Some early all-stars

ratican Choosing an all-star team can involve some very difficult judgements. It's tough enough when you're picking among people who played a week ago or a month ago. When it's people who played a century or more ago, it becomes largely guesswork. All of that can be taken as a sort of disclaimer. The all-star team that follows is to be viewed somewhat skeptically. In collecting data about players from long ago, it's easy to extrapolate from a snippet of information into a glorious career, and that is exactly what I have done. It's somewhat like the blind men and the elephant, but here it is anyway.

This is an all-star team composed of players who played for American soccer teams before the first official United States national team was formed in 1916 (not that all of these players were American citizens). Using a round number like 1900 would be nice, but the farther back you go, the harder it is to determine who were and weren't the best players. Back in the days that these players come from, teams played in a 2-3-5 formation, so that is how I have arranged this team. That's convenient for me, since at a distance of 100 years, it's easier to identify good forward than good defenders.

G--Patrick Hughes. The goalkeeper for the ONT team of Kearny, N.J. that won the first three AFA Cups and also for the American teams that faced Canada in 1885 and 1886. The first goalkeeper in American soccer who really stands out. D--Bill Abstein. A rock in the center of the defense for the great St. Leo's dynasty in St. Louis. Abstein also was a major-league baseball star, winning a World Series title in 1909. D--Peter Wilson. Played for a string of strong American teams after emigrating from Scotland in 1898, including Scots-Americans of Kearny, N.J., Paterson Rangers of Paterson, N.J., Pawtucket Rangers of Pawtucket, R.I. and Philadelphia Hibernians. M--Jack Swarbrick. I know very little about him. However, his name shows up in the ONT teams that won the AFA Cup in 1885, 1886 and 1887 (he scored two goals in the 1887 final); the American team that played Canada in 1886, and teams in 1883 and 1884 from the Fall River East Ends, the first club in that city. He has to have been great to play for all those teams, right? Right? M--Edgar Lewis. The man who ran the Bethlehem Steel team in the 1920s was one of the Steelworkers' earliest stars a decade before. He was born in Wales but didn't start playing soccer until well after he came to America as a teenager. M--Sheldon Govier. Moved to the United States from Scotland in 1891 and played for a number of outstanding Chicago and St. Louis teams around the turn of the century. Most of his time was spent with the Pullman AC team of Chicago, but he also played for several other Chicago clubs and for two seasons with the Cycling Club of St. Louis. F--Whitey Fleming. One of the leading stars of Bethlehem Steel's greatest teams of 1915 to 1919, but his American career had begun earlier than that. Fleming arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1907 and played several seasons for the Fore River Shipyard of Quincy, Mass., before joining Bethlehem Steel in 1913. F--Thomas Swords. The captain of that first U.S. national team played for the Fall River Rovers from 1904 to 1910 and from 1914 to 1920. Swords spent the seasons in between those two Fall River stints with Philadelphia Hibernians and New Bedford Whalers. F--Harry Ratican. The goalscoring star of the first Ben Millers teams in St Louis, from 1913 to 1916. Ratican (above) later became the first St. Louis star to move to eastern teams, winning championships with Bethlehem Steel and Robins Dry Dock. F--Jack Swithenby. The captain of the ONT teams that won the first three American Football Association Cups, as well as the U.S teams that played Canada in 1885 and 1886. F--Bull Brannigan. The leading goalscorer for the powerhouse St. Leo's team, which won 10 consecutive St. Louis League championships between 1905 and 1914.