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Part 2: The Impact of Carolina Universities & Why CLTFC Should Shop Local (Legends Edition)

Welcome to part two of our  "Impact of Carolina Universities & Why CLTFC Should Shop Local" (Legends Edition), Starting XI. While part one looked at the impact North and South Carolina universities have played in creating active talent both in MLS and in Europe, this article will instead pay tribute to players who have since retired from the game. With a few exceptions here and there, this is by far the more talented of the two sides and the one dripping with the most history, so let's get started. 

Formation: 4-3-3 (false nine)

1) GK- Jon Busch (UNC Charlotte)

Notable clubs: Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes

Jon Busch's journey to Major League Soccer was an unconventional one. After three stellar seasons as a 49er at UNC Charlotte, Busch went undrafted in the MLS Super Draft and proved his worth jumping from club to club in the USL A-League, then the second tier of American soccer. After four seasons and 105 appearances across four different clubs, Busch finally made his way onto the Columbus Crew roster. He made 309 total appearances throughout his thirteen-year MLS career at Columbus, Chicago, and San Jose before eventually signing a one-day contract to retire as a player for the Crew. He also earned one cap with the USMNT, a 1-0 shutout against Colombia, and was a finalist for MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2004.

 

 

2) RB- Michael Parkhurst (Wake Forest)

Notable clubs: New England Revolution, F.C. Nordsjælland, Columbus Crew, Atl*nta United

After earning both MLS Rookie of the Year in 2005, and MLS Defender of the Year in 2007 with New England Revolution, Michael Parkhurst made the move to F.C. Nordsjælland, where he helped the team win not only their first ever trophy in the Danish Super Cup (both in 2010 and 2011), but also their first ever Superligaen title (in 2011).

 Parkhurst played every minute of F.C. Nordsjælland's Champions League campaign the following season (against Shaktar Donetsk, Chelsea, and Juventus) before transferring to FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga. In a frustrating season where he only appeared in two matches, Parkhurst returned to MLS to play for Columbus Crew SC, and eventually won both an MLS Cup and US Open Cup with Atl*nta United. Though Parkhurst usually played as a center back, he played everywhere along the backline in his career and played at right back for Nordsjælland almost just as much as he did at center back. His only two Bundesliga appearances were at right back, so he will work well as a right back in our back four.

 

 

3) CB- Eddie Pope (UNC)

Notable clubs: DC United, Real Salt Lake

Greensboro native Eddie Pope is unquestionably the greatest Carolinian soccer player ever. Pope played the entirety of his professional career in MLS at DC United, MetroStars, and Real Salt Lake. Most of his career accolades came helping lead the backline next to Jeff Agoos in the Bruce Arena-coached DC United dynasty that dominated the early years of MLS. With DC United, Pope won three MLS Cups, two Supporters Shields, one US Open Cup, one CONCACAF Champions League, and one Copa Interamericana (the only by an MLS side) while also earning the honor of MLS Defender of the year in 1997. He also scored the golden goal, which awarded DC United the first-ever MLS Cup title in league history. That career alone likely would have been enough to earn Pope a spot in the National Soccer Hall of Fame (which he was inducted into in 2011), but Pope's career with the USMNT cemented his status as an absolute legend in American soccer history. Pope had 82 caps for the national team and played in three separate World Cups, including starting every match in the 2002 World Cup where the USMNT made it to the Quarterfinals. However, Pope's most impressive stat with the national team is that he was never used as a sub. If Pope played, he started. He even played as a kicker for the UNC football team on occasion. Eddie Pope is the stuff of legend and is a no-brainer for this all-time eleven.

