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Mt Rushmore Series: Virginia Men’s Soccer

These four had the greatest impact on the Virginia Men’s Soccer program

Alex Cheung | Streaking the Lawn

Since 1989, Virginia has won seven national titles in men’s soccer, including four in a row from 1991-1994. They’ve made the NCAA tournament 39 consecutive years, which is by far the most of any program ever.

All of that excellence means that there are a lot of candidates for Mt Rushmore. We could have cut this in any number of ways. Which player scored the most goals? Who was the biggest MVP on their respective teams? Who makes it, and who gets left off?

Bruce Arena, Head Coach 1978-1995

Just like George Welsh for football and Brian O’Conner for baseball, Bruce Arena is the clear first choice for men’s soccer. It’s because of him that Virginia Soccer is what it is. Also, Bruce isn’t just on the Mt Rushmore for UVA soccer, he’s also on Mt Rushmore for USA soccer.

How low was soccer’s profile at Virginia when Arena arrived in 1978? His career began as split between the head soccer coach and an assistant lacrosse coach. In 1985, that changed and Arena was able to become the dedicated soccer coach as Virginia began allocating resources towards a sport that had potential. Four years later, he won the first of five national championships, including the four consecutive titles in the early-mid 90s. In 1996, Arena left for the new MLS, as the first DC United.

While it doesn’t impact his status for UVA’s Mt Rushmore, Arena coached DC United to the first ever MLS Cup championship. He also served as US National Team Head Coach twice, including their best ever finish in 2002.

Claudio Reyna, Midfielder 1991-1993

Arena coached some outstanding players during his time. None of those had as big an impact on UVA soccer (or, again, USA soccer) as Claudio Reyna.

Though Reyna played just three seasons for Virginia, during that time he was named First Team All-American for all three years, also winning the Hermann Trophy (the soccer Heisman) in 1993 and the Missouri Athletic Club Player of the Year in both 1992 and 1993. (The two Awards unified in 2002.) Oh, and Reyna also won three national titles during his time.

Like Arena, Reyna also likely gets a spot on the USA Men’s Soccer Mt Rushmore. His pro career in Europe is one of the best ever for an American and he also played in three world cups (and two Olympics) with over 100 team USA caps.

Incidentally, if you’re a fan of USA Soccer, you may want to check out Reyna’s son Giovanni. He plays for Dorussia Dortmund in the German First Division, and he did this just a couple of months ago. By the way, he’s only 17 years old. Too bad he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps at Virginia.

Mike Fisher, Midfielder 1993-1996

Mike Fisher may be an unknown name to many people reading this. Of course, like the rest of this list, he played for the Hoos many years ago. He also did not go on to a tremendous professional career like the rest of this list. In fact, he never played professional soccer at all. After leaving Virginia, he went to medical school (at Virginia) and is now an orthopedist.

But what Fisher did at Virginia was certainly memorable. He remains the all-time leader for the Hoos in points and assists. And he’s second in goals. He is one of just three men in NCAA history with 50 goals and 50 assists. He won the Hermann Trophy twice, one of just five men to do that (six women have done it, including Virginia’s Morgan Brian). He was first team All-American twice and ACC Player of the Year twice.

Tony Meola, Goalkeeper 1988-1989

Meola was, perhaps, the first real star of Virginia Soccer. Tony played just two seasons for Bruce Arena before turning pro, but during that time he was first-team All American in both of those seasons. He also won the Hermann Trophy in 1989, one of just two goalies ever to win the award. He holds the UVA records in goals against average and save percentage. His 0.34 goals allowed per game is the best in NCAA history.

Oh, by the way, Tony also played third base for the UVA baseball team as a first-year.

Honorable Mentions:

George Gelnovatch - Played for Arena and has coached the team since Arena left. George just isn’t as good a coach as Arena and is below a number of other players.

John Harkes - The first National Player of the Year under Arena, in 1987. Harkes helped bring the program to national prominence.

Jeff Agoos - Four time All-American (two firsts, a second and a third), Agoos might be the best defender in Virginia history. He also won five MLS Cups and is currently the Vice President of MLS.

Ben Olsen - The current DC United manager, Olsen helped bridge the gap from Arena to Gelnovatch.

Alecko Eskandarian - The 2002 Hermann Trophy winner, Eskandarian holds the single season goals record for the Hoos. His 38 points as a freshman are also a program record.

Jeff Gaffney - Starred for some of Arena’s early teams and still holds the program record for goals, with 69. That’s 13 more than Fisher in second place. Gaffney was a two-time All American and the first of eight ACC POY awards for Virginia.