OK, so I thought this list would be a breeze.
Turns out, it wasn’t.
I made it hard, frankly, by taking into consideration a player’s actual “play on the field” and their impact on the sport in our country during a time (roughly 25 years) when the professional game was still in a true developmental stage.
So, for example, I put a lot of credence in players like Thomas Dooley, Hugo Perez and Earnie Stewart, even though their time with the national team might have been brief.
I also weighed goalkeepers quite heavily because, unlike nearly every field player, a critical mistake by a netminder is far more important than if a midfield player gets beat to a loose ball and pulls his man down from behind to earn a foul or yellow card.
Let me start the list by giving a couple of “rules” that I self-imposed and followed throughout the development of the list.
I didn’t include anyone who played for the American side prior to 1990. This will leave out, by technicality, only one player who might have truly deserved inclusion on the list: Ricky Davis. Davis was an outstanding player who captained the U.S. team throughout their 1980’s, but without a World Cup “cap” on his resume, it’s very difficult to place him above fifteen other players over the last twenty five years. There are other “older players” like Harry Keough who deserve consideration on this list but I simply don’t have enough evidence in place to determine where or how they would surpass anyone who made the list.
I did not consider any female players for this list. Had I done that, Mia Hamm would be #1, for she is the best soccer player this country has ever produced. That said, this list, in dedication to the current World Cup in Brazil, is only featuring the best 16 American MALE players since 1990.
The whistle has blown.
The list is underway.
16. Hugo Perez —
One of the first true “international” players to prosper for the U.S., Perez was born in El Salvador and gave the Americans a much needed offensive flair throughout the 1980’s and into the 90’s. Scored a huge goal at El Salvador in the qualifying round heading into the ’90 World Cup and would go on to score 16 goals in international competition for the U.S. Very few players in U.S. Soccer history have had the touch and ball skills of Perez.
His professional biography IS RIGHT HERE.
(Please see next page)