Definitive Ranking Of The 10 Best Soccer Players From Texas
March 2 is a special day for Texans. At least it is for the ones who log into Facebook and are flooded with stories about Texas Independence Day and remember — if only briefly — that Texas declared independence from Mexico on this date in 1836. So we thought it’d be a great idea to look at the best soccer players from Texas to commemorate this semi-special date.
Texans like to think they’re a special lot. To some extent, we are. It’s the only state that was once a country, it’s absurdly large (second-most populous, second-largest by area) and it has the best fast food chain in the world (Whataburger). But we have plenty of faults too: Texans brag about size like the driver of a sports car going through a midlife crisis, they blindly follow Russian-led Facebook groups designed to sow discord and they have more falsely believed myths than a Dan Brown novel. (No, Texas can’t secede, though it can divide into five states. No, the Texas state flag isn’t the only one allowed to fly at the same height as the U.S. national flag. No, it isn’t illegal to pick bluebonnets, the state flower.)
Given its size and population (and proximity to Mexico), it’s no surprise that Texas has produced a number of great soccer players at the national and international level. So without further ado, so you Texans can get back to eating Tex-Mex, drinking Dr. Pepper and riding horses (no, most Texans don’t actually ride horses, at least not regularly), here are the 10 best soccer players from Texas.
10 Best Soccer Players From Texas
The Plano East graduate was named the National Gatorade Boys Soccer High School Player of the Year in 2005 and has carved out a nice career for himself in the years since. Nguyen has played for PSV and Randers in Europe as well as a couple teams in Vietnam, the country of his father’s birth.
Since returning stateside in 2012, Nguyen has made 191 appearances with the New England Revolution and probably has deserved more than the nine USMNT appearances he’s been given.
Nguyen might be higher on this list had he not been named one of the most stylish Bostonians in 2012, an honor probably seen in a negative light by many Texans.
Mónica González was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but was a founding member of the Mexican women's national team, appearing at the 1999 World Cup. González also played soccer at Plano East (loser of that high school football game) before playing college ball at Notre Dame.
González made 83 appearances for Mexico, scoring 10 goals. She is now a notable TV analyst, working for the likes of ESPN, NBC Universo and Fox Deportes.
Neil Cohen isn’t a name known by many soccer fans these days but decades ago he became the first American to appear at all three levels for the USMNT: youth, Olympic and senior national team. He was also the first high school all-American soccer player from Texas at Dallas Adams High School in 1973. Cohen was a 6-2 defender who played for more than a decade in the NASL and MISL.
When you think Longview, Texas, you typically think John King football and a bakery called The Butcher Shop. But José Francisco Torres managed to become a damn good footballer out of the East Texas town. After two years of playing for the Longview Lobos he left Texas before his junior year of high school to join Pachuca, making 151 appearances for the Liga MX club.
Torres has made 26 appearances for the USMNT, including a trip to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. The midfielder has what the British would call a cultured left foot and what Texans would call some damn fine skills. He’s currently playing for Tigres in Liga MX.
Born in Dallas, Gonzalez has made 48 caps with the USMNT as a central defender, although he was a part of the capitulation in Trinidad and Tobago in October. Gonzalez, like many Texans on this list, had to go out of state for college ball, attending Maryland.
The tall Texan (he’s 6-5) was the MLS Rookie of the Year for the LA Galaxy in 2009 and MLS Defender of the Year in 2011. Gonzalez moved to Mexico to play for Pachuca in 2016 after nearly 200 appearances with the Galaxy. Strong and rugged, Gonzalez started two matches for the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup, albeit the two losses to Germany and Belgium.
Holden was born in Scotland, but moved to the Houston suburb of Sugar Land at a young age and is more Texan than Scot, having represented the USMNT 25 times. Holden has also dabbled in professional gaming as an experienced Counter Strike player, because shooting guns is something Texans do sometimes, whether real or virtual.
Holden was a dynamic midfielder with superb technical skills. After four successful years with the Houston Dynamo he moved to Bolton where he thrived when he wasn’t getting his leg destroyed by Nigel de Jong. Injuries ultimately cut his career short, but he’s still involved in the game as an analyst for Fox Sports. He recently did his Texas duty by organizing the Kick In For Houston charity match in support of Hurricane Harvey victims.
Agoos was born in Switzerland but grew up in Texas, going to Richardson Pearce High School, which won the first Texas state soccer championship in 1983, when Agoos was 15 and on the way to being named a two-time Parade High School All-American.
After kicking around with some lower-league clubs and even the indoor Dallas Sidekicks, he joined D.C. United to help start MLS in 1996. Agoos played 244 matches in the league and was inducted to the National Soccer Hall Of Fame in 2009.
Although the USMNT defender may be most remembered for his unfortunate own goal against Portugal at the 2002 World Cup, Agoos appeared 134 times for his country, fifth most all time. He’s a legend as both a Texan and an American.
Not to be confused with Kyle Rote, his father and a successful American football player, Rote Jr. is another member of the National Soccer Hall Of Fame from Texas. The Dallas native became the first American to lead the NASL in scoring in 1973. While that was before the arrival of Pelé and many of the other international super stars, it was still a league on the rise at the time.
Rote was discovered by Lamar Hunt (more on him below) and the Dallas Tornado took him in the first round of the 1972 draft and he was later named the Rookie of the Year.
Though Overbeck was born in California, she was raised Texan, going to Richardson High School (not to be confused with Agoos’ school, Pearce). Overbeck was part of the legendary Dallas Sting club that won multiple national championships and was part of the impetus for the creation of a full U.S. women’s national team.
After starring at North Carolina (then as now the preeminent program in the land) she appeared 170 times for the USWNT as a central defender. The 2006 National Soccer Hall Of Fame inductee was the team captain when the U.S. captured the nation’s attention with victory at the 1999 World Cup, scoring the first goal for the U.S. in the shootout against China.
The undisputed best soccer player from Texas is the Deuce, an iconic Texan who has the state tattooed on his arm. Currently tied with Landon Donovan for most goals in USMNT history (57), Dempsey hails from the small town of Nacogdoches deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas. He played his club ball in Dallas, which meant his parents had to drive him about three hours each way for practice.
Dempsey spent seven full seasons in the English Premier League, scoring 57 goals in league play, including half-a-hundred for Fulham. He became a club legend for the Cottagers, helping them stave off relegation on a number of occasions and surpassing Brian McBride as the club’s favorite American. His exquisite goal against Juventus in 2010 was part of Fulham’s run to the Europa League final. He later moved to Tottenham to become the most expensive American at the time and his goal against Ghana early in the 2014 World Cup was perhaps his greatest moment in Red, White and Blue.
Dempsey returned to the U.S. to join the Seattle Sounders, his current club, where he finally won an MLS Cup after two runners-up finishes with the New England Revolution. Dempsey’s style, grit and not-so-great rapping ability make him a legend among Texans on par with Earl Campbell and Nolan Ryan.
Lamar Hunt wasn’t a soccer player but it would be a disservice to soccer in America not to include this legendary Texan on this list. A businessman and promoter, he helped found the American Football League, Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League. Hunt’s name is now on the country’s oldest tournament: The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which has been played for more than 100 years.
Texans who just missed the list include: Kenny Cooper, Brek Shea, Greg Garza and Kellyn Acosta. Other young Texans who are just now starting to make names for themselves but aren’t yet on this list include: Weston McKennie, McKinze Gaines, Emerson Hyndman and Keaton Parks.