Background: Much like my main man, Carlos Valderrama, a big reason I like Steve Ralston for this list is the fact he was one of the original Tampa Bay Mutineers. Ralston would probably be on this list even if not for his TB heritage, as he is the league’s all-time games played and assist leader. Crazy thing is – he still seems to be on top of his game today.
Career: Ralston started his MLS career in the league’s inaugural season, 1996, with my beloved Mutiny. He played in almost 180 games with TB before moving to NER where he has spent the last eight years. Though injuries have hampered his performance the last few years, there have been few more consistent players in the history of MLS.
Honors: As I mentioned above, Ralston is the league’s all-time games played (over 360) and assists (over 130) leader. He’s also the MLS’s “Dan Marino”, because despite playing in so many games, he has never hoisted an MLS Cup (though he did win the Shield with TB in ’96). Despite playing in more than 34 playoff matches, no Cup though.
Legacy: Ralston has made a name for himself, but he has been perhaps more influential in his ability to bring younger players along. Many MLS stars, including Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey, owe their development to Ralston, who will one day perhaps be a good MLS coach. I hope he gets a title first, but the outlook is bleak.
I would put a pair of Ralston’s cleats in the Hall. After all, the feet that filled those cleats have spent more than 32,000 minutes roaming MLS pitches.