It can be terribly easy to find comfort in nostalgia when your league of choice goes on hiatus due to, for instance, public health measures meant to corral COVID-19.
You've seen us often do this since Major League Soccer hit pause a few weeks ago. There have been re-airings of MLS Classics, "On this day in MLS" tributes and even retrospectives about past US men's national team glories/near glories. But what happens when things worth reminiscing over slip the mind?
What happens is someone has to jog your memory. We're now 25 years into the broader MLS story, and there are bound to be some colorful characters and minor plot twisters who have shaken remembrance. It's just what happens as time passes, but we're here to lift the fog on 10 players you may have forgotten stepped foot on the MLS shores.
The Brazilian left back was the first World Cup winner to grace MLS, a few years after he broke my Oranje-loving heart with this monstrosity on the way to the 1994 title. Branco only stayed a MetroStar for the back half of the league's second season, working 11 games. His lone goal was the decider in a 3-1 victory over the LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl.
One might watch the late-blooming Cruz Azul attacker and think, "Gosh, some MLS club should sign a guy like that!" Actually, one did sign a guy exactly like that. Back in the summer of 2011, a 22-year old Caraglio signed as the first Designated Player in New England Revolution history. He scored three times in 12 games as the Revs finished last in the East, and then quickly hightailed it for Chilean side CSD Rangers.
The Yugoslavian midfielder joined the MetroStars in 1999 following a roller coaster five-year stay in England, and immediately declared an intention to be the Dennis Rodman of MLS. Presumably, that was more about his bleached crewcut, wacky personality and gung-ho playing style than his rebounding skills on the basketball court. Curcic played fairly well during his nine MLS contests, notching two goals and a pair of helpers for one of the worst sides in league history.
Luis Angel Landin
Houston's first leap into the DP age was, well, rather forgettable. Landin carried the credibility of a forward who shined at Pachuca early on, but had fallen off Mexico’s radar by the time Morelia loaned him to the Dynamo in the summer of 2009. He scored twice in 20 total games, and was gone the following summer. After bouncing around Mexico's top two flights for a while, he eventually enjoyed some success in Costa Rica and now features in Guatemala.
The first Iranian player in MLS history scored the first LA Galaxy game-winner in the club's first game (shown below). Noamouz missed much of the 1996 season with a knee injury that eventually compelled his retirement, but returned to open the team's closing day victory with Goal of the Year-level quality. Popular with the local Iranian ex-pat crowd, his 15th and final Galaxy game saw him start the inaugural MLS Cup.
Juan Francisco Palencia
During the formative years of my US men’s national team fandom, I was naturally not in the habit of rooting for El Tri stars. Paco was the far-too-charming exception. Known for his swashbuckling raids from the flank, Palencia didn't show up until August of Chivas USA's 2005 expansion season, but was an instant hit with his two-goal debut. He was among Chivas USA’s leaders the following year, and scored their first playoff winner.
The colorful goalkeeper was one of the heroes of Sweden's third-place finish at the 1994 World Cup. Ravelli only ventured out of his home country for one club adventure, a 23-game stint with the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1998. He finished fourth in saves, turned away 73.2 percent of the shots he faced and then returned to Oster for a quick farewell run.
Widely considered the greatest Mexican player of all-time, Sanchez was 37 when he joined the Dallas Burn for their debut MLS season. It actually wasn't his first pro stint in America; just prior to kicking off a glorious La Liga career, "Hugol" scored 26 times in 32 loan outings for the NASL's San Diego Sockers. The second time stateside, he notched seven goals and five assists in 25 appearances for a Burn side that finished second in the West.
He never made the grade at Liverpool, but he found enough success in Spain, Portugal and at home in France to earn a single Les Bleus cap. Sinama-Pongolle was a late summer pick-up for Chicago in 2014, and his lone MLS strike (seen below) was the last-gasp winner in his seventh and final league game.
Like Caraglio, the veteran Morocco winger joined the Revs for the 2011 stretch drive and performed decently for the cellar dwellers before departing in the offseason. In fact, the duo hit six minutes apart to earn New England a closing day draw at Toronto FC. Before his brief MLS stint, Zerka featured in over 200 combined matches for French sides Nantes and Nancy.