Soccer newsletter: Landon Donovan, Alex Morgan are part of Southern California’s all-time team
Hello and welcome to the weekly L.A. Times soccer newsletter. I’m Kevin Baxter, The Times’ soccer writer, and today we’ll look at a good-news, bad-news weekend for Angel City and the successful start of Nations League play for the U.S. and Mexico. But we start by exploring just how deep Southern California’s soccer talent pool is by choosing an all-time team composed of players who were either born or grew up here.
The area has produced the men’s national team leaders in caps (Cobi Jones) and the leader in assists and co-leader in goals (Landon Donovan) as well as three women who have either played in 200-plus games and/or scored 100-plus goals (Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Alex Morgan).
The 23-player roster was chosen with input from Scott French, Southern California’s pre-eminent soccer writer, and Aaron Heifetz, press officer for the women’s national team. Inclusion was based on accomplishment — primarily in international competition — not gender. To qualify, players must have been born or raised in Southern California, defined as the area from Julian Araujo’s house in Lompoc to the Mexican border.
So here we go:
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Karen Bardsley (Chino Hills): The former Ayala High, Cal State Fullerton and Pali Blues standout spent the majority of her club career with Manchester City, with whom she won eight trophies. The dual national chose to play for England, earning 81 caps and appearing in three World Cups.
Nick Rimando (Montclair): The six-time MLS all-star and the MVP in Real Salt Lake’s MLS Cup win in 2009 played a league-record 553 matches and 49,995 minutes and logged 167 shutouts, including playoffs, for three teams. He won two MLS Cups and two Supporters’ Shields in a 20-year career and made 22 appearances with the national team; he backed up Tim Howard in the 2014 World Cup. He played at Montclair High and won a national title with UCLA.
Marcelo Balboa (Cerritos): A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Balboa was born in Chicago, where his dad played professionally, but grew up in Cerritos, where he won a U-19 club championship. His uniform number was retired after two all-conference seasons at Cerritos College, where he also was the kicker on the football team. He played 152 games in MLS, was a member of three World Cup teams and ranks sixth all time in international appearances for the U.S. at 127.
Carlos Bocanegra (Upland): Bocanegra won two CONCACAF Gold Cups and is one of 11 players to earn at least 110 international caps with the national team he captained. He started in two World Cups and, in a 15-year club career, played in five countries, making 116 appearances for Fulham. In MLS he won two U.S. Open Cups, twice was named the league’s Defender of the Year and was Rookie of the Year in 2000. After his final game for Chivas USA in 2014, he was named technical director at Atlanta United. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2020.
Rachel Buehler (Del Mar): The two-time Olympic champion and member of the 2011 World Cup team played in 113 international games. She captained the Stanford team for three seasons while winning academic honors as a human biology/pre-med major. After retiring from soccer she entered medical school at UC San Diego and now works as a doctor.
Steve Cherundolo (San Diego): Born in Rockford, Ill., Cherundolo grew up in San Diego where he played youth soccer with the La Jolla Nomads, helping them to six state championships. He spent his 15-year club career in Germany with Hannover and played 87 times with the U.S. national team. He made three World Cup teams and played on a Gold Cup-winning team in 2005. After coaching several seasons in Germany, Cherundolo returned to the U.S., coached one season with the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship and then replaced Bob Bradley as manager at LAFC. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame last year.
Joy Fawcett (Huntington Beach): A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and a founding member of the short-lived Women’s United Soccer Assn., Fawcett won four league titles at Huntington Beach Edison before becoming a three-time All-American at Cal, where she still shares the record for goals in a season with 23. Her 246 international caps rank eighth all time for players of either gender. She played on four World Cup teams (winning twice) and three Olympic teams, twice winning gold. She went on to coach four years at UCLA.
Frankie Hejduk (La Mesa): A teammate of Cherundolo with the Nomads and the U.S. national team, Hejduk played four years at UCLA. He spent part of his club career in Europe but made 220 MLS appearances and won five Supporters’ Shields and two MLS Cups. Hejduk made 85 appearances with the national team and was on two World Cup teams and two Olympic teams. He also played for three Gold Cup champions and made the all-tournament team in 2007.
