Looking back: Jeff Agoos

Jeff Agoos

Few men in American soccer have been as ubiquitous over the past 10 years as Jeff Agoos. It seems that whenever there has been an important game, either in Major League Soccer or with the U.S. national team, Jeff Agoos has been a part of it.

In five years with D.C. United, Agoos, with his trademark ponytail, appeared in 135 league games, sixth-most in team history, won three MLS Cups, was voted to the All-Star team four times and was named to the MLS Best XI twice.

"Goose" was a member of United from the very beginning, and is one of 15 still-active players who has been in the league since its inception in 1996. He was the second player allocated to the team, acquired from SV Wehen of the German third division four months before the team played its first game. The move reunited him with Bruce Arena, his coach at the University of Virginia from 1986-1989, and former Cavalier teammate John Harkes.

The presence of Agoos in the backline would be a main factor in United's success in the early years. In the historic inaugural season, which culminated in United winning the "Double" of the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup, Agoos, playing primarily in central defense, was the only United player to play in all 41 games in all competitions.

The arrival of Carlos Llamosa in 1997 moved Agoos out to the left wing, and he made the position his own. Although he was never the fastest of players, Goose's ability to read the game, his work rate and tenacity repeatedly frustrated the league's best right-sided midfielders as cries of "Gooooooose" rang out from the RFK faithful.

But for all of his toughness, Agoos has never been known as a dirty player. In every year, he has suffered more fouls than he has committed and has only received two red cards in over 20,000 minutes of MLS play.

Goose contributed much more than solid defense to United. His left-footed blasts from outside the box resulted in six goals for United, including a remarkable 86th minute game-winning volley from a Marco Etcheverry corner kick against Kansas City on Aug. 28, 1998. More important than any statistics, his ability to quickly switch the point of attack from the left flank to the right with a pinpoint pass was a vital offensive weapon that no other team in the league possessed.

Goose's best year for United was 1999, in which he only missed two games, both due to national team duty. Agoos kept the back line organized despite United using a rotating cast of defenders with Eddie Pope and Carlos Llamosa injured for much of the season, and United gave up a then-team record low of 1.34 goals per game. At the end of the season, he was named to the MLS Best XI and was a finalist for Defender of the Year as United won their third MLS Cup.

Agoos' tenure with the U.S. national team has assured him a spot in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y., when he ends his career. Over a 15-year span, Agoos earned 134 caps for the U.S., good for second place on the all-time list. He was the leader in minutes played during World Cup qualifying in 1997 and was one of two players, along with former United midfielder Earnie Stewart, to play the full 90 minutes in every game during the 2001 World Cup qualifying cycle. In 2000, he played in every game in the Olympic Games in Sydney, leading the United States to a fourth-place finish.

On Feb. 3, 2001, Jeff Agoos' career as a D.C. United player came to an end. Needing to free up salary space, Goose was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes for forward Abdul Thompson Conteh and the eighth and 10th overall picks in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. The eighth pick was traded, with goalkeeper Tom Presthus, to the Columbus Crew for the third overall pick in the draft, which was used to acquire midfielder Mark Lisi. With the 10th pick, D.C. United selected 16-year old Baltimore native Santino Quaranta.

As a member of the Quakes, Agoos moved back into central defense and put his leadership skills to good use. In his first year in San Jose, the Earthquakes had a worst-to-first transition, with Agoos, the team captain, winning the Defender of the Year award and his fourth MLS Cup. Agoos earned a fifth in 2003, more than any other player league history. He was traded to the MetroStars on Dec. 12, 2004.

Although it has been five years since he last played for D.C. United, Agoos will always be associated with his time in Washington. The next time you go to a United game, arrive early and listen closely during the pre-game warm-ups, and you'll probably still hear "Gooooooose" echoing around RFK Stadium.

David Lifton is a contributor to dcunited.com. He is a member of the Screaming Eagles and longtime supporter of D.C. United.