Oh, Alexi… I have certainly taken my fair share of shots at you over the last year or so. You were, after all, one of the most inept general managers in the history of not just soccer, but sport in general. But when it came to playing the game, you certainly were a warrior. And for that, you undoubtedly deserve to take your rightful place in the US MNT Best XI.
Lalas is probably the most famous American soccer player ever, and not just due to his memorable hippie look. In 96 appearances for the MNT, Lalas played with unbridled desire and a complete lack of regard for his own body, both of which are hallmarks of a great defender. He also notched nine goals for the Nats, mostly with his giant ginger-haired head.
Professionally, Lalas was the first American to play in Serie A in the modern era. He also had a very successful career (as a player) in MLS. His later poor managerial performance would somewhat tarnish his reputation among American soccer fans, but even his harshest critics cannot deny he was a great player. In fact, Lalas was the 1995 Player of the Year and a member of the 1994 and 1998 World Cup squads.
I believe Lalas will still have an impact on the American game, despite his current role as MLS castoff. Whether it comes in the form of broadcasting, coaching or (gulp) general managing (I hope not), Lalas will continue to make his indelible mark on American soccer. US soccer needs Lalas too. If not for his desire, simply for his amazing look. He’s Best XI for his play, but he’s #1 for his style and personality.