Class of 2012
By David Hunt, KUSA/KTVD-TV
Allocated to the Colorado Rapids on February 5, 1996, prior to Major League Soccer’s first season, Marcelo Balboa paid immediate dividends in the team’s first-ever home game. Joining the club three days before the home opener, Balboa scored the Rapids’ first goal and netted two of the three goals marking their first win in history on April 21, 1996.
In 1997, Balboa helped lead the Rapids to the club’s first appearance in the MLS Cup at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, Colorado was unable to complete the magical run and fell 2-1 in the championship game to DC United. Balboa’s play during the regular season, however, earned him the team’s Honda Most Valuable Player Award and a starting spot for the Western Conference in the MLS All-Star game.
The “Iron Man” was a five-time MLS All-Star who started 146 of the 151 season games he played for the Rapids and is in third place all-time in both categories, as well as total minutes played, logging more than 13,000 minutes in his six seasons with the club. On May 30, 2001, Balboa established a milestone in MLS history by becoming the first defender to score more than 20 goals and 20 assists in his career.
The former Rapids team captain started playing the game in the American Youth Soccer Association in Southern California. After leading the San Diego Aztecs to the NCAA Tournament in 1988 and 1989, Balboa spent the next four years in the American Pro Soccer League with the San Diego Nomads, San Francisco Blackhawks and the Colorado Foxes. From 1995 to 1996, he played for Leon of the Mexican First Division before signing with the Colorado Rapids.Balboa made his first appearance for the U.S. National Team in January, 1988 when he played in a match in Guatemala. He went on to play in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups with Team USA and started 118 of 128 games which, at the time, was second all-time for the U.S. side. For all his great contributions to the sport, one of the most memorable moments in his career was his remarkable bicycle kick, that missed by inches, in the 1994 World Cup victory over Columbia. He was one of only five U.S. players to participate in every minute of the United States’ games in 1994.
Balboa, currently the Rapids’ color commentator on Altitude, has worked as the MLS analyst for HD Net, as well as ESPN analyst for the United States National Team games and soccer analyst for NBC Sports at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. He has coached for the Broomfield Blast Soccer Club and served as a volunteer coach at the Colorado School of Mines. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Trebol Soccer Club in Lafayette.
Balboa, who lives with his family in Boulder, was inducted into the “Colorado Rapids Gallery of Honor” on July 4, 2003.