Real Salt Lake defender Eddie Pope ran away with the title of "best defender" in a poll conducted on MLSnet.com, the official website of Major League Soccer, during the past week. Pope won 40 percent of the vote in the poll that was part of the league's 10th season celebration.
Pope, an MLS original, has established himself as a star both professionally and internationally in his nine-year career. He was the second selection in the 1996 college draft and achieved legendary status at the end of his rookie year when he headed home the MLS Cup-winning goal in overtime for D.C. United against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Pope won two more MLS championships with D.C. United in 1996 and 1999, and he also helped the Black-and-Red take home the U.S. Open Cup in 1996.
Throughout his MLS career, Pope has been showered with awards. The University of North Carolina product was named the league's Defender of the Year and earned MLS Best XI honors in 1997. He also was selected as the Honda Player of the Year award as the best U.S. player that same season.
Three more Best XI selections came in 1998, 2003 and 2004, and Pope has also been chosen to play in the league's all-star game eight times. Advancing age has done little to slow Pope down, as he has been a finalist for Defender of the Year each of the last two years and has been a continued presence in central defense with the U.S. national team. In 2002, Pope turned in a standout performance during the FIFA World Cup as the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition. He also appeared in the 1998 tournament and is nearing 70 international caps for his career.
The candidate who finished closest to Pope was one of his former D.C. United teammates, Jeff Agoos. Another MLS original, Agoos is the winningest player in MLS history, with five MLS Cup titles two his name (three with United and two with the San Jose Earthquakes). Currently with the MetroStars, Agoos won the MLS Defender of the Year award in 2001 with the Earthquakes, and he has been selected to the league's Best XI three times while making seven All-Star appearances. Agoos is one of the most capped players in U.S. national team history, having made 134 appearances between 1988 and 2003, including performances in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.