MLS OG’s

Marsch: charter member.

With the recent retirements of Jay Heaps and Ben Olsen, it’s safe to say we are entering a generational-turnover period now that MLS, Year 14, is in the books.

It got us thinking about some of the MLS warhorses still out there, guys like C.J. Brown of Chicago. (Did you know Brown has 15 caps for the U.S. and was on the field for the Nats 1-0 upset of Argentina at RFK in 1999? He does, and he was.1) Or players such as Zach Thornton, Carey Talley, Kevin Hartman, Matt Reis, and Jimmy Conrad—dudes who have been around for a while and have seen the growth and changes up close.

How many players, for instance, are left from Major League Soccer’s inaugural season, 1996? MLS Originals, they call them at the league office—guys who’ve played in every season of the league’s existence. We dug around, and according to our research, the number is currently down to three.

They are…drumroll, please…Jesse Marsch, Jaime Moreno, and Steve Ralston.

Ante Razov was an MLS Original up until this past season, but he didn’t appear in any games in 2009, breaking his string.

Thornton is the next closest to making the cut—he joined the league in 1996, but he went on loan to Portugal in 2004. Even though he returned to MLS in September of that year, he didn’t play in any games, so he’s got a one-year gap in his record.

Moreno joined late in the inaugural season (August ’96), but he played in games and scored goals that year, and every one after it, so he makes it. (He also happens to be the league’s all-time leading scorer.)

Ralston was Rookie of the Year in 1996, and has barely missed a beat since. He’s played 35 times for the U.S.

Also pictured: David Beckham.

Marsch is one of Backpost’s favorite MLS players, all-time. He started at D.C. as a fringe player, came into his own in Chicago, and is currently a team leader at Chivas USA. He’s suited up twice for the U.S. during his 14-year pro career.

So there they are, the members of MLS’s most exclusive club, The Originals.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments.

1. We were in attendance at RFK that day, and through a ticketing snafu seated in the heart of the Argentine section. But when Earnie Stewart backheeled to Joe-Max Moore and Moore buried it for the win, we did not hold back, despite the sea of Albicelestes surrounding us. We got a plastic vuvuzela-like horn in the ear for our efforts.