3 for Thursday: UEFA Champions League winners in MLS
On Saturday, Manchester United and Barcelona will meet for the second time in three years for the most prestigious prize in European soccer: the UEFA Champions League title. As usual, the battle for Europe's ultimate club prize will be a star-studded affair, with the spotlight at Wembley Stadium on some of the biggest names in the game.
Major League Soccer is no stranger when it comes to representation in the UCL final. Here are three current MLSers who have reached that pinnacle and have Champions League winner's medals to show for it.
He’s probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think of European title-winners, but the LA Galaxy and former US national team midfielder was a pioneer.
After signing with Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in 1996 following four years with Manchester United’s reserve side, the Southern California native became the first American to win the competition.
Although he didn't play in Dortmund’s 3-1 one victory over Juventus in the 1997 championship game, Kirovski scored his first goal for the German club in a 3-0 Champions League win over Sparta Prague that year and remains the only American with a European Cup winner’s medal on his mantle.
Kirovski’s current Galaxy teammate is a far more obvious name when it comes to MLS players who have tasted UEFA success.
In the 1999 final against German giants Bayern Munich, Becks and Manchester United went into stoppage time 1-0 down before scoring a pair of goals in the 91st and 93rd minutes. The root of those goals? Corner kicks from LA’s No. 23.
As a member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble-winning side that year, Beckham’s Champions League medal was just one of a trio of titles bestowed upon the iconic Englishman just prior to the millennium.
Though the New York Red Bulls captain is perhaps best associated with his nine-year spell at Arsenal, it was only upon his transfer to FC Barcelona that he finally earned a continental title at the club level to match his European Championship title with France in 2000.
To be fair, Henry's current RBNY teammate, Rafa Márquez, won the European Cup with Barça first in 2006. But the Frenchman gave the Catalan giants an extra boost in '09 when Barcelona went on a record silverware haul. With Barça, Henry and Márquez took home the UEFA Champions League trophy in what most considered an upset victory over Man. United in the final.
That was perhaps the crowning achievement that year as Barcelona won trophies in every major competition in which they participated: the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de España, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA World Club Cup and the La Liga crown. Not a bad haul.