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US National Team’s Best XI: Eric Wynalda

Eric Wynalda, like Landon Donovan, is one of the MNT players that US fans for some reason seem to love to hate. Whatever your opinion of Wynalda may be though, you cannot deny that he rightfully belongs on this MNT Best XI list. The man is second all-time in goals scored and worked hard in over 100 appearances for the team. Regardless of his rude demeanor, you cannot dispute he was a great player.

As a youth, Wynalda was a rare talent, perhaps even what we would refer to today as a prodigy. His finishing skills became so finely honed over the years that many opponents would dedicate two defenders to simply shadowing him. Wynalda’s professional career took him all over the US and the globe. He’s also famed for scoring the first ever goal in an MLS match in 1996 for San Jose.

His international career was far more stellar than his professional record though. Like Bruce Murray, Wynalda is one of the few men to ever sign a contract with US Soccer. Wynalda played in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups, but only scored one goal. Unfortunately, he also earned the dubious honor of being the first American sent off in a World Cup match when he retaliated against a Czech player in 1990.

Yes, he was always fond of criticizing his teammates and coach. Yes, he often seemed to place his own interests above his squad’s. Yes, his broadcasting skills were poor and basically consisted of just bashing whoever was playing for not being as good as he once was. But, he also was the Player of the Decade (1990s) and a key player who helped popularize soccer in America, so he belongs on this Best XI list.