Soccer Hall of Fame: Decisions, decisions

Last year, justice was done in the Soccer Hall of Fame voting. Cobi Jones and Eddie Pope were easy calls, though the fact that Jones got more votes than Pope is a little alarming. The Veterans Committee rectified the voters’ error of omitting Bruce Murray. And at long last, voters realized that Earnie Stewart scored the first winning goal for the USA in a men’s World Cup since 1950, then stuck around to make sure the USA kept getting back to the big show.

(Speaking of 1950 — let’s take a moment to remember Harry Keough and be glad that his exploits finally got a bit of respect in his lifetime.)

To me, that leaves one egregious omission — Marco Etcheverry. The Hall is full of foreign players who did a bit of time in the NASL. To omit El Diablo is to suggest foreign MLS players need not apply. He was the driving force of the early D.C. United dynasty — MLS MVP in 1998 and a finalist the years before and after. He was fourth in voting last year, continuing to hover around 50%.

I have three more returnees from my ballot last year:

– Shannon MacMillan. Fifth in last year’s voting. I may have left her off in the past, but she had too many vital moments with the U.S. women’s team to overlook. She’s staying in my ballot.

– Carlos Valderrama. After Roberto Donadoni, he was the most famous foreign player to sign on with this crazy thing called MLS in 1996, and he was the first MVP. Then he stayed for several years, shuffling his feet and dropping the ball on a dime to forwards for seven seasons. Perhaps a less obvious choice than Etcheverry, but El Pibe is going to keep getting my vote.

– Roy Lassiter. I know this one’s controversial. Even Dan Loney won’t vote for him, and Loney would probably vote for 15 people if he could. Other players are up near the 50% mark in each year’s vote — Lassiter checked in under 20% last year. He has the single-season scoring record in MLS, but people are writing off 1996 as a “live ball” era in which defenses weren’t quite as locked-down as they are today. So at this point, I’m probably voting for him just to make sure he stays on the ballot and has a bit of momentum when he ends up in the Veterans Committee’s hands.

So that’s four. Now we consider the newbies, and for reasons Dan already explained, it’s a pretty easy choice — Tony Meola and Claudio Reyna are no-brainers. No one else is really in the mix.

That’s six. I could easily call it quits there. But I think it’s time to re-examine a few people. If I’m voting for Lassiter to keep him in everyone’s thoughts until the vets weigh in, why not Robin Fraser? Or Jason Kreis? Or another guy getting 50%, Joe-Max Moore?

In Kreis and Fraser’s cases, perhaps I’m being swayed by the fact that they commanded enough respect in the soccer community to get coaching jobs — and Kreis has taken his opportunity and run with it. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Moore is actually close enough to have a shot at the Hall this year. I always thought of him as a complimentary player rather than a star. But he averaged a goal every two games in his first MLS stint, comparable to Lassiter’s pace. And he scored a few vital goals for the U.S. men, just as MacMillan did for the women.

So I’ll include Moore this year, with apologies for my past ballots. And while Kreis and Fraser (and Lassiter) would need a sea change among voters’ attitudes to get in, I think they at least deserve the recognition of a few Hall of Fame votes.

Voting for nine of the maximum 10 may seem generous. But I’m still omitting some players whose resumes are better than some current Hall members. Peter Vermes evolved from U.S. forward to standout MLS defender. Cindy Parlow was a matchup nightmare for anyone who faced the U.S. women. Chris Armas may frankly be one poorly timed injury away. And Dan is going to punch me in the stomach one day for omitting Mauricio Cienfuegos, whose contributions to MLS aren’t far behind Etcheverry’s or Valderrama’s.

The final nine: Meola, Reyna, Etcheverry, Lassiter, MacMillan, Valderrama, Moore, Fraser, Kreis.

Prediction for the 2012 induction class: Meola, Reyna, Etcheverry. If voters are suddenly getting generous after years of being misers, then MacMillan and Moore.

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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

6 thoughts on “Soccer Hall of Fame: Decisions, decisions”

  1. No MLS player who didn’t play for the US Nats has been elected (yet). Etch would be the first. I can’t really tell you what impact Valderrama had on the American soccer landscape, which I why I stopped voting for him, great as he was as a playmaker and fun to watch.

    And I can’t legitimately go with the “There are people already in the Hall who weren’t as good as this guy” argument. We can’t be held hostage to the whims of voters in the past.

  2. Am I the only one who thought Parlow was lazy and most ineffective, unless a defender had fallen down and someone provided a perfect cross directly to her head or foot?

  3. What? Parlow was the enforcer. When the Chinese and NK teams started playing hockey to slow down our skilled USWNT in the later 90s early 2000s, Parlow was there to keep them in line.

  4. I understand the point, KT. I bring up the past only to point out that it wouldn’t absurd to have a Vermes or a Cienfuegos in the Hall.

    Really, the one I feel strongly about is Etcheverry. If he can’t get in, no foreign player can. (Not looking forward to the arguments when Beckham is eligible.)

  5. Anybody know what Lassiter is doing now? After he stopped playing, he bounced around for a while, as director of various youth clubs.

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