MLS Originals Down to One

With last week’s announcements that former New England Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston had signed with A.C. St. Louis of the second-division NASL, and that ex-Chivas USA midfielder Jesse Marsch had ended his playing days, accepting a position on U.S. coach Bob Bradley’s national team staff, the number of players who’ve been with Major League Soccer since its inaugural season in 1996 dipped to one—D.C. United striker Jaime Moreno.

Ralston, who began his career with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, departs MLS as the league’s all-time assists leader, with 135 in 378 career games. He also scored 76 goals. He was Rookie of the Year in ’96, and won the 2007 U.S. Open Cup as well as the 2008 North American SuperLiga with the Revolution. Ralston made 36 appearances for the U.S. during his top-flight career, scoring four goals.

Marsch retires in fourth place on the league’s all-time games-played list with 321. He played for D.C. United, the Chicago Fire, and Chivas USA, and was a member of three MLS Cup–winning sides. He finishes his career with 26 goals and 35 assists, and two caps for the U.S.

Moreno joined MLS in August of 1996, scoring five goals in 16 appearances that season for United, and playing in D.C.’s 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup. He would go on to win four more titles with D.C., and he enters the 2010 season as the league’s all-time leading scorer, with 131 goals in 319 MLS appearances.

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MLS Updates

Califf is back in MLS, with expansion side Philadelphia.

Catching up on recent MLS developments….

CBA Negotiations Extended

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, MLS and its players union extended the deadline for the new CBA negotiations until Feb. 12. This is obviously positive news and means teams can continue preseason training while the talks continue. There had been a lockout/strike deadline of Feb. 1, today.

It’s probably safe to say that there’s been progress in the negotiations, and that both sides can see the light at the end of the tunnel–they just need more time to get there. (And that light, apparently, is not a train.)

Philadelphia Lands Two U.S. International Defenders

Roughly a week after signing defender Danny Califf, the expansion Union officially announced it had acquired defender Michael Orozco on loan from Mexican side San Luis, a deal which had been rumored for a few weeks.

Califf is 29 and has 22 caps for the U.S. He played for Danish club Midtyjlland last season.

Orozco is 23 and has two caps for the U.S., along with seven for the U.S. U-23s. He played for Union coach Peter Nowak at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Chicago Fire Adds Two Players, Brings a Third On Trial

The Fire lost attackers Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe along with outside back Gonzalo Segares during the off-season, but they’ve moved quickly to bring in replacements, signing defender Krzysztof Krol on loan from Polish club Jagiellonia Bialystok, and Salvadoran midfielder Julio Martinez on loan from Mexican second division side Club Leon. They’ve also invited former Fulham striker Collins John, 24, to join them at their Phoenix training camp to try to win a spot on the team. John played with Fire striker Brian McBride at Fulham.

Steve Ralston Parts Ways with New England

One of only three MLS Originals still left in the league, Steve Ralston has announced that he will not be returning to the Revolution after eight seasons with the team. Ralston, 36, suffered a severe knee injury last September, and is still recovering. He did not announce his retirement, though, and will explore other options in the coming weeks.

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.