 

4) CB- Gregg Berhalter (UNC)

Notable clubs: PEC Zwolle, Sparta Rotterdam, Crystal Palace, FC Energie Cottbus, 1860 Munich, LA Galaxy

Current USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter played at quite a few clubs following his time at UNC. He played for a time in both the Netherlands and England before making himself an integral part of the defense at 2. Bundesliga side FC Energie Cottbus. Berhalter's role as a both a defender and a leader really should not be minimized here. He captained the Cottbus side into the first division and played 111 games in total for them. After that, he moved to 1860 Munich and was instantly made captain there as well. Berhalter's leadership in defense was outstanding when he moved to LA Galaxy at the end of his career as well. Before he arrived in 2008, the attack led by David Beckham and Landon Donovan could not keep up with the sixty-two goals conceded by the defense, and the team ended with a -7 goal differential. In his first season in 2009, LA Galaxy instead conceded only thirty-one goals and finished the season with a +5 goal differential. The following season, LA Galaxy conceded only a club record 26 goals. Berhalter also gets much of the credit for helping mentor his center back partner Omar Gonzalez during his three seasons at the club, in which the team won two Supporters Shields and one MLS Cup. Following his retirement from playing professionally, he coached at Hammarby IF in Sweden and Columbus Crew in MLS before taking over the USMNT position in late 2018.

 

 

5) LB- Paul Stalteri (Clemson)

Notable clubs: Werder Bremen, Tottenham Hotspur

Paul Stalteri is a bit of a legend north of the border. (No, not Virginia. Think further north). Stalteri was part of the Canadian men's team that won Les Rouges their only Gold Cup in 2000. He also held the Canadian record for appearances (84) for five years and captained the 2007 Gold Cup team. Despite this, Stalteri's greatest accomplishment would almost certainly be winning both the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal with Werder Bremen in 2004. Stalteri split his time as both a right and left back during his playing career equally, but mostly featured on the left that double-winning season.

 

 

6) DM- Sam Cronin (Wake Forest) 

Notable clubs: Toronto FC, San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United

Cronin was born in Georgia, but moved to Winston-Salem, NC, when he was thirteen. After playing high school soccer at local Mount Tabor High School, he kept it local for college by playing for Wake Forest University. He was drafted second overall in the 2009 SuperDraft by Toronto FC, but only played there a season and a half before being traded to San Jose Earthquakes. Cronin went on to play in 140 matches for San Jose and win the Supporter's Shield with them in 2012 before finishing his career with moves to Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United.

 

 

7) CM- Stu Holden (Clemson) 

Notable clubs: Houston Dynamo, Bolton Wanderers

Stu Holden's career was cut tragically short by injuries, retiring from professional soccer at only 28 years of age. However, during the time of his nine-year professional career, he played exceptionally well for both Houston Dynamo and Premier League side Bolton Wanderers. He won two MLS Cups with Houston Dynamo and was voted the 2011 Bolton Wanderers Player of the Year despite missing the last two months of the season due to injury. Holden also significantly impacted the USMNT during his career, earning 25 caps, winning the Gold Cup in 2013, and making an appearance at the 2010 World Cup against England. Holden is now an analyst and the primary booth partner for John Strong at FOX Sports, providing color commentary for the U.S. broadcast of the World Cup final in 2018. He is also a part-owner of Spanish club RCD Mallorca, who competed in La Liga during the 2019-20 season.

 

 

8) CM- Tab Ramos (NC State)

Notable clubs: UE Figueres, Real Betis, UANL Tigres, MetroStars

Tab Ramos had the opportunity to be a member of the NY Cosmos after being drafted by them with the 10th overall pick in 1984, instead, he decided to go to college and play for NC State (the NASL folded six months later). Ramos would have quite the career playing for second division Spanish club UE Figueres before being sold to Real Betis. He helped UE Figuereswin the Segunda division (though he never played in La Liga due to recovering from a skull fracture inflicted by Brazilian Leonardo during the 1994 World Cup). Ramos would earn the title of CONCACAF Player of the Year in 1994 before being the first-ever player to sign a professional contract in MLS, where he played for the MetroStars and had a loan spell UANL Tigres. After retiring from playing professionally, Ramos would go on to manage the USMNT U-20s from 2011-2019 and coach at four separate U-20 World Cups with a commendable overall 8-7-3 record. He is currently the Houston Dynamo manager in MLS and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005.

