By Mike Woitalla
As part of its centennial anniversary of 2013, U.S. Soccer named an All-Time Men's National Team Best XI.
It’s a nice looking team with some excellent players who've made great contributions to the national team program.
However, inexplicably, Paul Caligiuri has been left off the list. I have great respect for all four defenders on the Best XI, but a strong case can be made for Caligiuri edging each one of them, especially when considering the far-reaching impact his play had on American soccer.
The USA had gone four decades without playing in a World Cup when it faced Trinidad & Tobago on Nov. 19, 1989, needing a win to qualify for Italia ’90. Caligiuri, after the USA played two dismal scoreless ties against Guatemala and El Salvador, returned to Coach Bob Gansler’s lineup in Port of Spain and scored the goal in the 1-0 victory.
In Italy, he scored the first U.S. World Cup goal in 40 years while starting all four games. In 1994, Caligiuri, playing left back, was one of the USA’s top players as it reached the second round of the World Cup it hosted.
He was the only American field player to play every minute of the 1990 and 1994 World Cup.
At the 1995 Copa America the USA made one of its most impressive tournament appearances ever, beating Chile and Argentina to reach the semifinals, where it fell to Brazil, and finished fourth. Now in central defense, Caligiuri was one of two players, along with Alexi Lalas, to play every minute of the six Copa America games.
His senior national team career started at age 20 in 1984 and by the time he retired in 1997 represented the USA 110 times. He also played in the 1988 Olympics and started all five games in the first Gold Cup, in 1991. The USA beat Mexico, 2-0, in the semis and Honduras in the final in shootout in which Caligiuri buried his shot.
Voting was done by 57 current or former players, coaches and administrators, as well as media members (myself included). They picked a fine team, but blew it big time by leaving out Paul Caligiuri.