For over a decade in the midfield, whenever the United States walked out onto the field, there was one man who seemed to always be a part of that group. He was the man that became popular in Latin America, being called “The Swab” due to his hairstyle.
That man is Cobi Jones.
Cobi Jones, who grew up in Southern California after being born in Detroit, starred for the UCLA Bruins despite not earning a scholarship. From there, he played well enough to earn a spot on the USMNT, joining the team in 1992 for the Summer Olympics and playing on the wing. He was on the 1994 World Cup team, where his play helped him sign a deal with Coventry City. He was in England for one year before moving to Brazil to play for Vasco de Gama.
In 1996, Jones was a part of a large group of USMNT players who returned home to play in the newly-established Major League Soccer. He joined the LA Galaxy, where he would play for 11 seasons. With the Galaxy, Jones scored 70 goals in 306 appearances, including the 300th goal in club history. He won 2 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters Shields, 2 U.S. Open Cups, and a CONCACAF Champions Cup in the process.
But, if there’s a place where Cobi Jones really excelled, it was in the midfield for the USMNT, where he played with a mix of tenacity, pace and technical brilliance. That combined with his leadership ability to remain healthy meant that he was in the lineup every time. He featured in the 1994, 1998, and 2002 World Cups, and was a mainstay in the lineup. No matter who the USMNT had on the field, you could bet that Cobi Jones was going to be out there. When it was all set and done, Jones appeared 164 times for the USMNT, still the all-time record for appearances by a men’s player. He also scored 15 goals for country. He was such a popular player in Latin America that an Argentine commentator dubbed him “Escobillón,” or “The Swab,” due to his trademark deadlocks and his name being a similar pronunciation.
After a brilliant career, Cobi Jones retired in 2007, and the LA Galaxy retired his number 13. At the time, it was the first number retired in MLS history. In 2011, Jones was voted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. He was one of the best midfielders in American history, and his pace and determination made fans remember how reliable he was for the team. When there was a USMNT match, Cobi Jones was sure to play, and he always left an impact on the game.