You know Major League Soccer is having a pretty good offseason when one of the quieter periods of the break brings news that the first-choice goalkeeper for the Brazilian national team is headed your way.
As an endorsement of MLS, that’s not too shabby: Júlio César, the probable starting keeper for the host nation – and one of the heavy favorites – of the 2014 World Cup is going on loan from Queens Park Rangers to Toronto FC to prepare for the tournament.
The remainder of the news cycle was relatively slow, as teams kept their noses to the preseason grindstone in advance of the March 8 start to the 2014 season.
Colorado did send rugged central midfielder Hendry Thomas to FC Dallas in exchange for allocation money, and veteran midfielder Clyde Simms announced his retirement, citing a kidney disease he’s been battling for years. Simms drops the curtain on a nine-year career that included successful stints in D.C. and New England, and one appearance for the US national team.
There was some comic relief, too, as a South Florida newspaper claimed to have accessed the possible logo, colors and team name of David Beckham’s Miami expansion side. Among the alleged designs were a teal, black and white kit, a logo with a distinctly 1980s vibe, and the team name of … Miami Vice. (Crank up the speedboat, Crockett.)
Public reaction was swift – and entertaining: Some fans loved the choices, some hated them, and almost everyone neglected the possibility that the information was, as Beckham’s camp later dubbed it, “complete hogwash.”
Rounding out the week’s top stories was Friday’s news that US coach Jurgen Klinsmann had invited 18-year-old Bayern Munich prospect Julian Green, a German-American, to train with the US national team ahead of their March 5 friendly with Ukraine.
Given his age, and his up-and-coming status at arguably the top club in the world, Green (at right) may be the most promising foreign-based prospect the US national team has ever courted. (And we say “foreign-based” because Green was, in fact, born in Tampa, Fla.)
Of course the USMNT, like most national teams, has a long history of importing talent to boost the team. Were Green to opt to suit up for the Stars and Stripes, he would be in some pretty good company.
With that in mind, here are the Top 5 foreign-raised players ever to play for the US. (The list does not including dual-nationality players who moved to the US at a young age and essentially grew up in the US soccer system – players such as Tab Ramos and Hugo Perez, to name two.)
5. Roy Wegerle, 41 caps from 1992 to ’98, seven goals
Wegerle departed South Africa in 1980 and played two seasons of college soccer at South Florida. After a Rookie-of-the-Year season with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the original NASL, he went on to enjoy stints in the Premier League with QPR, Blackburn, and Coventry City. He became a US citizen in 1991, and played in the 1994 and ’98 World Cups for the US.
Added Time: Wegerle signed with MLS in 1996, becoming one of only two players (Perez is the other) to play in both the original NASL and MLS.
4. Carlos Llamosa, 29 caps from 1998 to 2002
Llamosa left a top-flight team in Colombia in 1990 and moved to New York City, taking a job at the World Trade Center. Incredibly, in 1995, he resumed his professional soccer career after a five-year hiatus, signing with the New York Centaurs of the A-League.
He jumped to D.C. United two years later, and, after getting his citizenship in October 1998, debuted with the US national team the following month. He appeared in the 1999 Confederations Cup, played in the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, and made two substitute appearances in the 2002 World Cup.
Added Time: Llamosa, who won three MLS Cups with D.C. United, was working at the WTC during the 1993 terrorist attack on the building.
3. Preki, 28 caps from 1996 to 2001, four goals
Wielding his left foot like a sorcerer’s wand, the Serbian midfielder known as Preki was one of the most exciting players in MLS history. He became a US citizen in 1996, and two years later at the Gold Cup, scored one of the landmark goals in US history, rifling in a shot from 20 yards to lift the US to their first (and still only) win over Brazil. He appeared in seven qualifiers in 1997, and two games at the 1998 World Cup.
Added Time: A two-time MLS MVP and scoring champ, Preki was named to the league’s All-Time Best XI in 2005. He coached Chivas USA and Toronto FC, and currently coaches USL Pro side Sacramento Republic FC
2. Thomas Dooley, 81 caps from 1992 to ’99, seven goals
The German-born Dooley acquired US citizenship in 1992, and debuted for the national team in the spring of that year. He was named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year in 1993 and played every minute of the 1994 World Cup, anchoring the spine of the US team with his dogged ball-winning and organizational skills. He was captain of the US’s 1998 World Cup team.
1. Earnie Stewart, 101 caps from 1990 to 2004, 17 goals
The speedy Dutchman (pictured at top) – who could play on the wing, in central midfield, and as a striker – appeared in three World Cups for the US. He scored an all-important goal in the Americans’ historic 2-1 win over Colombia in the 1994 World Cup, and was also instrumental in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup, bagging seven goals in qualifying.
Added Time: Stewart signed with MLS in 2003 and won a title with D.C. United the following year. He is currently technical director for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
Other Candidates: Joe Gaetjens, David Regis, and the bulk of the current group of foreign-raised players: Aron Johannsson, Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Terrence Boyd, and Timmy Chandler. If one or more of them produces a standout performance at Brazil 2014, they could reshape this list.