OT - Ideal pro athletes that would dominate soccer?

Submitted by Todd Plate's n… on June 28th, 2010 at 11:44 AM

I always find folks' ruminations on the future of US soccer interesting and there seems to be a general consensus that the US won't be an elite soccer power until the best athletes in this country start playing the sport at an early age. 

My question then, who amongst current and former professional sports stars do you see as having the most potential to dominate in soccer?  Who are the prototypical athletes that would have excelled?

My lack of soccer knowledge makes me want to think a guy like Lebron would make an unreal goalie...huge, quick and huge.  Would Barry Sanders have been a terror had he been playing since he was a kid?  Reggie Bush?  What say you smarter-than-I mgobloggers?


The Real T

June 28th, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

I think Derrick would make a fine soccer player.  Not only does he have a great banana corner kick and an ability to read defenses, but he also has a Reach of 9 feet high if he was a goalie.  He still has that reach if he isn't a goalie as well.



Word is, he is also quite a character!


June 28th, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

Rajon Rondo would be a dominating goalie.  Steve Nash would be superb.  Rafeal Nadal would be stellar.  Lebron James would be amazing.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:36 PM ^


Nash grew up playing soccer—he stated in a 2005 interview that he could have played professionally if he had focused on it—and continues to hold an interest in the sport. When Dirk Nowitzki arrived in the NBA from Germany, he and Nash became close friends, in part because they enjoyed watching soccer together. Nash is friends with several professional soccer players, including Alessandro Del Piero, Thierry Henry, Owen Hargreaves, Massimo Ambrosini and Steve McManaman. During his off-season, when he lives in New York City, he has trained with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer, and once tried to arrange a pick-up game in the city's Central Park with the Red Bulls and one of his local teams

His brother has 30 caps for the Canadian Men's National Team as well


June 28th, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

I'd have to agree, Lebron or Jordan would be unreal soccer goalies, or strikers. Huge hands, athletic as hell. With their verticals/heights there would be lots of header goals.

Dhani Bowtie

June 28th, 2010 at 12:33 PM ^

The boy “with the twitchy walk”[2] caught the eye of Krikunov, but not on the ice. Instead, Datsyuk excelled on the soccer field, where his anticipation, vision, and intelligence were more apparent. Under Krikunov, Datsyuk evolved into a particularly efficient two-way player, and he began to draw wider attention among Russian hockey fans.[2] Despite his early successes, however, he went undrafted in the 1996 and 1997 NHL drafts.


From Wikipedia


June 28th, 2010 at 12:06 PM ^

I'm thinking a guy like Chris Johnsom could be a great striker (he's fly past anyone) and Taylor Mays as a defender - he could physically overpower guys but also has good speed. And neither of them would scream like a pussy if they tripped over their own feet.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:09 PM ^

This was my facebook status a week ago....


Imagine if USA was a International Football (soccer) country we would probably be talking about a 3 peat World Cup Champions!!!! Revis would be the greatest defender ever, Chris Johnson would be the best striker in the world, and Ron Artest would redefine the Goalie position and never let a goal in his whole career! USA USA USA


June 28th, 2010 at 12:19 PM ^

Yea if only.  Maybe someon will see your facebook status, and deem that this would be a worthy cause to fund.  I have some experience in the stock market, so perhaps we can work out a deal of some sorts. 

Also, do you have a twiiter?  Its like facebook but it is just status updates.  Oh and you can only use 140 characters.  That would be even more exposure to making our simple dream a complex reality.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

Goalie- Dwight Howard,

Backs- Lebron, Calvin Johnson, Taylor Mays, Ed Reed. 

Mid- Kobe,  Garrett Rivas, Allen Iverson , dwayne wade

Forward, Chris Johnson, reggie bush.

Bench, Randy Moss, Jahvid Best, chris paul, rajon rando. 

This would be funny. 


June 28th, 2010 at 1:35 PM ^

Height can be an asset for a center back or a holding forward, but most great soccer players are average to below average in height. Messi is really tiny, for example. The low center of gravity and ability to move your feet quickly in tight spaces is more important that raw size.


