When former D.C. United captain John Harkes saw on his caller ID 10 days ago that Will Lunn, the president of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, had called, he figured the topic of conversation would be "The Game of Their Lives," the new soccer movie chronicling the 1950 U.S. World Cup team's historic upset of England. Harkes had made his acting debut, playing midfielder Ed McIlenny, and the Hall was beginning to promote the film around the country.
But Lunn had something more important to discuss: Harkes's election into the Hall of Fame.
John Harkes, now United's director of youth development, captained the team to MLS championships in '96 and '97.
(1998 Photo Victoria Arocho -- AP)
"When he told me why he was trying to reach me, it changed the mood a little bit," Harkes, now United's director of youth development, said this week. "I was in my car at the time, so I had to pull over. It was nice, and to get invited in with a class like this is very special as well."
The official announcement came yesterday, when Harkes joined former World Cup teammates and MLS pioneers Tab Ramos and Marcelo Balboa in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2005. They will be inducted Aug. 29 at the museum headquarters in Oneonta, N.Y.
Harkes, 38, is the first former United player elected to the Hall of Fame -- seemingly appropriate since he was the first player assigned to the club's roster by MLS before the league's inaugural season in 1996. He captained United to MLS championships in '96 and '97 and, after passing the captaincy to Marco Etcheverry, helped the team advance to the 1998 final in which D.C. lost to Chicago.
Harkes, a New Jersey native who played at the University of Virginia, was then traded to New England, where he played 2 1/2 years, before finishing his career with 1 1/2 seasons in Columbus.
His greatest accomplishments, however, were representing the United States at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 1990 and '94 World Cups, and making 90 national team appearances (11th most in U.S. history). Prior to signing with MLS, he played six years in the prestigious English league with Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and West Ham, and became the first American to play a starring role in a major cup competition at fabled Wembley Stadium as Sheffield beat Manchester United in the League Cup final in 1991.
"When you represent your country and that U.S. crest in on your shirt, that definitely stands out," Harkes said, when asked to assess the most memorable aspects of his career. "It's the biggest honor in the world and every opportunity you have to represent your country is brilliant. The career I had in England was a very successful one and being one of the first players in our own league was special. There have been so many good things. I've been fortunate as a player."
Ramos, 38, played seven years as an attacking midfielder with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and was one of the most accomplished players in U.S. national team history. Balboa, 37, was a longtime starting defender on the national team and spent most of his MLS career with the Colorado Rapids.
United Notes: Starting defender Bryan Namoff, who had been sidelined several weeks with what was believed to be a back strain, underwent a bone scan that showed he has a cracked rib. He will be sidelined an additional three to four weeks.
Defender Brandon Prideaux has returned from a pulled hamstring and is listed as probable for Saturday's match against the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium.