After wondering if I had finally run out of luck and been removed from the rolls of the voters for the National Soccer Hall of Fame, I was pleased to discover I am still in the good graces of the people who administer the thing (and who will re-open a proper Hall – which may look like the rendering above – in the years to come) and will get to cast a ballot for the eleventh consecutive year. As I have done for each of the previous ten, I will make my ballot public, detailing my rationale for voting yay or nay on each player’s candidacy.
Here are the 28 players up for discussion on the 2016 ballot:
- Chris Armas
- Gregg Berhalter
- Brandi Chastain
- Wilman Conde
- Jimmy Conrad
- Jeff Cunningham
- Frankie Hejduk
- Chris Henderson
- Chris Klein
- Jason Kreis
- Eddie Lewis
- Clint Mathis
- Kate (Sobrero) Markgraf
- Tiffeny Milbrett
- Heather Mitts
- Jaime Moreno
- John O’Brien
- Ben Olsen
- Pat Onstad
- Steve Ralston
- Ante Razov
- Tiffany Roberts
- Tony Sanneh
- Briana Scurry
- Lindsay Tarpley
- Taylor Twellman
- Aly Wagner
- Josh Wolff
We’ve seen many of these names before (indeed, there are only six first-timers on the list). So, after the jump, let’s deal with those six first and then see if anyone I’ve decided on before has moved onto or off my ballot.
- Brandi Chastain: I’ve previously written about my thoughts on “Levels” of Hall of Famers. While Chastain doesn’t qualify (in my mind) as a Level I (one of the best to ever play the game), she does qualify as a Level II (long career for club and country, contributed to championship teams and growing the game, had success internationally, but perhaps not quite the quality of player that’s a Level I). Still, six members of that 1999 US team are already in, and another handful either will be or should be. Wouldn’t you think with all those Hall of Famers on one team, you’d have won more than just the one? And not lost on home soil? Just something to ponder. I’ll vote for her.
- Wilman Conde: I remember when he came into the league. I don’t remember when he left. That should tell you something about his candidacy. No.
- Jeff Cunningham: Here’s the annual reminder that no one whose career was spent primarily in MLS has made the Hall without significant US Men’s National Team contributions. Despite being one of MLS’ all-time leading goal scorers, Cunningham only had 14 caps (and one goal). So, no.
- Heather Mitts: I’m predisposed to like her, as she’s a Florida Gator (and played on their 1998 NCAA championship team, still the only one Florida has even come close to). Her club career was no great shakes (some of it was not her fault, having played at that odd period where we could not get a women’s pro league to stick), really. She won three Olympic gold medals, and was on the 2011 WWC squad after an injury cost her a spot on the 2007 group. I can’t really make a case for her, on any level.
- Aly Wagner: I have her bobblehead around here somewhere. She was a good player (obviously). Didn’t have much of a club career, again, which was not completely her fault, given when she was in her prime, we had trouble holding onto a league. Can’t see how she’s a Hall of Famer, though.
- Josh Wolff: Very talented player who, had he not been so injury-prone, could have been a Hall of Famer. His early career arc certainly trended that way. He did score a bunch of goals in MLS (80) and did have a pretty good National Team career (including a memorable goal that he scored right in front of me in La Guerra Fria). As this is not the Hall Of What Might Have Been, I can’t really find a way to vote for him.
I’ve previously voted for Chris Armas (Level II), Frankie Hejduk (Level II) Jason Kreis (Level III), Tiffeny Milbrett (Level I) and Briana Scurry (Level I and her Nats career outweighs her short pro career). I had also voted for Shannon MacMillan who is now on the Veterans Ballot. Seeing no reason to not continue to vote for those folks, that gives me six. I’ve previously declined to vote for Berhalter, Conrad, Henderson, Klein, Lewis, Mathis, Markgraf, Moreno, O’Brien, Olsen, Onstad, Ralston, Razov, Roberts, Sanneh, Tarpley and Twellman.
Out of that list of seventeen previous no votes, is there anyone worthy of more scrutiny? Last year at this time, I was not completely against the candidacies of Steve Ralston and Taylor Twellman. I still think neither of them will get in because of a lack of significant contributions to the National Team, but, as one of my readers put it, if you vote for Kreis, you have to vote for Twellman, who was a better player.
I don’t think there’s a question that Twellman was a better player. But Kreis had a better career. Not completely Twellman’s fault, obviously, but, as I’ve explained before (when you do this for eleven straight years, you wind up replaying some concepts), you have to look at what a player actually did, not what they might have done, and injuries – even those completely out of your control – factor into the equation. If your career is shorter for whatever reason, you’d have to be pretty transcendent to overcome that.
I have ten slots on my ballot and four openings. There is no requirement that we vote for ten. (I only voted for eight last year, which might have been the first year I did not use all my slots.) At the end of the day, a Twellman/Kreis/Ralston discussion doesn’t really matter because the votes just don’t appear to be there for them. (Kreis has hovered around 30 percent, Twellman in the mid-to-high thirties, though Ralston did jump from 22 percent to 32 percent in the space of a year.)
While I subscribe to the notion that you either are or aren’t a Hall of Famer (in any sport) and that if you are one year, you don’t miraculously become a lesser player in a year or two (conversely, you don’t magically get better over time while retired), there’s something to be said for the harmless show of support that comes from voting for someone who probably won’t get in. (I have voted for Frank Klopas in the past. Frank is a friend. Frank was a really good player, too.) As I age, I’m far less draconian about these things. But if you vote for Twellman and Ralston, you have to vote for Conrad, who had a better national team career than those two and before you know it, you have talked yourself into putting Eddie Lewis in.
Looks like six for me: Armas, Chastain, Hejduk, Kreis, Milbrett and Scurry.