Jeff Bradley: A look at the best MLS players to never receive a USMNT cap
It is not a frequent occurrence, but every once in a while I try to get a little bar room soccer discussion going on Twitter.
So, back in May, I posed the question, “Who is the best American player in MLS history who has never been capped by the US national team?”
We didn’t exactly set the web ablaze, maybe because I didn’t nail the hashtag. But for a while we threw some names out there and created a bit of a list. You had names from the past like Brian Dunseth and Carey Talley, and there was some support for Corey Ashe and George John, who appeared on the cusp of getting those first USMNT appearances.
At the end of it all, the consensus seemed to be that Daniel Hernandez, he of the Galaxy-Mutiny-MetroStars-Revolution-and-FC Dallas, was No. 1 on that list. Hernandez played right in the center of a lot of really good MLS teams, usually as a deep midfielder, but also as a center back in both three- and four-man backlines. He could also strike an accurate long pass like few defenders the league has ever seen. And yeah, he also had a nasty streak.
The topic was brought back to life this week when U.S. Soccer released the roster for the national team’s upcoming friendlies with Scotland and Austria and it did not include 2013 MLS MVP candidate and 21-goalscorer (and two-time MLS Cup champion) Mike Magee.
And while I’m not sure Magee replaces Hernandez at the top of that Best Uncapped Player list, I do think Magee’s omission is the most surprising we’ve seen in a long time.
For while there is a long list of players who have run up gaudy MLS scoring statistics while never becoming a first-choice front man for the national team – Jason Kreis, Ante Razov, Taylor Twellman, Jeff Cunningham come to mind – you cannot find a guy who’s been up near the top of the scoring charts who hasn’t at least gotten the “congratulations-on-a-job-well-done cap.”
Seriously, the list of uncapped players since the creation of MLS is not exactly a Who’s Who. Magee, in fact, was called into a camp years ago by Bruce Arena, he just didn’t get capped. Magee has scored 57 career goals in the regular season (plus another eight in the playoffs), and you’re probably looking at Justin Braun (26 career goals) as the next best American goal scorer who’s never been capped. If you come up with a better one than Braun, let me know.
The Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of Major League Soccer, did a little checking for me and confirmed what I thought to be true. And that is this: Magee not only scores goals, but he scores a lot of different types of goals.
For his career, he’s scored 26 times with his favored right foot and 21 with his left. He’s scored eight times with his head, and two times with what’s being called “other.” He’s scored 43 of his 57 regular-season goals in the run of play, adding eight fee kicks and six penalty kicks.
If you thought Magee was just a goalmouth poacher, well, you’re right, because he’s scored 12 times from inside the six and 41 from inside the 18. That leaves four from outside the box, which we saw him do a few times this year.
Which brings us to this year and the whole point of this discussion and the question, “How does Magee not get a call-up and a cap after the season he’s just put together?” Sure, we expect he’ll be called into the annual January camp and will probably get that first elusive cap in one of those friendlier-than-most matches, but it does seem his time should have been now.
Why not get a look at him with some of the guys who are likely to play in Brazil? Magee is a complementary player, praised by the likes of Robbie Keane and Youri Djorakeff for his soccer brain and his movement off the ball. Don’t you want to see how he looks with some of the first-teamers? Who knows, maybe he and Jozy Altidore strike a bond. Or maybe they don’t.
Well, it’s just a bar room discussion, nothing more, nothing less.
Oh yeah, here are some of the names we came up with, if you want to chime in: