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Wynalda: Still the Best US Forward of Modern Times

The 2-0 scoreline in favor of the United States in last night’s friendly in Carson, CA was a nice scoreline for the United States, but mistakes in the final third and some breakdowns defensively will have to be corrected going forward. Landon Donovan broke the record for most goals by a US National Team player with 35, but that number would put him sixth on the all time Mexican list (including behind three guys who have played in MLS) so the record owes itself to the ineptitude of American finishing through the years. Also, I can say this with some confidence since I watch both careers closely: Eric Wynalda whose record Donovan broke was a much more significant and accomplished player on the National Team level than Donovan. Wynalda scored many of his goals in more critical situations. We all recall the great free kick goal against Switzerland in World Cup 1994, but his play in Copa America 1995 where he carried and willed the US Team to a Semifinal appearance seems to have been forgotten by some. “Waldos” hold up play and set piece kick taking were also superior to Donovan’s. It is entirely possible when Donovan retires his overall body of work will be superior to Wynalda’s, but right now I don’t think he can be favorably compared to Wyanlda. Eric Wynalda excelled at a time when it was difficult to win acceptance as an American, and his game evolved to the point where he could have played anywhere on the pitch and been successful. The one knock I have against Wynalda was that by the time he was thirty he couldn’t play at even a passable level anymore. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen with Donovan.

Interestingly I would make the same argument that I do about Donovan about Brian McBride, third all time on the US goal scoring list. McBride is a nice player no doubt. But McBride unlike Wynalda was more of a threat in the air and off crosses in open play (such as his goal in World Cup 2002 against Portugal off a nice cross by Tony Sanneh) than a multi dimensional, all season player. McBride, I would rank third among American attacking players of the last twenty years. Here are my very subjective rankings: (Keep in mind in the previous US setups under Bora Milutinnovic and Steve Sampson, Earnie Stewart and Cobi Jones at times played a withdrawn forward position so please don’t make the comments “oh they were simply midfielders.”

1- Eric Wynalda

2- Joe Max Moore

3- Brian McBride

4- Earnie Stewart

5- Landon Donovan

6- Bruce Murray

7- Roy Wegerle

8- Cobi Jones

9- Frank Klopas

10 (tie) – Josh Wolff ; Paul Caliguiri (before he moved to the back line)

This entry was posted in Landon Donovan, Leagues: Major League Soccer, US National Team. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

4 Responses to Wynalda: Still the Best US Forward of Modern Times

  1. 90 Minutes says:

    I agree 100%. Well written. Donovan is a special talent but still has a ways to go to reach Wynalda’s level of excellence.

  2. JRT says:

    I’d actually in my own way say that JMM was the best of all. He was a more creative force and had great pace and a deft first touch. He excelled in England at a time when Americans were seen as a joke. So I’d reverse him in Wynalda and keep the rest of the list in tact except for the idiotic suggestion of Josh Wolff at 10th. Drop that one entriely.

  3. eplnfl says:

    Well, again I’ll be a homer and say Brian McBride is a warrior. Maybe not as talented in the open field as the others but his talent was in the air.
    It is most likely too early to truely judge Donovan as was pointed out during the game last night Donovan is still young. So who knows what his numbers maybe at age 30. For his size his achievemnts have been huge.American fans should be kinder on him, he gets abuse and blame he doesn’t deserve.

  4. Football Detective says:

    Wynalda scored quite a few PK goals in meaningless friendlies – then was a huge letdown in 98.

    I’ve got to go with McBride who improved himself in MLS and went on to score when it counts – in the World Cup!

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