While players like Landon Donovan, Kasey Keller, and Cobi Jones got much deserved praise during and after their careers, many other United States Men’s National Team players failed to receive such recognition despite them earning it. So, let’s give some of these guys the credit they deserved during their careers. Here’s a look at five of the most underrated players in USMNT history.
Steve Ralston was one of the greatest playmakers in MLS history, but only received 36 caps over the course of 11 years (1997-2007). Ralston had a stellar year with the USMNT during 2005, in which he earned 15 caps and was dominant in World Cup Qualifying. He scored the game-winner in a 1-0 home qualifying victory against Mexico, that clinched the USMNT’s birth in the 2006 World Cup. Despite his excellent play in MLS and for the national team, Ralston was never named to a USMNT World Cup roster.
Former MLS coach Frank Klopas scored a respectable 12 goals in his 39 USMNT appearances (from 1987-1995). Klopas played with AEK Athens FC from 1988 to 1994, at a time when U.S. Soccer didn’t pay close attention to Americans playing abroad. While he appeared in most of the U.S.’s 1990 World Cup Qualifiers, he failed to make the World Cup roster due to concerns over his fitness. Klopas was in excellent form prior to the 1994 World Cup, scoring five goals in eight friendlies.
Despite Klopas seemingly poised to lead the USMNT attack, head coach Bora Milutinovic chose not to play him in a single of the team’s four World Cup matches (the U.S. lost 1-0 to Brazil in the Round of 16). Klopas went on to star in the 1995 Copa America, scoring in the USMNT’s group stage 3-0 upset victory over Argentina.
He later converted the game-winning penalty in a quarterfinal shoot out against Mexico. While the USMNT would ultimately lose 1-0 to Brazil in the semifinals, Klopas was key to the team’s surprising tournament run.
The story of Jay DeMerit’s career is incredible. He went from playing in the English ninth division to featuring in the Premier League and the 2010 World Cup. DeMerit only earned 25 caps (2007-2011) despite consistently starting for Watford (in the Championship and Premier League) from 2005 to 2010. DeMerit played a pivotal role in the USMNT’s shock run to the 2009 Confederation Cup final.
His performance in the 2-0 semifinal victory against #1 ranked Spain was unbelievable. DeMerit started all of the USMNT’s matches in the 2010 World Cup and played most of a group stage game against Algeria with a split tongue that required five stitches.
Kyle Beckerman isn’t the flashiest player and certainly was being called into the national team long after he should have been. However, at one time, Beckerman was key to the success of the USMNT. He started every match as the USMNT finished 2nd in the 2009 Gold Cup. Four years later, he was one of the team’s best performers notching three assists en route to the USMNT wining the Gold Cup.
Beckerman also made several appearances in the 2015 Gold Cup, although he and every other USMNT player struggled during that tournament. (the team finished 4th after losing to Panama in the third-place playoff).
Despite some impressive Gold Cup performances, Beckerman will best be remembered for his excellent play in the 2014 World Cup which was key in helping the U.S. advance from the “Group of Death.” Still, Jurgen Klinsmann controversially left him on the bench in the 2-1 Round of 16 loss to Belgium.
Who are your most underrated players in USMNT history? Hit the comments and let us know who is on your list.