 

9) CF- Clint Mathis (University of South Carolina), 

Notable clubs: LA Galaxy, MetroStars/NYRB, Hannover 96, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids

Mathis's career stands out for various reasons, not merely because of the mohawk he sported in the 2002 World Cup (where he scored against hosts South Korea). Mathis is also a player whose move to Bayern Munich was blocked by MLS. In 2004, he left on a free transfer to Hannover 96. Despite scoring four goals in his first five games, he failed to impress the newly appointed manager soon afterward and found himself on the bench most of the season. On one occasion, Mathis scored the winning goal for Hannover when coming on as a substitute and celebrated by tapping his watch in front of his coach to suggest that he should have been subbed on sooner. He was transferred back to MLS three months later. With Real Salt Lake, Mathis won MLS Cup in 2009. He also scored twelve goals for the USMNT in 46 appearances. Though Mathis played almost exclusively as a center attacking midfielder in his career, for our purposes, he will instead be a false nine. The differences, in this case, is that instead of linking up with a forward directly in front of him, Mathis will instead drop from his forward position to create space for players on the wing making runs inside toward goal. Considering who this team has as its outside forwards, that strategy should work quite well.

 

 

10) RW- Josh Wolff (University of South Carolina)

Notable clubs: Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards, 1860 Munich

Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis played together in Columbia before playing together for the USMNT. Wolff broke the rookie scoring record (8 goals) playing for the expansion side Chicago Fire in 1998, with whom he won MLS Cup that year. He would also go on to win the US Open Cup three times with both Chicago Fire and Kansas City Wizards. Wolff also had a prolific USMNT career scoring nine goals in fifty-two appearances, though injuries plagued his ability to retain his starting spot for both club and country. After he retired from playing professionally, Wolff long served as an assistant coach under 1860 Munich and USMNT teammate Gregg Berhalter. Wolff is now the head coach of Austin FC, who will begin play this year.

 

11) LW Clint Dempsey

Notable clubs: New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Seattle Sounders

Furman Paladin Clint Dempsey is considered by many to be the greatest USMNT player of all time. Fifty-seven goals and twenty-one assists in 218 Premier League appearances. Seventy-two goals and thirty-five assists in 186 MLS appearances. Seven goals and three assists in twenty FA Cup appearances. Seven goals and four assists in thirty Europa League appearances. However, in the forefront of everyone's mind is the fifty-seven goals that ties him with Landon Donovan for the all-time leading scorer for the USMNT and being the only American to score in three separate World Cups. Dempsey was a part of three Gold Cup-winning squads and will always be remembered for scoring one of the two goals that upset tournament favorites Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals. One will always ask "What if" concerning the shot that rattled off the post against Trinidad in 2017, which would have not only placed him alone at the top of the USMNT's goal-scoring charts, but would have qualified the USMNT for the 2018 World Cup, where Dempsey likely would have scored yet again and become only the fifth player ever to score in four successive tournaments (joining a list that includes legends Pelé, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose, and Cristiano Ronaldo). In the end, it was not to be, however, and that would be Dempsey's last ever match with the USMNT. He retired from professional soccer all together the year after as a Seattle Sounder, with whom he won MLS Cup (though injured through the end of the season and playoffs) in 2016. Dempsey played various attacking positions during his career, but for our purposes, he will crash inside from the left like he did at the 2010 World Cup and for Fulham.

 

There is one more interesting note of Carolina's history as it relates to Clint Dempsey: Dempsey's wife is from NC, and Dempsey shared in interviews during his time in England that he would split his time between Texas and the lake house which he owned in NC. Considering that he put his house up for sale in Washington when he retired as a Sounder, it is likely that Dempsey is enjoying endless days of fishing in peace on the lakes of the Carolinas. Hopefully, he sets the reel down for a day at some point so his legacy can be celebrated for a day at a CLTFC game.

 

 Bench (Honorable Mentions): Oguchi Onyewu (Clemson), Darius Barnes (Duke), Logan Pause (UNC), Dane Richards (Clemson), Mike Grella (Duke) Tony Suarez (Appalachian State), Joseph Ngwenya (Coastal Carolina)

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