Here are the guys who I think just narrowly missed the Best XI. There’s no shame in being on the bench of the best team your nation could ever historically field. I am sure all of them have good arguments for inclusion (tell me about them in the comments), but I just didn’t think they quite had as many accolades as the starting squad I chose. So, without further Adu (again, no Freddy)…
Tony Meola always makes me think of three things in sequential order: (1) the ponytail, (2) the great goalkeeping for the Nats, and (3) his failed tryout with the (American) football New York Jets. Regardless of the fact No. 1 and 3 were widely mocked, he was still the second best American keeper ever.
Paul Caliguiri gets honorable mention here, and not just because he took the pitch for the Red, White and Blue 110 times. Caliguiri didn’t score many goals (5), but one in particular was very important. His “shot heard round the world” against T&T sent the US to its first World Cup in 40 years.
Claudio Reyna deserves mention, though his play dramatically dropped off late in his career. He still appeared in over 100 games for the Nats and his defensive midfield play made huge contributions to the team in a record number of World Cups. His lack of scoring (only 8 goals) keeps him from starting.
Earnie Stewart was as tough as nails and without a doubt one of the legends of US soccer. He played in 101 games for the MNT and notched 17 goals. His defensive skills were also keen, and I would sub him in immediately for Bruce Murray if my fictional side ever took a 2-0 lead (not against all-time Brazil though).
Tab Ramos was a brilliant performer for the Nats and was the heart of the team for many years. With 14 assists in 86 games, Ramos was the type of unselfish player the US needed as it transformed from a historic loser into a contender on the world stage.
Joe Max-Moore was so close to making the starting squad. In the ten years he played for the squad, he notched 26 goals, which is still fourth all-time. But, McBride and Wynalda were both better, and only two forwards could be selected, so Joe just missed the cut.
Bert Patenaude deserves a spot on the Best XI bench despite only playing in four MNT games. Why? Well, he scored six goals in those games, including the first hat trick ever in the World Cup finals. Sure, he played in the 1930s, but if my team was down one late, I would want Bert in the game.
So, that’s it gentlemen and ladies. The US Men’s National Team’s Best XI series is now complete. I hope you all enjoyed it. Have a happy new year, stay safe, and let’s all keep cheering on the MNT as they approach a pivotal moment in our nation’s soccer history: the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.