Jeff Agoos
Unlike many of the other guys on this list, Agoos was never truly a remarkable player and never made it in Europe. However, his consistency resulted in him making 134 appearances for the USMNT as a defender.
Agoos did not play in a World Cup until the age of 34, after being the last man cut in 1994 and remaining on the bench for the duration of the 1998 World Cup.
20. Carlos Bocanegra
Bocanegra is currently the captain of the USMNT with 103 caps and 12 goals.
He's lead a long successful European career with Fulham, Rennes, Saint-Etienne and now Rangers, and at the age of 33 remains a starter for club and country.
19. Earnie Stewart
18. Tab Ramos
Famous for being the first player to sign with Major League Soccer, Tab Ramos played with two different clubs in Spain's second division, Figueres and Real Betis.
He made 81 appearances for the USMNT from 1988 to 2000. He played in three different World Cup squads (1990, 1994, 1998) and two different Copa Americas (1993 and 1995).
17. Thomas Dooley
He managed 81 caps for the USMNT, scoring seven goals in the process. He was the captain for the USMNT in the 1998 World Cup, and recently served as an assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann to coach the USMNT in 2011.
16. Eddie Pope
Another defender who made his name entirely in America. Pope spent his entire career in the US, playing for USMNT for 11 years and playing in the MLS for 12 years.
He earned 82 caps and scored eight goals for the USMNT.
15. Joe Max-Moore
14. Alexi Lalas
Lalas didn't really get his career going until the age of 24, after four separate international tournaments with the USMNT.
After a spell with Padova in Serie A, he was bought by MLS, and split his career between the New England Revolution, MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards and the LA Galaxy.
His many international tournaments allowed him to amass 96 caps and score nine goals. However, he burned out quickly, and never made an appearance in the 1998 World Cup, despite being only 28.
13. Tony Meola
If there's one position in which America can compete with the best football countries in, it's the goalkeeper position. Over the years, America has been able to produce goalkeepers who have performed excellently with the top teams of the EPL.
Tony Meola is the first of four keepers on this list, but that is much more a testament to their ability and longevity than a diss on Meola.
Meola, recently inducted into the Hall of Fame and interviewed by B/R Lead Blogger Michael Cummings, gained 100 US caps during his career and started for the US in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.
12. Marcelo Balboa
It seems the key to amassing a high number of caps for the USMNT is to be a half-decent defender. It makes sense, since defense has historically been the USMNT's biggest weakness.
While still playing college soccer at San Diego University, Balboa was called up to the USMNT. He kept his place in the team until 2000, at the end of his career. He was named US Soccer Athlete of the Year in 1992, and was the first player to break the 100-cap barrier.
He amassed a total of 128 caps and 13 goals, and also became one of the first three players (Tab Ramos and Eric Wynalda being the other two) to play in three World Cups.
11. Tim Howard
Tim Howard is the USMNT's best keeper right now, but career-wise, he's still got some work to do to beat out the two goalkeepers in front of him on this list.
Still, Howard's 75 caps are certainly nothing to sneer at, and even the goalkeepers in front of Howard on this list will be jealous of a resume that includes three seasons at Manchester United and six at Everton.
Howard served as a backup keeper for the USMNT until 2007, explaining his relatively low number of caps. He was the starting keeper at the 2010 World Cup though, and won the Golden Glove award at the 2009 Confederations' Cup.
10. Kasey Keller
Kasey Keller hung up his boots (or is it gloves for goalkeepers?) last season, on Oct. 15, 2011, bringing an end to a career spanning more than two decades. He made 101 appearances for the USMNT.
Keller appeared in four World Cup throughout his career. He was backup in 1990 and 2002, but started in goal in 1998 and 2006.
9. Brad Friedel
The man who constantly battled Keller for title of first-choice keeper was none other than Brad Friedel, currently at Tottenham Hotspur. In the end, Keller won more caps, but it was Friedel who would have the more impressible club career.
Internationally, he's still done pretty well for himself. He retired early on in 2005, when he probably could've earned many more caps for the US. He started in the 2002 World Cup, and made his World Cup debut (though he was not the starter for the tournament) in the 1998 World Cup.
8. John Harkes
John Harkes was the first American footballer to ever feature in the Premier League and occasionally captained the USMNT in the 1990's. He also won 90 caps and scored six goals.
He's unfortunately best remembered for being named captain of the USMNT ahead of the 1998 World Cup, then being dropped for having an affair with Eric Wynalda's wife.
7. Paul Caligiuri
Paul Caligiuri guaranteed himself an eternal place in US folklore with his game-winning shot vs Trinidad and Tobago in 1989, which qualified the USMNT for the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
Aside from that goal, Caligiuri had himself a fine club career, playing with multiple German clubs before moving back to the US to play in the MLS with the LA Galaxy. He scored five goals in 110 caps.
6. Cobi Jones
The USMNT's record cap holder with 164 caps, Cobi Jones was practically an auto-selection for the USMNT throughout his long-prosperous career. He emerged from UCLA as one of the top soccer prospects in the country, and never looked back.
He played in three consecutive World Cups for the US (1994-2002), and currently serves as an associate director for the most recent incarnation of the New York Cosmos, which aims to join the MLS in 2013.
5. Brian McBride
Before Clint Dempsey established himself as "America's Biggest Badass Abroad," that title belonged to Brian McBride. McBride hit double figures twice with Fulham, and even captained the team toward the end of his stay.
He also had a short but positive loan spell with Everton, and his 30 goals for the USMNT (in 96 caps) make him the third highest goalscorer in USMNT history.
4. Eric Wynalda
Right above McBride in the goal-scoring charts is Wynalda. In little over a decade, Wynalda picked up 106 caps for the USMNT, and scored 34 goals.
Wynalda's club career was rather rocky, spent going from one club to another. As such, he never achieved major success on the club level. He now serves as a broadcaster for Fox Soccer Channel and manager of Cal FC.
3. Claudio Reyna
Until recently, Claudio Reyna was considered by many to be the greatest American footballer ever.
He also played in three different World Cups, and was captain of the USMNT for much of his time with the national team, earning the moniker of Captain America.
2. Clint Dempsey
There is an argument to be made that Clint Dempsey is the best American player right now. He's just come off his best ever season with Fulham, scoring 23 goals in all competitions and breaking records, and recently scored the winning goal vs Italy in a friendly as well.
But if we're looking at the two players' contributions to the USMNT thus far, Donovan is still considerably ahead.
Still, 84 caps and 25 goals is nothing to scoff at. Dempsey's performances for Fulham have allowed him to break ground unbroken by previous American players, and his performances have translated over to the USMNT.
When the USMNT have needed goals, he's provided them, as we saw vs Italy, vs England in the 2010 World Cup, throughout the 2011 Gold Cup, and throughout the 2009 Confederations' Cup.
1. Landon Donovan
Donovan has been fairly quiet since the 2010 World Cup, but against Scotland, he reminded us of what a quality player he truly is. Donovan's first international hat-trick since 2007 buried Scotland, who themselves are no pushover in the international arena.
Donovan now has 140 caps and 49 goals in his USMNT career, and could very possibly become the most capped player in the world by the end of his career, since there are many games between now and the 2014 World Cup.
A permanent move to Europe probably won't happen at this stage of Donovan's career, but if he can keep scoring, Americans won't mind too much.