[MLS SPOTLIGHT]All the U.S. World Cup goalies of the modern era -- Tony Meola, Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller and Tim Howard-- played in MLS at some point in their careers. Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, signed on loan by Toronto FC on loan from Queens Park Rangers, joins the short but distinguished list of MLS keepers who have played in the World Cup foreign national teams.
Julio Cesar, Brazil's goalie at the 2010 World Cup and at the 2013 Confederations Cup, was in need of playing time as he was not starting at QPR in England’s second tier. The term of the loan deal was not disclosed, but he is expected to join Brazil in May for the World Cup. He was the only goalie named to Brazil's initial roster for the March 5 friendly at South Africa.
“Adding a player of Julio Cesar’s experience and ability only strengthens our club both in the short and long term,” said Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenkoin a statement. “We are committed to creating a culture of winning at TFC, and there are few people in the world of soccer with a proven track record of consistently getting results that Julio has. We are very excited to bring him to Toronto FC.”
More and more MLS clubs are turning to foreign goalkeepers. Eight foreigners started at one point or another in 2013 for MLS clubs -- including four for playoff teams.
Just five MLS goalies besides Julio Cesar have played in the World Cup for national teams other than the USA ...
WALTER ZENGA (Italy 1990).Zenga was the Azzurri's goalkeeper when Italy hosted the 1990 World Cup, starting all seven games. He moved to New England in 1997 and took on the role of player-coach the following year -- the first person to play for and coach at the same time -- finishing with 47 appearances for the Revs. He's gone on to have a checkered coaching career that has taken him to more than a dozen clubs in Italy, Serbia, Romania, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
THOMAS RAVELLI (Sweden 1990 and 1994).Ravelli played for Sweden at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups -- finishing third in the United States -- and then, at the age of 38, joined th Tampa Bay Mutiny for the 1998 NASL season. His stay was marred by a six-game suspension for kicking a ball at referee Ruben Rodhas.
JORGE CAMPOS (Mexico 1994 and 1998).One of the MLS pioneers, brought in for the league's 1996 launch on a now-illegal back-and-forth loan arrangement between the LA Galaxy and Atlante. The 5-foot-8 Campos, the shortest keeper ever to start in MLS, played every game for Mexico at both the 1994 and 1998 World Cups when it reached the round of 16 and collected 130 caps. After two seasons in Los Angeles, he moved to the expansion Chicago Fire and played just eight games. He returned to Mexico, where he played seven more seasons.
FARYD MONDRAGON (Colombia 1998).Mondragon started all three games when Colombia made it last appearance at the World Cup, exiting after the first round in the 1998 finals in France. Mondragon came to MLS in 2012 and had an outstanding season for the Philadelphia Union, making 27 appearances and helping it reach the playoffs for the only time in its history. He returned to Colombia, where he plays for Deportivo Cali. At 42, he helped Cali win the 2014 Superliga Colombiana and hopes to make Coach Jose Pekerman's 2014 World Cup team.
SHAKA HISLOP (Trinidad & Tobago 2006). Hislop went to the 2006 World Cup as the Soca Warriors backup but was called into action in the opener when starter Kelvin Jack was injured in warmups. He went on to shut out Sweden, 0-0, in T&T's first-ever World Cup match. Hislop's MLS career was less stellar as he was limited to 10 games in two seasons. He is now an analyst for ESPN.
Note:Chris Woods ('96 Colorado Rapids and current U.S. national team and Manchester United assistant coach) went to the World Cup with England in 1996 and 1990 as Peter Shilton's understudy. Donovan Ricketts (who is in his sixth MLS season, now at Portland), was the third-string Jamaica keeper in 1998 at the age of 21. Khalil Azmi, who played two games for Morocco at the 1994 World Cup, was Woods' backup with the Rapids but never played at MLS game.