John O’Brien (Playa del Rey): A defender and midfielder, O’Brien had his first trial with Dutch club Ajax at 14 and went on to play 85 games in the Netherlands from 1998 to 2006. He won two Eredivisie titles and became one of the first Americans to earn a starting spot on a major European club. An alternate on the 1998 World Cup team, he played every minute for the U.S. in 2002, helping the team to the quarterfinals, its best performance of the modern era. He also played in the 2006 tournament.
Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades): The first captain in Angel City history won a Southern Section title at Studio City Harvard-Westlake before heading to Stanford, where she converted to outside back. Riley has played professionally for eight clubs in four countries and won 11 trophies. She also captains the New Zealand national team, which she led to four World Cups and four Olympics. Twice she was the Oceania confederation’s player of the year and was named to the federation’s most recent team of the decade.
Shannon Boxx (Fontana): Boxx was born in Fontana but raised by a single mother in the South Bay, where she led the Torrance United Waves to four state titles and two trips to the national final four. She was a four-sport standout at South Torrance High before winning three Olympic gold medals and made four World Cup teams, including the championship side in 2015. She scored 22 times in 195 international appearances and also won an NCAA title at Notre Dame. She finished third in voting for the women’s world player of the year award in 2005 and this year was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Paul Caligiuri (Westminster): Caligiuri had arguably the most important goal in men’s national team history when he accounted for the only score in a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in a 1989 qualifier than sent the U.S. back to the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. At UCLA, he captained the Bruins to their first national title in 1985. Caligiuri started every U.S. match in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and despite beginning his national team career in an era when the U.S. often played less than a dozen times a season, Caligiuri appeared in 110 games. He finished his pro career with the Galaxy, with whom he won the U.S. Open Cup in his final match. He went on to coach the men’s and women’s teams at Cal Poly Pomona and with a semipro men’s team in Orange County. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.
Rick Davis (La Verne): Davis was born in Denver but started his soccer career as a 7-year-old with an AYSO team in Claremont. He captained the national team but his career ended in 1989, before the U.S. returned to the World Cup. He did play in the ’84 and ’88 Olympics and made the 1980 Olympic team but did not go to Moscow because of a U.S. boycott. When he retired his 36 international caps were a U.S. record. He played on three championship teams with the New York Cosmos before the North American Soccer League folded in 1985 and is widely considered the best American to have played in the NASL. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2001.
Julie Foudy (San Diego): Born in San Diego but raised in Mission Viejo, Foudy was the Southern California high school player of the year three times before heading to Stanford, where she was the Cardinal player of the year three consecutive times. She made her international debut as a 17-year-old and went on to play in 273 other games in a 16-year career that produced two World Cup and two Olympic titles. She ranks fifth on the all-time U.S. list for games played and 15th in goals with 45. She was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007, has had a successful career as an analyst and TV personality at ESPN and is an advocate for girls and women in sports and for causes related to women’s and workers’ rights.
Cobi Jones (Westlake Village): No man has played more games for the national team than Jones (164) and only two —Donovan and Michael Bradley — had more assists than Jones’ 22. He was born in Detroit and began his soccer career in the Westlake Village AYSO when he was 5. After walking on at UCLA, he made his international debut in 1992 and two years later was playing in the first of three World Cups. He also played in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and won a Gold Cup. His club career started in England with Coventry City but his greatest success came with the Galaxy, for whom he played a club-record 306 games and won two MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and a Champions Cup. He briefly served as interim coach of the team in 2008 and is an analyst for the team’s TV broadcasts. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.
Eddie Lewis (Cerritos): After playing at Cerritos High and UCLA, Lewis ended his career with Bruce Arena and the Galaxy and won a Supporters’ Shield in his final season. He also played in two World Cups, made 82 international appearances and won a Gold Cup.
