Top 20 American MLS players Who Never Took a Shot Abroad

Posted on February 4, 2012 5:48 am

By Derek Richey of The Straight Red Card

Waking up the other morning, I was thinking about all the Americans playing abroad now (whether it be Mexico or Holland, England or Germany) and I started considering how much things have evolved for the American soccer player since I kicked around a ball competitively back in the late 80s. I started to go back through my MLS memory banks, and then right up to modern MLS, and asked myself “what if things were different sooner?”

What if in the 1990s and 2000s European teams had been more interested in American MLS players? What if they saw the same potential then as they do now? What if Chad Marshall had the same opportunity Tim Ream is getting now? Or, if Steve Ralston were courted by a mid-table Italian team? What if Chris Armas, Brian Ching or Eddie Pope had been offered a legitimate shot at playing in Germany or England or Scotland?

And so, I devised my list of “Top 20 American MLS players Who Never Took a Shot Abroad.” I excluded very young prospects playing today, but included those at least in their mid-twenties. Going back through the years of MLS talent, up to current players, I came up with my list.

While my list may not be perfect and may exclude many, below I still see a whole host of players with considerable talent that have yet to, or never did, make “the move.” In many cases, a move abroad might have helped this group of players bump up their games, take a step forward, or grow as both players and people. And for the more modern players on the list, (as things are trending now) playing abroad would drastically improve their chances of playing for the USMNT in 2014. And I’m not talking about playing in Scandinavia. Plenty of these players could have played in Holland, Germany, France—you name it.

Alas, for whatever reason(s), the following talented players never made that “big move” but in my humble opinion, should/could (have):

1.Eddie Pope: With 82 national team caps and 11 years of Major League Soccer under his belt, it would have been nice to see Pope take a shot at playing abroad before injuries caught up to him. Who knows how the experience would have made him an even better player.
2.Chris Armas: Had Armas avoided that nasty ACL injury prior to the 2002 World Cup, it seems likely he would have made the trip to Korea/Japan. With 66 caps under his belt, and ever the constant professional during his years in MLS with Chicago, Armas would have been a steal.
3.Pablo Mastroeni: Sometimes criticized, Mastroeni was a favorite pick during Bruce Arena’s time at the USMNT helm; later in his career, Mastroeni made overtures towards Europe (mostly Italy)–but nearing his early 30s, potential clubs showed little interest.

Bring Ching play for the Nats

4.Brian Ching: Often underrated, Ching would have been a great target striker for any number of European teams looking for steady production and team play.
5.Steve Ralston: When not rapping with the Beastie Boys under the assumed name of Adam Yauch, Steve Ralston was always one of MLS’s finest well into his mid 30s. With 36 caps and 4 goals, and just nearly missing several US World Cup squads, its hard to reason why Ralston never took a shot abroad.

Steve Ralston aka Adam Yauch

6.Robin Fraser: Named in MLS’s Best XI 4 times, and 27 caps for the US Nats wasn’t enough to get Fraser any serious offers overseas (at least none that were reported). After a late start in MLS, he seemed older and past his prime too soon. Noted for his mentoring of Chad Marshall.
7.Mark Chung: 278 MLS games, 24 USMNT caps & two goals, Mark had moments that reminded you that if he’d ever tried a stint overseas, his career might have developed differently.
8.Kerry Zavagnin: Early in his career he bounced from lower leagues and back to MLS. In 2004, Zavagnin showed us his very best. 21 caps with the Nats might have provided him the opportunity to try things abroad—but it never happened.
9.Kyle Beckerman: Perhaps Kyle isn’t done with attempting an overseas adventure, but he certainly might have tried it earlier. Of course, then we would have missed his development under Jason Kreis. A Jurgen Klinsmann favorite.

Mastroeni and Beckerman show of their tattoos

10.Jason Kreis: Speaking of Jason Kreis, he managed 14 appearances with the USMNT and always seemed on the verge of becoming the kind of player who could flourish in Holland or Belgium or more—but I suppose things worked out for him in the long run.
11.Brian Maisonneuve: A long time stalwart in defensive midfield for the Crew, and a member of the 1998 World Cup team, Brian showed all the talent in his many years with MLS to make that trip overseas and maybe prove even more.
12.Chad Marshall: It becomes less likely every season that Marshall will ever make the big move overseas. While there has been plenty of interest and plenty of possibilities (a trial with 2.bundelsiga Mainz in 2008) the 2008 & 2009 “MLS Defender of the Year” just never seemed to get the right offer or impress enough during a trial to make the leap. He’s yet another defender who might have learned a lot and grown a lot playing overseas—in particular, in Germany.
13.Mark Santel: Many will ask “Mark Who?” A member of the MLS All-Star squads in 1996 and 1997, and 8 caps with the Nats between 1988 and 1997, Santel came to MLS in the early years of the league and showed tremendous potential. His years with the Dallas Burn were fairly exceptional, but he never made much of an effort to try his skills abroad.

14. Brian Carroll: Winning MLS Cups with both DC United and the Crew, Carroll’s skills were highly-regarded by Bruce Arena—and Carroll earned “Man of the Match” honors in his very first game for the US vs Panama in a qualifier in 2005. In many ways, he seemed to just fade into obscurity for the USMNT as other players headed overseas and impressed with teams abroad while Carroll continued his domestic career with little effort to “take the next step.”
15.Eddie Gaven: At 25, Gaven is already an MLS veteran (and unshaven, often looks like he’s much older) and certainly possesses the right skills and traits to be successful player abroad. I’ve never heard much interest from Gaven in doing so.
16.Chris Wondolowski: At 29, Wondolowski’s opportunities to play abroad may be over—but he’s proven himself as an adept poacher who can score goals in bunches at the MLS level—something a lot of teams overseas would theoretically be interested in. Guess not.
17.Dante Washington: 52 goals in Major League Soccer from 1996-2003 hinted at a potential talent that never quite fully blossomed. His 6 caps and 2 goals for the Nats were not particularly memorable—but a trip abroad may have challenged him to take his game to the next level.
18.Brad Evans: Its really up to Brad at this point: how bad does he want a shot at the USMNT in 2014? The trends tell us this: if you’re not playing abroad, then you’re probably not going to get the same consideration.
19.Brad Davis: Perhaps one of the most skilled and best crossers of the ball to ever play in MLS. The true “American Beckham (not Eddie Lewis).” No doubt that Davis would have been a big time steal for a lot of Euro clubs–but at 30, the chances of an overseas move and a regular spot on the USMNT is very unlikely. A bit of a late bloomer, Davis’s best years in MLS happened in his later 20s—which is a shame. Davis has been a player of the highest quality of the past few seasons.

20.Geoff Cameron: If Cameron really intends to battle for a starting role on the 2014 USMNT (as he contends in a recent interview) then he needs to make a move overseas or south of the border when his contract with Houston runs out in the next couple seasons. He has the talent; and word is that there is already some interest from teams abroad for his services. The question is, will he make that move?

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