Eddie Pope started his MLS journey to becoming one of the greatest defenders in league history on this day in 1996. After a successful collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, D.C. United selected Pope second overall, making him their first ever draft pick out of college. Pope quickly made a reputation for himself as a fearsome figure in the heart of defense for the Black-and-Red. The defender went on to become a key contributor in the coming years, helping United create the first MLS dynasty.
Throughout his storied career, Pope established himself as one of the best defenders in MLS history. The North Carolina native consistently shutdown opposing strikers with his ability to read the game and disrupt the flow of play. As a member of the Black-and-Red, Pope brought determination and tenacity to United’s backline, helping them become one of the most successful clubs in the league. With his athletic ability, Pope was able to contain some of the best strikers in MLS. The defender had the speed to keep up with pacey strikers, the strength to hold off the powerful strikers, and the aerial ability to jump with the larger strikers, making him a nightmare to strategize against.
While Pope was a rock on the defensive side, he also showed a knack for scoring important goals for the Black-and-Red. In the 1996 MLS Cup final, Pope etched his name in the history books by scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the LA Galaxy to give United their first ever MLS Cup. In the 1998 Copa Interamericana, the defender once again displayed his late-game heroics by scoring a clutch goal to give United a 2-0 victory in the final against Brazilian side, Vasco Da Gama.
In seven seasons with D.C. United, Pope made 166 appearances scoring 11 goals and recording 11 assists in MLS competition. As a member of the Black-and-Red, Pope made MLS Best XI twice (1997, 1998), five All-Star appearances (1997-2000, 2002) and earned 1997 Defender of the Year honors. With Pope leading United’s backline, the Black-and-Red won the US Open Cup (1996), CONCACAF Cup (1998), Copa Interamericana (1998) and three MLS Cups (1996, 1997, 1999). After leaving United in 2002, Pope went on to have a successful career for both club and country and following his retirement, the defender was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.