June 30th, 2010 at 12:30 AM ^

Eeeeh.. not really... most elite players are of average height or above. Messi and Xavi are about average, Rooney is dead center at 5'10".. but players such as Ronaldo(both), Ballack, Torres, Zidane ect ect ect are at or above 6 feet.. actually.. for every great offensive player that is short.. I can name you 2 or 3 that are above 6 feet tall.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

Soccer is a team sport, where teamwork is one of the biggest factors in success.  See the France squad, with great individuals, but lots of problems on the field. With this, you can scratch Allen Iverson off the list.  He and Deion Sanders are prime examples of "I" players, who wouldn't last in soccer.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:15 PM ^

If America actually cared about soccer like other countries do, we'd win the World Cup pretty much every time. We have the most athletic sports players in the world. Woodson would dominate.


June 28th, 2010 at 1:27 PM ^

While I don't think the US would win "every world cup" if we cared, the top end athletes in England arent even in the same realm as the top end athletes in the USA. There is no English version of Kobe, Lebron, Dwight Howard, Chris Johnson, Darelle Revis, etc. They maybe have one or two very top-end elite athletes but their depth would be nowhere near the USA depth (one product of our 300 million population with high-end development leagues to go with it).


June 28th, 2010 at 12:19 PM ^

I really don't think it matters that much, and here's why:


Babe Ruth was a monster baseball player, but he wasn't a phisical specimen, he was rather chubby, but he had a talent, he was capable of swingging the bat at will, and hit balls all over the field, he was a great player.

Soccer is much like that if you ask me, Maradona was(is) hardly 5'6" he's always seemed kind of chubby as well, and we know he had the ability to dribble anyone, right now Messi isn't either the pinnacle of athleticism, also around 5'7" and also a world class player, then we have a lot of examples...

Ideally a goalkeeper should be someone tall, rangy, with great hands and fast reflexes, but, then you see David James, he's like 6'6" and he's awful, often fails to read the plays, doesn't act like a last defender and gets nailed into the ground when he should go out and try to reduce the gaps.

Ideally a central defender should be tall, so he can deflect crosses, should be strong so he won't be moved out of position by strikers, etc, but you see guys like Cannavaro (around 5'10") and plays like a dog ( well used to) he's fierce and very hard to pass by, he competes when the ball is in the air, if he isn't that tall it doesn't matter.

I kind of get the feeling that, to be a good soccer player you need to have 2 things, the right mindset, so you can not only play but know your possition, know what you're supposed to do, and to practice, you need to practice like crazy, all those nike freestylish plays are a result of a lot of practicing, brazilian kids live with a soccer ball by their feet, all the time, they play at school, during lunch time, they play at the street after and before they eat, they play indoors, one on one with their brothers, cousins, neighbors, etc, that's why they are so skilled.


I would also like to point out that IMO there's no one right way to play the game, Argentinians, Brazilians, Italians, Germans, each one have their own way to understand the game and they play according with the way they see the sport, it's like arguing whether is better to run or pass when you're talking about (american) football, there's no right or wrong, they're both ways to win games.

Monocle Smile

June 28th, 2010 at 12:21 PM ^

then you've never played soccer in your life. Try running around for 90 minutes with intermittent bursts of sprinting...then try doing it while kicking a ball and having other dudes try to take it away from you.

