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From the Pitch - "Starting XI: My Top Teammates"

By LUKE VERCOLLONE, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 09/12/18, 5:30PM EDT


Nearly two decades, 11 guys. These are the best players I've ever suited up with.

Over the course of my soccer career, from college to 15 years as a pro, I’ve had the honor and privilege to play with some amazing players.

These guys are not only super talented but have amazing character as well.

Here are the best of the best (click for more info):

Clint Dempsey

Sacha Kljestan

Attacking Mid
Joseph Ngwenya

Left Mid
Shalrie Joseph

Center Mid
Steve Ralston

Right Mid
Pablo Mastroeni

Defensive Mid
Josh Suggs

Left Back
Henry Kalungi

Center Back
Michael Parkhurst

Center Back
Jordan Burt

Right Back
Matt Reis



Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution) 

Clint is the best player in U.S. Soccer history. He was the best player that I ever played with from the moment I joined the Revolution. Even as a rookie, he dominated training sessions. Clint is very competitive and aggressive, but an extremely nice and down to earth guy off the field. I was honored to play with him for two years and am blessed to still call him a good friend.




Right Mid – Steve Ralston (New England Revolution) 

I played with Steve during my first two years as a pro and he was an amazing example of professionalism. Even though he was one of the best players in the MLS (and most experienced guys on our team), he was always positive, respectful and kind to us young players.

Defensive Mid – Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids)

I played with the Rapids Reserve team during my off seasons in 2012 and 2013 (2013 preseason as well). Pablo had concussion issues and wasn’t with the first team so he trained with us all the time. I always looked up to him as a player so it was extra cool to train alongside him. I could never get the ball from him.

Center Mid – Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution)

When I first got to New England, we had a practice session doing 1 v. 1's. I got matched up with Shalrie and he ate me up (almost literally). He was such a strong physical presence and force to be reckoned with. When we played against him in college, he played center back until his team needed a goal; then they’d put him up front and he would score and go back to defense again.

Attacking Mid – Sacha Kljestan (Seton Hall University) 
Current Team: Orlando City SC, MLS 

Sacha was a freshman at Seton Hall University when I was a senior there. He was so talented and fun to play with! He helped me lead the Big East in assists that season. He never lacked confidence, even as a freshman. I will never forget when we were hosting St. John’s and Sacha scored a sweet goal. He took off his shirt and celebrated right in front of the St. John’s bench (with our fans cheering behind them). The St. John’s bench was not happy, but Sacha was not even phased.

Left Mid – Joseph Ngwenya – (Cape Cod Crusaders (PDL) & Richmond Kickers) 

I played with Joseph in our second PDL National Championship season with the Cape Cod Crusaders in 2003. He scored 17 goals during that short summer season. He went on to win MLS Cups and the U.S. Open Cup before we ended up playing together again with the Richmond Kickers where we won the 2013 Regular Season. He was so talented and fun to play with!




Right Back – Jordan Burt (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC)

Jordan is the least experienced pro in my 11, but definitely deserving. He is the hardest-working, most determined player I’ve played with. If he is lacking anything in talent, he supersedes it in resilience. An example of this is how he tried out for 10 pro teams before he was finally offered a contract (and soon earned a starting spot!). As a right-sided defender; he led our team in goals (nine) last season and is leading the team again this year!

Center – Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution)
Current Team: Atlanta United FC, MLS

Mike is so calm and comfortable on the pitch. He brings tons of experience from Europe, USMNT, and MLS to strengthen the back line. Mike is a down to earth guy and a great leader. We played two years in New England together. I have never played with a player who reads the game and anticipates so well. Whenever we talk, he brings up the time before being drafted when we competed against each other in the PDL and how he got subbed off at halftime since he couldn’t keep up with me on the wing.

Center – Henry Kalungi, Captain (Richmond Kickers) 
Current Team: Charlotte Independence, USL

Henry would captain my Starting 11. He is a great player and a strong leader. I first met Henry in 2008 with the Richmond Kickers, when I drove him to practice every morning (he would get dropped off at my house from his host family at 6 a.m. and sleep on my couch until we left for training). Henry later became my captain for two seasons and lead us to a Regular Season Championship in 2013! Henry has also captained the Uganda National Team. He keeps a high work rate and positive attitude despite being held back from European stardom due to untimely injuries.

Left Back – Josh Suggs (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC)

Josh is the fastest and best Left Back in the USL and should be playing in the MLS. He has been our best player this season. Josh cannot be contained on the wing and has over 100 more crosses than the second place crosser in the USL this season.




Matt Reis (New England Revolution)

Matt was not only a great goalkeeper, but an awesome pro to play with. He is a really funny guy, a great locker room presence and character on any team.


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