Although I enjoy going to the occasional soccer match, I’m not what you’d call a fan. My biggest exposure to soccer was back in 1995 when I went to a number of matches for the Long Island Rough Riders, which was a USISL team back when that was the top level of soccer in the US (before Major League Soccer, of course). The Rough Riders had an exceptionally good team and won the USISL championship, with the top three players being Tony Meola, Chris Armas and Giovanni Savarese. All three would later play in MLS, and while I’d been aware for a while that there are soccer cards for all three players, I’d never had much luck in tracking them down.
Back on Black Friday I found a few on COMC that were cheap enough that I couldn’t resist.
My favorite Rough Rider was “local guy” Chris Armas (born in the Bronx, attended Adelphi University). Armas played for the Chicago Fire for 10 years, including when Chicago won the MLS cup in 1998. He was named to the “MLS Best XI” five times, and is currently the head coach for the women’s soccer team at Adelphi.
Here’s his 2000 Upper Deck card…
You can kinda sorta see on the lower third of the photo the ghost of the letters “MLS”; it doesn’t pick up in a scan, but when you hold the card at certain angles the letters catch the light and start to shine, accompanied by a heavenly choir singing “aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!”
OK, that last part might be in my head, but the glowy letters are a nice, if useless, little touch.
Here’s Armas’ 1999 Upper Deck card…
…and his 1999 Upper Deck All-MLS card. The card is shiny and the gold background doesn’t scan very well.
Tony Meola was the starting goalie for the U.S. team in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup competitions. He played 18 years for Team USA, 11 years in MLS, and is regarded as one of the greatest American goalies of all time.
Here’s his 1999 Upper Deck card:
One complaint I’ve had about Upper Deck is that they fall back on studio portraits a little too often; it wouldn’t be so bad if they photoshopped a different background in there.
As long as I’m sharing soccer cards, here’s another one I acquired a year or so ago, but this one requires a little explanation…
Three years ago (give or take) I was watching a bit of an MLS game on TV, and one of the players on the DC United squad was called Fred. That’s it, just “Fred”.
I don’t know about anyone else, but “Fred” makes me think of Fred Flintstone or Fred Mertz (as in Fred & Ethel from “I Love Lucy”)… neither one a paragon of athletic excellence.
Fred instantly became my favorite active soccer player (not that there’s much competition for that honor, nor much benefit for the honoree).
About a year ago, I was desperate to rip some cheap wax, so I bought some 2008 Upper Deck MLS packs from a dollar store. Most of the cards ended up in my Halloween box, but there was one keeper:
My best soccer pull ever!!!! …again, not like there’s much competition for that distinction.
Fred’s from Brazil, his last name is Carreiro, and he currently plays in Australia… so unfortunately he’ll no longer grace our TV screens here in America.