Soccer is more like rugby than American football (endurance vs. fast-twitch raw strength), and yes, it's a very cerebral game, but professional soccer players (as well as professional tennis players) are all extremely physically fit.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:34 PM ^

Well, AAMOA i live in Mexico, and i've played since i was like 5 years old, that doesn't mean that i'm good enough to even dream about going pro or something, yes players have to be fit, back in the day some players were allowed to just jog and help very little at recovering the ball, right now that's not the case anymore, everyone has to run, and it's very very tiring, i have played in amateur 7 on 7 leagues, the game only lasts 40 minutes divided in halves and with unlimited subs i play like 15 minutes, going on and off, and it's indeed very tiring, but if you have the talent it only takes around 6 months tops to get the required endurance to play a whole match.

panthera leo fututio

June 28th, 2010 at 12:24 PM ^

If soccer were a huge cultural phenomenon in the US, I think we'd be much better on the world stage not because the Americans who currently dominate basketball and football would be dominating soccer, but because we'd field a team comprised of a handful of the millions of kids who currently devote their childhoods to basketball/football and never make it because their physical tools are poorly suited to the specifics of these sports.  Basically a bunch of little American Messis.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:18 PM ^

Kobe Bryant is a really good soccer player. He grew up in Italy and played a lot as a kid... I bet he'd be a pretty solid striker or back with that vertical 

david from wyoming

June 28th, 2010 at 12:20 PM ^

Chad Johnson loves soccer and was close to taking the route in life, but chose football due to the money (or maybe the lack of money in soccer). He would have been a top tier forward.

Space Coyote

June 28th, 2010 at 12:23 PM ^

People have brought up good names, like Iverson, Randy Moss, Chris Johnson, etc.  But even looking back in history of other sports of people that could have been potentially really good at soccer we see the likes of:

Baseball: Griffey, Bonds (before 'roid rage), Cal Jr., Willie Mays, Hank Aaron

Football: Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Lynn Swann, Desmond Howard, Tim Brown

Basketball: MJ, Spud Webb, Isiah Thomas, Magic (regardless of college), John Stocton, Pete Maravich

The list is really, really deep.  And honestly, it's hard to even tell with some other athletes if they wouldn't have worked out differently depending on sport.  Tyrone Wheatley, Ray Lewis, Bo Jackson, players like these who bulked up for football may have been great soccer players if they would have conditioned for that instead.  In the end, they are obviously very different sports though, and while the coordination for all these players was very good in their respective sport (sports in the case of Bo), it's tough to say if they would actually have the foot-to-eye coordination required, though I wouldn't doubt many of them if they trained for that from the start.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:42 PM ^

I'm sorry but your list of baseball players is ridiculous. 

Give me Ricky Henderson, Lou Brock, Tim Raines, Vince Coleman, Kenny Lofton, Ozzie Smith, etc. over those guys. 

Insert Barry Bonds header jokes here.  So he can play I guess, as long as it's with his HGH noggin. 

Space Coyote

June 28th, 2010 at 2:46 PM ^

I mean, besides, Ozzie and Raines, you just listed off a bunch of burners.  Bonds before 'roids was one of the fastest players and the game and clearly had great coordination, Griffey had some of the best awareness in the outfield.  Cal Jr. redefined how SS is played in baseball.  Hank Aaron might not be the best choice to throw in there, but during his prime he still had some good speed.  Willie Mays, on the other hand, had some of the best coordination and was probably the most athletic player in baseball during his time.

Also, those were just some examples, I think some of the guys you listed could be good too, but I really don't see how my players were ridiculous.


June 28th, 2010 at 12:22 PM ^

Steve Nash is a gifted soccer player and I've heard that he could play professionally if he wanted to (albiet somewhere like the MLS and not a good league). I've also heard that Chad Ochocinco is good at soccer, although probably not quite as good as Nash.


The problem with soccer is that you can be the most athletic player in the world, but having no ball skills is going to get you nowhere (look at Robbie Findley, maybe the most athletic player on Team USA, but also one of the worst). So basically, this is just a new spin on "how good would Usain Bolt be in the NFL?"


June 28th, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

You'll have to excuse me, but I've always hated the view you seem to take on athleticism. I don't care how fast someone is.  Being athletic refers to being able  to do many things. Running, and things of that nature, is only one of them. Balance, vision, coordination, physical and mental toughness, and strength are all part of the equation too. So, in my view Robbie Findley may be the fastest and quickest person on the team(I have no clue if he is or isnt), but he can't possibly be the most athletic.