Unless you’re building a team or are a member of one, we’re all just killing time until Feb. 29.
Every 5 year old knows there’s no better way to make the days melt away than by letting your imagination run wild. Every adult still has that in them somewhere, in spite of all of our real-world responsibilities and ingrained inhibitions. Get ready to expand your mind on this winter Monday, the sort of cabin-fever day that’s ripe for creating the fantasy worlds that we love playing in on Extratime.
Calen Carr knows this, and so I give Calen all the credit for this column. It was his idea, from Thursday’s mailbag…
Calen from Brooklyn
MLS Time Machine: You can bring a former star, in the condition they played in MLS, forward to modern day. Who are you choosing?
Now that’s an interesting prompt, one we tackled off the cuff on Thursday’s Extratime. You can listen to our conversation by subscribing to the podcast (twice weekly MLS news, analysis, banter and interviews, just saying) or mashing the play button on the video above.
Since I’m greedy and can’t seem to limit myself to just one star, I’ve laid out 10 former MLS Best XI players I’d bring forward to the modern day as their old, dominant selves. I’ve also taken the liberty of assigning them a 2020 team. Use your imagination and let me know who you’re packing into the MLS Time Machine in the comments below or on Twitter. You know I’m always down to nerd out.
Jorge Campos – Chicago Fire
Jorge Campos won an MLS Cup with the Chicago Fire in 1998 | Getty Images
The Galaxy beat the Fire to Chicharito, pero todo bueno. Chicago don’t have an undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper, unless I’m overlooking Kenneth Kronholm, and they definitely need the kind of juice Campos would bring to Soldier Field both between the posts and, when needed, higher up the field as an emergency striker. He’ll know his way around the city, drawing on his 1998 memory bank, so no need to acclimate. Those ‘keeper kits are going to fly off the shelves, and maybe Campos can bring back the glory days of the Fire, too.
Alexi Lalas – LA Galaxy
Alexi Lalas started 163 regular season games across seven MLS seasons | USA Today Sports Images
LA got their No. 9, but they still desperately need a starting-caliber center back. Who better than Lalas, fresh off a Serie A stint with Padova and still riding that World Cup high? He helped give the Galaxy MLS Cup No. 1 back in 2002. Perhaps he’s one of the final ingredients to push them to No. 6. Plus, between Chicharito and Alexi, the media and marketing plan basically writes itself. He can take over Zlatan’s spots on late-night TV, and he’d relish El Trafico nearly as much, too.
Marco Etcheverry – D.C. United
Every cell in my body said send El Diablo to D.C. United, that any other club would just be wrong. For once, I listened to my conscience. Yes, I know this means Edison Flores is no longer the No. 10. Yes, that means D.C. are going to be a better, deeper team. Move Flores to the left, let Yamil Asad, Paul Arriola and Julian Gressel fight it out for one spot on the flank (and perhaps one in central midfield). Etcheverry is coming home, and we’re just asking him to make magic. Some combination of Felipe, Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse, Ulises Segura, Arriola and Gressel can run for him.
Carlos Ruiz – LAFC
Carlos Ruiz scored 89 regular season goals in a 10-year MLS career | USA Today Images
I want to see Ruiz back in LA. The Galaxy have their No. 9, so we’re spicing up El Trafico with El Pescadito. Honestly, imagine Ruiz playing the smiling villain against Lalas in front of thousands of his countrymen. It gives me goosebumps. Adama Diomande is Bob Bradley’s guy, but last year was rocky at times. So let’s platoon. Between Dio and Fish, LAFC are getting 30 goals out of that position. Easy.
Jaime Moreno – Orlando City
While we’re passing out strikers, let’s give Oscar Pareja the perfect man to lead the counterattack. Good luck slowing down Nani and Moreno!
Clint Mathis – New York Red Bulls
Cleetus is coming back to the Big Apple, and I demand he bring the mohawk with him. Red Bulls supporters, you wanted a difference-maker. You wanted a splash. You’ve got him. Sorry Brian White and Tom Barlow, you’re gonna be fighting for minutes off the bench. Mathis is the red side of New York’s striker now, and he’s gonna bag goals then bring the whole damn team to the club to celebrate afterward. Imagine it … in the Instagram/social media era. He’ll be a force of nature.
Preki – Seattle Sounders
Worry not, Sounders faithful. It may be a slow window so far, but conveniently your new signing is already sitting on the bench. Imagine a front four of Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, Nico Lodeiro and Preki on the right wing, cutting inside on to that famous left peg. Go watch the highlight videos on YouTube. Seattle are getting a two-time MLS MVP, the sort of player who’ll make what was already a scary attack downright terrifying.
Robin Fraser – Inter Miami
I’m assuming Inter are going to use their DP spots on attacking players, so we’ll give the expansion side a rock in the back to build around. The two-time MLS Defender of the Year grew up in Miami. He played college soccer at FIU. He got his professional start with the Miami Sharks in the American Soccer League. Now he’s back, in his prime, to help relaunch MLS in a city that will recognize him as one of their own.
Chris Armas – Vancouver Whitecaps
The ‘Caps are building a culture. They need some toughness, some fight, some “%$#@ you, we’re winning this game” vibes. I’m giving them an absolute gift, perhaps the best No. 6 MLS has ever seen.
Eddie Pope – Sporting KC
Speaking of gifts, Peter Vermes can forget all about that Ike Opara trade. Pope will lock down the back, score timely goals and compliment Matt Besler’s skill set. That center back pairing has the potential to make Sporting fans forget all about 2019. Any defensive frailties are a thing of the past. If Alan Pulido lives up to his price tag, they’re gonna be painting the wall.
(You know, if any of this was real…)