Back in the early part of the 21st Century, a time when I sincerely thought Bruce Arena was the name of a stadium rather than the manager of the USA national team, I’d just finished sixth form and was getting ready for life at University when Champ Man 01/02 was released/completely took over my life.
As my studies suffered, my knowledge of the game blossomed, but little did I know that 16 summers later I’d be put under intense pressure from the TFG marketing department to find an American Champ Man Legend (take note potential and current sponsors, the USA registered the second most amount of hits on the site). Struggling to think of any, I started a new Champ Man 01-02 English season and searched for American players – quickly returning 3 pages of players:
As you can see, the top valued player on that list is none other than Michael Ricketts for a whopping 5.25 million. I guess what’s more significant is that it’s the same Michael Ricketts that was born and raised in Birmingham and went on to play once for his country of birth (vs. the Netherlands in a friendly) in an unlikely attack alongside Darius Vassell and Emile Heskey: #pacey.
Anyway enough of that… second on the list was Frankie Hejduk, a player who nobody ever signed mainly because it was in the days that player profiles didn’t include a genuine photo. Had the masses been aware of Hejduk’s flowing locks (think a Cocker Spaniel with its head poking out of the window of a speeding car and you’re somewhere close) then there’s a good chance that he may have claimed the crown of the first American to be bestowed with Champ Man legend status.
There were a couple of other notable talents at the top part of the list though, including some players who actually had decent stats: Joe Max Moore and Claudio Reyna were solid players but never excelled.
I nearly didn’t included page 2 of the search, until I realised the last name was none other than Fulham legend Brian McBride. Just look at him there, slightly less valuable than Eric Wynalda, he’s got to be upset with that.
I know you’re thinking why the hell have I just looked through page two, I definitely don’t need to see page three, well I was going to leave it out but then realised it had Jeff Agoos on it. I mean who doesn’t like to see the name Jeff Agoos written down? Just look at it.
It also includes the current Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner, who actually made eight appearances for the USA, almost prompting a wall to be built between America and Canada after the Canadians complained he was ineligible to play against them due to his German U21 appearances.
Our most likely candidate for the Champ Man legend slot therefore has to be Landon Donovan , he (was) a young, forward centre, who these days gets lots of press for seemingly being generally hated for not conquering the footballing world, and more recently for not being as good as Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. One sure fire way to ascertain a player’s legendary status is to Google random lists of players being touted as ‘must buys’ on ancient message boards:
I suppose you’re thinking I could have just come up with that list, but if that’s true then why would I have put Peter Crouch on it? The real honour here for Landon is being listed next to Maxim Tsigalko. That must mean he’s good. Although by that logic our next Champ Man legends piece would be on Enrique Estebaranaz, and we aren’t even sure if he was a real person.
On closer inspection the second list including Landon looks remarkably like the first list. Just with a few asterisks on, and a double underlined personal recommendation to buy Maxim Tsigalko. I know you’re thinking why do you keep writing lists and slightly changing them to increase this article’s word count? You will though have to trust me in that it seems people are copying others work and not giving them credit on the internet, even just lists of good players on Champ Man! Anyway at least one person thought he was good, so we’ll carry on by glorifying his stats.
He isn’t actually rubbish, so that’s a start. He’s quick, if he’d have worked on that 11 crossing maybe he could have been a world class winger. For a 19 year old, his finishing and off the ball movement added to his pace should have meant he was a good buy for any club, aside from the fact he couldn’t jump, head or tackle, there was plenty of potential to work with here. Years of 7.14 average ratings and a 1 in 4 goal ratio waited for anyone looking to purchase him. But I’m afraid that’s definitely not gonna cut it as a legend of the game!
Obviously in the real world these Champ Manager ‘wonderkids’ never had the same careers in real life. Luckily for Landon the same didn’t apply, he scored over his 1 in 4 goal ratio, and although he never really did it in Europe, he did win the MLS cup several times and multiple CONCACAF Gold Cups. In North America he definitely performed, but you know Chrisian Pulisic has already scored in the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund.
The other main consideration for the ThatFootbalGame Champ Man Legend #9 slot is Eddie Pope. Firstly, unlike Wagner and Ricketts, he was actually born in the USA (Greensboro, North Carolina). Secondly, back in Champ Man 01-02 you could pick up for the modest sum of approximately £2.5M from DC United and he’d be a solid 7.2 defender for you for years and years to come. No he didn’t reach the dizzy heights of Mike Duff, and no he didn’t end up in the Premier League Team of the Year like Kevin Hofland would but if you needed a steadying presence in your back four (or three!), someone that was rarely injured and with 15+ stats where it mattered (positioning, strength, tackling and heading) then Eddie was the man!
In the real world of football, Pope was named MLS Defender of the Year in 1997, was in the MLS team of the Year on four occasions and in 1996 won a league title with DC as well as scoring a golden goal in the MLS Cup against the Los Angeles Galaxy. In 2011 he was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame, but his consideration for entry into the TFG Champ Man Legends list that will no doubt be his proudest achievement into the game. We salute you Eddie.
So in conclusion, always best to start an article with an idea of where it might end up. Yay marketing.