Shannon MacMillan (Escondido): MacMillan moved from New York to Southern California when she was 4 and prepped at San Pasqual High before going to Portland, where she won the Hermann Trophy as the best college player in the country. She joined the national team while in college and went on to play in 177 games and score 60 goals, 11th on the all-time list. She played in two World Cups and two Olympics, winning one of each. She went on to become an assistant coach at UCLA and has served as a senior adviser to the San Diego Loyal of the second-tier USL Championship. In 2016 she was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Landon Donovan (Redlands): The most decorated men’s player in U.S. history won a record six MLS Cups, set league records for goals (since broken) and assists and is tied for the most goals and has the most assists in national team history. He was a 13-time MLS All-Star, a regular-season MVP, a two-time MLS Cup MVP and was voted the greatest player in league history. Donovan, who was born in Ontario but grew up in Redlands, also won two Supporters’ Shields and a U.S. Open Cup with the Galaxy and four Gold Cups with the national team. He has more caps (12) and more goals (five) in World Cup play than any other American man. He played for two clubs in Europe, with Everton in the English Premier League and in Mexico with León, but Donovan spent the majority of his career — 283 games, including playoffs — with the Galaxy. After retiring as a player, he helped establish the San Diego Loyal of the second-tier USL Championship and coached the team to the conference quarterfinals in 2021. He is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Carin Jennings-Gabarra (Rancho Palos Verdes): Born in New Jersey but raised in Palos Verdes, Jennings-Gabarra was a three-time state MVP in high school. She set single-season and career national records for goals and points at UC Santa Barbara before embarking on a USWNT career that featured 53 goals in 117 games, playing in two World Cups and winning one. She was selected as the tournament’s top player in 1991 and won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. She was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000 and for the last three decades has coached at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Alex Morgan (San Dimas): The national team’s leading active scorer ranks fifth on the all-time U.S. list with 115 goals in 190 games. A two-time World Cup champion and an Olympic gold medalist, she tied for the tournament lead with six goals in the 2019 World Cup, including a record-tying five in one game. She was a three-time all-league selection at Diamond Bar High and led Cal to the NCAA tournament four consecutive times. She won league titles in the WPS and NWSL in the U.S. and with Lyon in France, where she won a treble by also capturing the Coupe de France and Champions League crowns. She finished third in voting for world player of the year in 2012 and second in the FIFA player of the year balloting in 2019.
Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates): A two-time Southern Section champion at the Chadwick School, Press was a Hermann Trophy winner at Stanford, where she set school records for goals and points. She played for seven teams in three countries before becoming the first player signed by her hometown club, Angel City, months before it entered the NWSL. With the national team Press is a two-time World Cup champion who ranks ninth in goals with 64.
Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest): She was the Gatorade prep player of the year at Santa Margarita High in 2005, the same year she made her senior national team debut. Rodriguez led USC to the school’s first national title in soccer in 2007, a year before she helped the U.S. to a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. She appeared in 132 games for the national team, scored 30 times, won a second gold medal in 2012 and a World Cup in 2015. She played for seven teams during her club career and won two NWSL titles before retiring last fall to become an assistant coach at USC.
Eric Wynalda (Westlake Village): Wynalda was born in Fullerton but raised in Westlake Village, where he scored 58 goals in 16 games to lead the Westlake Wolves to the AYSO state championship. In college, he led San Diego State to the NCAA title game. With no top-tier domestic league to play in, Wynalda became one of the first Americans to play in Europe when he joined FC Saarbrucken in Germany in 1992. He returned to the U.S. four years later and scored the first goal in MLS history for the San Jose Clash; he wound up playing 110 games for four MLS teams. He made 106 appearances in a decade with the national team, played in three World Cups and retired with a U.S.-record 34 goals, which still rank fourth on the all-time list. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.
Sigi Schmid (Torrance): The Hall of Famer, who died on Christmas Day in 2018, was among the most successful coaches in U.S. soccer history. He won a then-record 266 MLS games, two league titles and five Open Cups with Seattle, Columbus and the Galaxy. In 19 years at UCLA, he won three NCAA championships, averaged 17 wins a season and made 16 consecutive playoff appearances.
Angel City ends two streaks — but at what price?
