There are few who know the early days of MLS quite like Tony Sanneh.
The former US men's national team midfielder was a part of the league from the very beginning, starting with the 1996 D.C. United team that won the inaugural MLS Cup and went on to become the first MLS dynasty. There were some overseas ventures in between, but Sanneh also did stints with Columbus Crew SC, Chicago Fire FC, the Colorado Rapids and the LA Galaxy before his 2009 retirement, making him one of the best people to talk to if you're looking to pick someone's brain about the league's history.
Andrew Wiebe and David Gass did exactly that in their interview with Sanneh on Extratime, which saw them start all the way at the beginning when he first kicked a soccer ball, and go all the way through Sanneh's life in the game. Interestingly enough, it's those early D.C. United teams that Sanneh says stand out the most when he looks back on it, saying that those teams had some of the most talent of any clubs he's ever been on, even factoring in his stints in Germany.
"I played on a lot of teams, I played on Champions League teams, I played in Europe, I played on the national team -- that D.C. United team may have been the best team I've ever been on," Sanneh said. "Marco [Etcheverry] was by far the best player that I've ever played with. I mean, he's a G.
"And you had guys like [John] Harkes that broke down barriers, that were leaders. Guys that knew their roles like Richie Williams, so underappreciated. If he was playing today, what's the difference between him and a guy like [N'Golo] Kante? Jaime Moreno, probably one of the top three forwards ever in the league. Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Carlos Llamosa, Raul Diaz Arce, Roy Lassiter, Roy Wegerle. I mean, it goes on. There was a lot of talent. ...It was special, it was a good team and I truly believe it helped me develop."
The whole interview, which you can watch above, is worth a listen, as Sanneh dishes on more memories from his playing career and talks about the work he does with his Sanneh Foundation, which he established in 2003 to use soccer to create positive social change for youth.
As for his future aspirations, Sanneh told Wiebe and Gass that he's interested in getting back involved in the soccer world, whether in a coaching or front office role, ideally in a setting where he could use his knowledge to help mentor young players coming up.
"I could do three things: One, I could join a coaching staff. My specialty is building relationships with younger players," he said. "We have so many young players that they come in, they can't get on the field because they can't get it right, and in three years they're not young anymore. I know what the difference is between being a USL player and being a national team player. And it's not a lot. So, I would want to be on a coaching staff focused on the 16-24 year old and making them professionals. And part of that is developing them as people.
The other thing I wouldn't mind doing is you look at more of a technical director, GM -- I believe it's about building culture inside of an organization. So you can build it on the field to move to the front office, or you can build it in the front office to move on the field. But I believe if you can build positive culture around winning and being a good person, you can build a good organization. So, if somebody looked at my past and my career and thought that I could come in and help them do that then I would be interested in those kinds of opportunities."