…but then, I said, “Screw it.”
For the ninth straight year, I have a Players Ballot vote for the National Soccer Hall of Fame. It’s an honor I take very seriously. Every year I make my selections and rationales public, so I’m going to continue that, but the long post I was going to write just isn’t going to happen.
So here is my take on each of the players on this year’s ballot.
- Chris Armas: I have voted for him for years now, and will continue to do so.
- Raul Diaz Arce: I have not voted for him for years now, and will continue to not do so. Had one great year (the first year of MLS, against slipshod defending) and two more really good ones for DC and New England. But then he became a journeyman and was effectively done before his 30th birthday.
- Marco Etcheverry: Based on his voting trend, Etch might become the first MLS player elected who didn’t have a significant US National Team career. Truly influential for MLS’ first dynasty and a very, very skilled player, I think he deserves the honor and will vote for him again.
- Lorrie Fair: I have mentioned this before – Lorrie Fair is truly one of the sweetest people I have ever met (in the game or out of it). Very good player. I can’t see putting her in the Hall of Fame, though.
- Robin Fraser: I have voted for him before, and will continue to do so. One of the league’s best-ever defenders.
- Chris Henderson: I loved the way Chris Henderson played. He was the type of player I would love to have on my team. Just not in the Hall of Fame.
- Zoran Karic: Because of a revision to the procedures this year (after years of people like me shouting from the rooftops about indoor guys who are being marginalized), Karic will get one year on the Player Ballot before transitioning (with the rest of the eligible indoor guys whose careers were largely in the MISL during the period where there was no Division I outdoor league) to the Veterans Ballot. I would imagine he’ll get into the Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame. I can’t see him getting into this one, though.
- Chris Klein: Played the game the right way. Always classy. Has a good future as an executive. Unlikely to be elected to the Hall of Fame, I think.
- Jason Kreis: You can’t realistically not vote for the guy who scored more goals (at the time of his retirement) than anyone in the history of your Division I domestic league. Has built a far better coaching career than anyone (except him, I would imagine) would have figured back in 2007. Should he succeed in New York and possibly as a future US National Team coach, his overall body of work would be worthy of induction (though there’s no real mechanism for an overall body of work induction). I’m voting for him based on his playing career, though.
- Eddie Lewis: I liked the way he played, too. Had a good career for the Nats. His career in England was mostly spent out of the Premiership. His MLS career was late and not that great. Can’t see voting for him.
- Kristine Lilly: First year on the ballot. Total no-brainer. If there were no Kristine Lilly, there would be no Brandi Chastain. Should be a first-ballot, 90+ percent pick unless the folks who have issues with women and men being considered for the same hall of fame have an uprising.
- Kristin Luckenbill: A WUSA pioneer (backstopping the 2002 league champs and winning Goalkeeper of the Year), she was on a great career arc at age 22, but never could crack the US Nats’ lineup regularly because of the ‘keepers in front of her. Won’t be going into the Hall of Fame.
- Shannon MacMillan: This has been a major oversight, as she should have been in a while ago. I don’t know if Lilly’s presence hurts her this year or not. It might. In which case she’ll have to wait. Hopefully it won’t be for too long.
- Kate Sobrero Markgraf: Tremendous Nats career (over 200 caps, won two Olympic Golds and the 1999 WWC), and WUSA’s demise kept her from continuing a promising club career. By the time WPS started, she was already 33 and was retired at 34. Strong candidate who is probably hurt by having Lilly and MacMillan in front of her.
- Clint Mathis: He sure was fun for a while, wasn’t he? Not a Hall of Famer.
- Brian McBride: The other should-be dead solid lock, 90+ percenter. MLS’ first-ever draft choice never disappointed, never alibied, never failed to give everything he had for club and country, and literally left pieces of himself on pitches from Columbus to Kaiserslautern. Gotta vote for him.
- Jaime Moreno: This is Jaime’s first year on the ballot, and it will be interesting to see how he fares with all of the other deserving candidates. Certainly was a force for DC United, but I’m not sure he’ll be the one to buck the “MLS Players Without Significant US Nats Careers” curse.12023 update: he actually was.
- Victor Nogueira: I will continue to vote for him as a protest against the marginalization of the indoor game, even though they have grudgingly opened a window for Tatu and Steve Zungul22023 update: Which he finally did. to get in.
- John O’Brien: Can’t see that happening.
- Ben Olsen: A fine player. It’s not the Hall of Fine Players.
- Cindy Parlow Cone: Voted for her last year. Haven’t seen anything to change my mind in the interim.
- Ante Razov: I like Ante personally and enjoyed watching him play. I can’t reasonably call him a Hall of Famer, though.
- Steve Ralston: Here’s where the US Nats Codicil will get tested. Ralston played the most games of any field player in MLS history, has the most assists in league history (Landon Donovan should pass him, if not this year, then next), was Rookie of the Year and went to three MLS Cup finals. But he had nearly half his National Team caps in 2005 (15 of his 36) and was never named to a World Cup roster. I think you can make the case for him, but based on how the voting has gone historically, he’s fighting an uphill battle. I might very well vote for him in future year, but with a 10-player limit, he gets squeezed off my ballot this year.
- Tiffany Roberts: Terrific college player and stalwart in the short-lived WUSA. Was never a USWNT star. Unlikely to get in.
- Tony Sanneh: I like Tony and he had a good career and a great 2002 World Cup. Gotta love a guy who played in the USISL and the NPSL and made it to the World Cup. Seemed like he was constantly injured, which kept him from fully realizing his potential. Can’t vote for him.
- Briana Scurry: Just look at the accomplishments. She’s in. Gotta be in. If not this year, soon.
- Taylor Twellman: Do you realize he doesn’t turn 34 until later this month? He should still be playing, but he’s been retired long enough to hit the Hall of Fame ballot. The career he did have was obviously impressive on the club side and frustrating on the international side. I’ll be interested to see what the electorate does with him and Ralston and Moreno. My guess is he doesn’t get in for a while, if he gets in at all. I would have loved to have seen him be able to continue to play.
So my final ballot is Chris Armas, Marco Etcheverry, Robin Fraser, Jason Kreis, Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Brian McBride, Victor Nogueria, Cindy Parlow Cone and Briana Scurry. Keep in mind I’ve never failed to vote for someone who got elected that year. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if that streak continues.