For the seventh consecutive year, I’m one of the voters for the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I’ve made each of my previous six ballots and the rationales behind them public, so there’s no need to change now.
There are 12 newcomers on the 31-player ballot for 2012. Here’s the complete list (*first year): Raul Diaz Arce, Chris Armas, Jose Burciaga Jr.*, Mike Burns, Ronald Cerritos*, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Marco Etcheverry, Lorrie Fair*, Robin Fraser, Chris Henderson, Jason Kreis, Jen Lalor-Nielsen*, Roy Lassiter, Shannon MacMillan, Tony Meola*, Joe-Max Moore, Victor Nogueira, Peter Nowak, John O’Brien, Ronnie O’Brien*, Cindy Parlow, Ante Razov*, David Regis*, Claudio Reyna*, Tiffany Roberts, Thori Staples Bryan*, Carlos Valderrama, Greg Vanney*, Tisha Venturini-Hoch, Peter Vermes and Kerry Zavagnin.*
I voted for seven of those 31 last year, and while I’m not necessarily honor-bound to continue to do so, they’re a good starting point. The seven are Armas, Cienfuegos, Etcheverry, Fraser, Kreis, MacMillan and Noguiera. Meola and Reyna seem pretty obvious to me, which would give me nine. We’re allowed to vote for up to 10, but we don’t have to vote for 10. I’ve gone over most of these people in years past, so let’s take the other 10 newcomers and see if there are one or two deserving folks in that bunch:
- Jose Burciaga Jr.: Turned pro straight out of high school, and wasn’t ready for it. Came back twice from calamitous knee injuries and was an MLS Best XI pick in 2006. Is still only 30 years old and might be the youngest inductee ever if he made it. I don’t believe he will. NO
- Ronald Cerritos: The El Salvadoran international is the all-time leading scorer for MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes. He’s already in the ‘Quakes’ Hall of Fame, and I think that’s where it ends. NO
- Lorrie Fair: Absolutely one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and quite a fine player. Not a Hall of Famer, though. NO
- Jen Lalor-Nielsen: Played four years for the USA, including on the 1995 Women’s World Cup team (she didn’t see action in the tournament), several years overseas and three years in WUSA. Obviously a fine player. Not a Hall of Famer. NO
- Ronnie O’Brien: You can say “What if Dema Kovalenko hadn’t broken his leg?” but O’Brien came back from that the next year and was an MLS Best XI player in 2005, when he was just 26. He fell out of favor the next year under Dallas coach Colin Clarke and, despite a career resurgence in San Jose in 2008, just kind of disappeared. He’s still just 33. Good player. Not a Hall of Famer. NO
- Ante Razov: This is an interesting one. Razov was a gifted goal-scorer (76 goals in 151 appearances for the Chicago Fire, 30 more in four seasons for Chivas USA) who I got to see close up and who I quite liked. I don’t believe he was well-liked by many of his teammates or some of the club’s hierarchy, but if I needed a guy to score a goal, Razov in his prime would be a guy you’d like to have available for selection. He actually scored more goals (in fewer games) than Kreis, for whom I voted last year, and is fourth in MLS history (though his goals-per-90 minutes is behind guys like Roy Lassiter). Became a bit of a journeyman toward the end. I’d be surprised if he got 35% of the vote, but we’ll see. NO
- David Regis: I think the less said about David, the better. NON, MON AMI
- Thori Staples Bryan: A great college player who earned 64 caps in a decade spent with the US Nats (and was on the 1995 Women’s World Cup team – starting twice in four tournament appearances and an alternate in Atlanta in 1996). Fast and competitive, she loved the game enough to come back after more than four years away to play in the W-League at 34. Can’t see her making the Hall of Fame, though. NO
- Greg Vanney: An MLS original, he replaced the injured Armas on the 2002 World Cup roster before being injured himself just days later. Very good defender, hard-working, good guy to have on your back line. Don’t see him in the Hall, though. NO
- Kerry Zavagnin: A stalwart for the Kansas City Wizards and occasional player for the National Team, his career says solid pro and contributor to championship teams. But not transcendent. NO
So none of the other first-timers are quite there, it says here. That leaves me with nine guys, if I wish to include the players I’ve previously voted for. The only caveat to that is that I’ve voted annually for Victor Noguiera because of the whole anti-indoor thing the Hall has perpetuated. Now there’s an actual Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame (well, it’s virtual for now, but then again, so is the St. Louis Cardinals’, so there), and Noguiera was in the inaugural class (which I’m proud to say I was a voter for as well). I could leave him off this ballot, but I still think he’s one of the very best indoor players ever and should be in this hall, too. So he gets my vote for another year.
Here, then, is my final ballot for 2012: Chris Armas, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Marco Etcheverry, Robin Fraser, Jason Kreis, Shannon MacMillan, Tony Meola, Victor Noguiera and Claudio Reyna. That’s nine. That’ll have to be it this time around.
Your thoughts are welcome.