Angel City ended its winless streak and its scoring drought in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Racing Louisville, a victory that left it fourth in the NWSL standings. But that came at a cost when Christen Press, the team’s leading offensive threat, left the field with a knee injury in the 66th minute. Press tore her ACL and will miss the rest of the season.
Angel City came into the game goalless and winless in its last three games. Press snapped that first streak with her second goal of the year in the 36th minute before setting up Savannah McCaskill, who played for Louisville last season, for the go-ahead goal early into the second half. That marked the first time since the season opener that Angel City scored twice in a game.
But just after the hour mark the game — and Press’ knee — took a turn for the worse when the Angel City forward was helped off the field after awkwardly twisting her leg on the edge of the Louisville penalty area. Seconds later Nadia Nadim tied the score for Louisville on a penalty kick.
Louisville built an 18-10 edge in shots but got nothing after Nadim’s score, allowing Angel City (4-3-1) to grab all three points on a McCaskill penalty kick three minutes into stoppage time.
Press was left off the 23-player USWNT roster for next month’s World Cup and Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico. Angel City is one of just four teams that weren’t represented on the 23-player U.S. team called up Monday.
McCaskill, however, said the team’s ability to come back in stoppage after losing the lead and its leader was important.
“This is huge,” she said. “Those three points can be the difference between us making playoffs at the end of the season. It is important to grind out those games and put them away when we can.”
U.S., Mexico: nations apart
The U.S. and Mexico opened CONCACAF Nations League play with wins that were meaningful in different ways. For the U.S., which dominated Grenada 5-0 behind four goals from Jesús Ferreira, Friday’s game was the team’s final match in the U.S. before this fall’s World Cup. Ferreira used it to push his candidacy for the No. 9 position on coach Gregg Berhalter’s squad in Qatar.
The win also ran the team’s unbeaten streak at home to 26, matching the longest in national team history, while the shutout was the third in as many games during the June international window. Goalkeeper Matt Turner, who did not face a shot, has 13 clean sheets in 18 international appearances. The U.S. continues defense of its Nations League title on Tuesday in El Salvador.
For Mexico, which hadn’t scored a goal of its own in 258 minutes, Saturday’s 3-0 win over Suriname marked El Tri’s most offensive game since a similarly scored October win over Honduras. Only one goal came from the run of play in regulation time, though. And of greater concern is the fact Mexico won’t be facing 141st-ranked Suriname in Qatar; it will play Poland and fourth-ranked Argentina.
With that in mind, Mexico coach Tata Martino is increasing his dialogue with Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer but a player who has been frozen out of the national team since 2019. According to The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas, Martino, who spoke with Hernández last month, confirmed they will have a second conversation, likely by Zoom.
Mexico continues Nations League play Tuesday at Jamaica.
And finally there’s this …
Ukraine followed its emotional loss to Wales, which cost it a spot in the World Cup, with a 1-0 win over Ireland and a 3-0 victory over Armenia in UEFA Nation’s League play. Ukraine, which has lost just once in the last 11 months, will face Ireland in the return leg Tuesday but the game will be played in Poland. Ukraine is unable to play at home because of the Russian invasion.
In case you missed it
Angel City’s Christen Press has torn ACL and will miss rest of season ... maybe more
Megan Rapinoe among the surprises on U.S. women’s CONCACAF W Championship roster
Why LAFC signing aging Italy star Giorgio Chiellini makes sense
Nevada judge dismisses rape case against Cristiano Ronaldo, citing lawyer’s conduct
Jesus Ferreira’s four goals tie mark as U.S. routs Grenada in World Cup sendoff
Real Madrid’s summer tour will have stops at the Rose Bowl and Las Vegas
Don’t miss my weekly podcast on the Corner of the Galaxy site as co-host Josh Guesman and I discuss the Galaxy each Monday. You can listen to the most recent podcast here.
“It was a no-brainer….Giorgio will make everybody better. Every day Giorgio is in this building, he will add value.”
LAFC general manager John Thorrington on the team’s signing of iconic Italian international Giorgio Chiellini
Until next time...
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