When Jurgen Klinsmann announced his preliminary 35 man roster for the upcoming Gold Cup, Red Bulls fans were disappointed but hardly surprised that no Red Bull made the cut. Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander, and Connor Lade have received call-ups to January USMNT camp in recent years, but no Red Bull or Metro has featured prominently for the US men's national team since ... well, that's just it. Newer fans have never had the experience of seeing a player ply his trade for their favorite club and their country, while older fans must strain their memories to remember watching a mohawked wonder tear up South Korea at 3 AM on a June Monday morning in 2002.
What fans have been treated to is the chance to see the national team's stars of tomorrow. Just this summer, bleary eyed supporters stayed up to ungodly hours of the night to watch Matt Miazga anchor the US U-20s defense, hoping to see the young New Jersey native transition to the senior national team at some point in the future. After all, playing for Metro or for RBNY has been the springboard (or, in some cases, the final destination) for many a successful national team career. Ahead of the United States' Gold Cup run, Once a Metro takes a look at a Best XI of Metros/Red Bulls to have suited up for the red, white, and blue.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
The choice of goalkeeper for this roster is the most difficult for this team, given that there are two national team legends vying for one spot. And, not only did both of keepers play for Metro, they're also both New Jersey guys through and through, making them fan favorites for their play on the field and their personalities off of it. Alas, while Meola performed admirably as the starting US keeper at both the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, Howard takes the number one spot for his steady play, but also for his penchant for the spectacular in the most important moments. It's hard to exaggerate how stellar Howard was in his record-breaking performance against Belgium last summer; what he perhaps gets less credit for is his role in the goal that put the US into the knockout round in 2010, which started from a beautiful throw that went half the length of the field right to Landon Donovan's foot.
Right Back: Marcelo Balboa
Balboa only amassed one cap to his name during his Metrostars tenure but he did have an impressive career with the national team. In 127 matches, Balboa displayed defensive prowess, but was not hesitant to join the attack. In the video above (about the 0:50 mark), Balboa narrowly missed what is to this today the greatest almost-goal in World Cup history.
Centerback: Eddie Pope
Eddie Pope is much better known for his days with the DC Scum, but the centerback performed better than certain other former United-turned-Metro players during his time in New York. For the national team, Pope distinguished himself as one of the best defenders in US history. Pope was a steady force in the United States backline during their run to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup, and his importance to the team was highlighted when the US wilted against Ghana in their final group stage match in 2006 due to his absence.
You may have mixed emotions about Alexi Lalas the broadcaster, the
corporate shill team executive, or the musician, but Lalas' post-playing career should not overshadow what he accomplished on the field. As the most recognizable face on the United States' 1994 World Cup team, Lalas helped to elevate the relevance of soccer in America during a crucial time for the growth of the sport. Alexi earned an honorable mention for the team of the tournament, and went on to win US Soccer Athlete of the Year the following year.
Left-Back: Jeff Agoos
Yes, Jeff Agoos did not exactly earn the admiration of fans during his one year with Metro or his time in the front office as Sporting Director (an argument for a different day). And, yes, perhaps his most famous moment in a US jersey was notorious for all the wrong reasons, with Agoos putting the ball into his own net against Portugal in the World Cup. Aside from these pitfalls, Agoos put together a stellar career with the national team over 15 years, and holds the third most caps of any player with the US team. In the above video, you can see some pictures of Agoos during his club and international career set to Mendelssohn's "Wedding March," along with some pictures that are definitely not of Jeff Agoos at all. Because Internet.
Right Midfielder: Claudio Reyna
Another player who disappointed during his time with Metro -- and has only further alienated fans in his post-playing career -- Reyna was one of the best national team players ever. Reyna was on the US roster at four World Cups and was captain at two of them. Though usually deployed in a central role, perhaps Reyna's best performance in a United States uniform was as a right midfielder/wingback against Mexico in the Round of 16 in 2002, where his surging run down the touchline created the game-winning goal.
Center-Defensive Midfielder: Thomas Dooley
Another former national team captain, Dooley was a mainstay in the midfield and in defense for the United States throughout the 1990's. Dooley played all but 17 minutes of every US game at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, concluding his career with the Metrostars during the team's Eastern Division winning 2000 season.
Center Midfielder: Michael Bradley
Before his days as the bald-headed engine at the heart of the USMNT midfield, Michael Bradley was a teenage kid looking to prove he belonged as a starter for the Metrostars, not just because his dad also happened to be the coach. In the decade since leaving New York, Bradley has become one of the best and most accomplished American players ever. As captain this summer, Bradley will look to win his first trophy on the international level since the 2007 Gold Cup, where he missed the final after receiving a red card in the semifinal.
Center-Attacking Midfielder: Tab Ramos
A veteran of all three World Cups in the 1990's, Tab Ramos was the first player in the franchise's history to sign with the Metrostars. Although he was not a prolific goal scorer, Ramos is considered by many to be one of the best passers and playmakers in the history of the national team. Among the few goals he did score for the USA was a crucial game winner (2:50 mark in the video above) in a qualifier against Costa Rica, vaulting the team above the Ticos in the Hexagonal table and into 1998 World Cup.
Left Winger: Clint Mathis
THAT'S WHY HE'S HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Forward: Jozy Altidore
Similarly to his club and country teammate Michael Bradley, Jozy broke onto the international stage as a teenager with the Red Bulls, becoming the youngest MLS player ever, at 16 years old, to score a playoff goal. The fifth leading scorer for the US all-time, Jozy is still only 25 years old and is destined to continue to work his way up that list into the record books as one of the, if not the, best striker in US men's soccer history.
The Best XI
So, there you have it. The Best XI to have suited up for Metro and for the USMNT:
Surely, that team far and away surpasses any comparable XI from any other MLS side. The only franchise that could come close would be the LA Galaxy, but the presence of Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones could not overcome the complete, well-balanced roster of this crossover Metro/USMNT team.
Even the reserves for this team are pretty strong; Tony Meola is one of the top four keepers in national team history. Peter Vermes (66 caps, 11 goals, 1 World Cup), Chris Henderson (79 caps, 3 goals, 1 World Cup), and Mike Sorber (67 caps, 2 goals, and the "MVP" of the US team at 1994 World Cup, according to coach Bora Milutinovic) all made valuable contributions to the USMNT throughout the 1990's. Additionally, a large group of former Metros including Brad Davis, Richie Williams, Ricardo Clark, Edson Buddle, Mark Chung, Bobby Convey, Juan Agudelo, Chris Albright, Kerry Zavagnin, Ante Razov, Brian Bliss and Heath Pearce have collectively appeared in 308 games and six World Cups for the United States.
And, finally, it must be said that for all of the accomplishments of the men listed above, none of them come close to those of New Jersey's own and Metro-at-heart Carli Lloyd. A hat trick in a World Cup final tops all of the achievements listed on this page put together; it's worth remembering how far the men have to come in order to catch up.