Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who Is The Greatest US Soccer Player Ever?

When trying to select the best player to play the game for the Red, White, and Blue there really isn’t much to choose from, soccer’s history in the USA has for the most part been ignorable. In a way this should make it easier to select such a player as compared to other nations, as there are fewer players to choose from. One of the factors would certainly have to be the number of games they played for the National team.

Name Caps Goal Years Played
1 Cobi Jones 164 15 1992-2004
2 Jeff Agoos 134 4 1988-2003
3 Marcelo Balboa 128 13 1988-2000
4 Claudio Reyna 112 8 1994-2006
5 Paul Caligiuri 110 5 1984-1997
6 Eric Wynalda 106 34 1990-2000
7 Landon Donovan 104 36 2000-*
8 Kasey Keller 102 0 1990-2007
9 Earnie Stewart 101 17 1990-2004
10 Tony Meola 100 0 1988-2002
Joe-Max Moore 100 24 1992-2002

Eleven players with over 100 games, or caps as they are called, for the US Senior National Team. Cobi Jones heads the list with 164 caps, but does he even belong in a discussion on the subject of who was the best? I think not. So what else do we need to look at? Well, if we want to talk about an attacking player, goals scored and assists would be the next step.

If we do that, the answer is easy, Landon Donovan. He has 104 caps over 8 years, and is already the all time goal and assist leader for the US Nats with 36 goals and 31 assists. All this, and Lando is still only 26 years old, yet some how I am still not convinced that he’s what we’re looking for.

Well, if it isn’t our all time leading scorer, then who could it be you ask? I’d say that Claudio Reyna is a strong candidate. Sure, he only managed to score 8 goals over 112 caps, but he did so while playing as a holding, or defensive, midfielder. In 2002, after the US’s most successful World Cup, he became the first American ever named as a starter on the World Cup's all-tournament team.

Still, neither of these men would get my nomination as our best player ever. So who’s left? Well, there is the US Women’s National Team. You know, the women who have won 2 out of the 5 Women’s World Cups (WWC,) and never finished lower than 3rd place in that tournament. And let’s not forget that they have won 3 of the 4 Gold Metals sense the Women’s game has been a part of the Olympics.

Now, I know, I know... the women wouldn’t match up with the men in a head to head competition. The men’s team would simply be too physically powerful for the women to handle. But if we discount for a moment the physical strength aspect, and only look at skill, vision, and drive of the players I think you’ll come up with at least one or two players from the women’s team over the years who deserve to be mentioned.

First, let’s look at the most famous women’s player in the US, if not the world, Mia Hamm. Mia is the women’s team’s leading scorer with 158 goals over 275 caps. Yes, that 275 games played for the US Women’s Nats. That’s what happens when you don’t have League commitments, your National Team ends up playing a lot more games to keep it’s players sharp. Thing is those 158 goals are the most goals scored by any National Team player for their country anywhere. And the fact is, she retired at age 32, she could have easily kept playing for a few more years and build on those totals.

And Hamm wasn’t just one to score goals, she also set up her teammates on a regular basis. Unfortunately I have not found any source for assists recorded for women’s soccer to illistrate this. To get an idea of her fame, and see just how good she was for yourself, just go to and do a search using her name.

So, the best player the US has produced is Hamm, right? No. Well, not in my opinion. In 2004 Pele, arguable the greatest player of all time, was asked to identify the 100 greatest players of all time. He couldn’t settle on 100, coming up with 125 names that he felt should be recognized, and among them were the names of two women, one was Mia Hamm, the other was Michelle Akers. Akers name has faded over the years. You won’t find any videos of her on, but, with out Michelle to lead the way, Mia Hamm might never have gained any of her acclaims to fame.

It was Michelle Akers who lead the US Women’s Nats to the first ever WWC in 1991, scoring 10 goals in the process. She was, in fact, the original pace setter for goals scored with 105 in 153 caps for the women’s game., and she did so while playing the last few years of her international career playing as a holding midfielder due in no small part to the fact that opposing players had taken to using the kind of vicious fouls and tackles that are far more common in the men’s game, along her having developed chronic fatigue syndrome.

Where she had been down right dangerous as a striker (forward,) her play from the back of midfield was no less effective. She was the linch pin of the US’s offense in their winning the 1999 WWC, she was used to change the direction of attack, and her long passes were as accurate as her finishing as a striker had been deadly.

Thus I give to you, in my opinion, the greatest US Soccer Player to have graced us with her play: Michelle Akers.

* Landon Donovan’s stats maybe incomplete, as he is an active player. The stats provided are from His profile on only has him at 75 caps, don’t ask me how often they update their site, but obviously not often enough.

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