Cobi Jones is one of the most beloved players, and one of the finest, ever to pull on a U.S. jersey, but as he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in a ceremony before Saturday's U.S.-Spain friendly in Foxborough, Mass., he recalled one fan who wasn't much of a fan.
It was parcel of the great Galaxy-D.C. United rivalry that made such an impact in Major League Soccer's early seasons -- and was revisited in a tedious 0-0 draw Friday night at Home Depot Center. Jones (Westlake Village/Westlake HS and UCLA), among the most prominent figures within SoCal's soccer royalty, spent nearly his entire career with the Galaxy, and whenever the team would visit RFK Stadium, one guy always would give him an earful.
"There was this one guy that would always give me some stick before the game," Jones said, according to Steve Goff's outstanding account of the occasion for The Washington Post. "One game I was warming up, Eddie [Pope] happened to be near me and asked me why that guy was like that. I said, ’I don’t know. He’s always saying, "Cobi, you are terrible! You are the worst! You should just quit!" ’
"A week later, we had a national team game in D.C., and I saw the guy. Eddie is jogging with me, and I thought he’s going to be supporting me now. So Eddie said, ‘Let’s get closer to him.’ The guy is there, we’re jogging up, he said, ‘Cobi!’ I looked up. He said, ‘You’re terrible! You’re the worst player!’ I could never get a break there.”
Jones, a speedy winger who could create or score goals, played a record 164 times in 12 years for the U.S. national team and competed in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He was a slam-dunk first-vote Hall of Famer, listed on 87.13 percent of the ballots.
Also inducted were Pope, perhaps the finest defender in U.S. history; Dutch-American midfielder Earnie Stewart, one of the greatest of the U.S.'s foreign-born and -bred players; Bruce Murray, the national team's all-time scoring leader before Eric Wynalda and Landon Donovan; and Bob Gansler, who guided the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup.