The elusive #10
September 11, 2012
When you think of a #10, some of the greatest names in soccer history come to mind. From Pele to Maradona to Ronaldihno and Messi. The #10 is supposed to be that creator in central midfield, that general who guides your team to glory. Even in MLS, the names like Valderrama, Nowak, Cienfuegos spring to mind. In Metro history? Well, the one man who can be called a midfield general was Amado Guevara, and he wore #20. #10? That's yet to work out...
Metro's first #10 was Tab Ramos, not exactly your classical central midfielder. In fact, he rarely played in the middle... when he played, for his Metro career was saddled by injuries upon injuries. Ramos held the number through 1999, when Lothar Matthaus arrived. And the German wanted #10 all to himself.
So Ramos gave it up, switching to #9. When asked about it, he told us that he'll get it back. He was so right: Lothar's time with Metro lasted just that one season, 2000, when the main headline he made was because of his midseason sojourn to St. Tropez. Of course, Matthaus wasn't even close to being a central midfielder, at least not in this stage of his career. Ramos took the number back in 2001 and held it until his retirement a year later.
#10 stayed open for most of 2003, but Andrzej Juskowiak claimed it after his late arrival. The Pole was a striker, not a midfielder, and is usually counted among the worst midseason signings in team history. He was gone soon after.
In 2004, #10 belonged to Joselito Vaca. The diminutive Bolivian played on the right of midfield and created... not much. As much as we praise Bob Bradley's player moves, this one was a head-scratcher. Vaca was gone after the season.
And then, finally, a #10 success! Youri Djorkaeff, convinced by Bradley to come to Metro! And what a 2005, a team MVP season, one of the greatest in club history! Of course, Youri spent most of the year at forward, not at midfield... And in 2006, with Bradley gone and Djorkaeff pushed to midfield, he sulked, taking off in the middle of the season to see his ailing mother... Or was it the World Cup? Or both?
Not to worry, because a Designated Player arrived. Claudio Reyna, New Jersey's long-lost soccer son, wearing #10, patrolling the midfield for his hometown team. A year and a half of doing the little things was followed by forced retirement.
Macoumba Kandji, a striker who didn't know how to finish, switched from #30 to #10 for 2009, and proceeded to stink he was through one of the worst seasons in league history. In the middle of 2010, he was dealt for Mehdi Ballouchy, who also took over #10. Now, Ballouchy can be considered a classical central midfielder, but a game changer he was not. He kept the number until the trade to San Jose earlier this year.
So now, Lloyd Sam has arrived to take #10. A clear winger, not a central midfielder. Who knows if he will succeed or fail... But the search for that elusive #10 seems to be ongoing.