We all know about “the Greats” of Major League Soccer (MLS), but we too rarely acknowledge, or even celebrate, “the Good.” These are the kinds of players who, during their best years, showed up every week and played the game at a level befitting a pro; and plenty of them are still doing it. Begging the gods to deliver these players to your team isn’t going to happen, but, in the event they do pull on your side’s jersey, you’re confident they’ll wear it well. Bottom line, these players are the real lifeblood of MLS, the half-anonymous guys whose consistence and quality make possible an American top-flight.
With that fuzzy sub-ideal in my head, I went over to MLS’s all-time player register and wrote down all the names deemed to match it. After refining the criteria bit by bit – and this was damned subtle at times – I compiled the list below….and then struggled for a while with what to name all these players. In the end, I went with stating the matter plainly: MLS’s All-Time Good Players. Here are the criteria for making the club:
– A minimum number of games: I went with around 50 starts/games. This operates on a loose, four good year rule. Playing for a few teams works better, but “super journeymen” work all right as well.
– Awards winners/”Arguably, the best ____”: This is about recognizing the unrecognized, so MVP awards or ____ of the Year (except Comeback Player or Humanitarian) disqualifies a player. Also, any player you can see discussed as “arguably, the best ____.”
– National team experience: the less experience the better. World Cup participants are right out, as are past and future long-time regulars in the pool. Let’s call a hard ceiling of 20 caps. (Great resource for counting caps.)
– MLS should be the peak of the players’ ambitions/abilities; modest European Escapes (e.g. no top 5 leagues) are allowed, but only after a long time in MLS – say, six years.
– I’m going by my faulty, much-abused memory; I won’t name anyone I don’t at least vaguely remember. I’m leaning on MLSnet.com to catch awards and that’s much to my chagrin: I’m leaving off a lot of guys I feel are appropriate.
With that out of the way, I want to emphasize something: this isn’t me issuing The Word from the Mount; I absolutely invite people to question my choices, and to lobby for players they view as appropriate. Drop candidates or question choices on the list in the comments below (or email me) and I will answer – even if I don’t agree. I’ll add and subtract where I can be convinced.
Now, without further ado, commentary, without additional asterisks, my list of the All-Time Good Players in MLS History appears below (don’t ask me why the names are capitalized). Players with asterisks next to their names are the All-Time Good Player All-Stars, which is awarded based on playing at a consistent level for a long time in relative anonymity: Continue reading