Major League Soccer is losing one of the best defenders and possibly the liveliest personality in its history today, as Chivas USA defender Jimmy Conrad will announce his retirement in a press conference at the Home Depot Center this afternoon.
Conrad suffered a concussion on March 26 and has had persistent headaches since the injury. He cited those, along with concerns about his future, in his decision to hang ’em up at age 34, after 12 seasons in the league. He will join the Chivas USA coaching staff.
A former walk-on at UCLA, Conrad is, with the exception of Jay DeMerit, the most self-made U.S. soccer star of the past two decades. He went undrafted by MLS, despite being a member of the Bruins’ 1997 NCAA championship team, and latched on with the San Diego Flash of the A-League. From there, he scraped and clawed his way into MLS, onto the U.S. national team, and into the 2006 World Cup, where he appeared in the U.S.’s 1-1 draw with eventual champions Italy, and went the full 90 in a 2-1 loss to Ghana.
Conrad captained the U.S. team twice and made 27 appearances in total, scoring one goal.
Here’s Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser talking to ESPNLA’s Scott French about Conrad:
“It seems like this is a sad thing, that Jimmy’s retiring. But really it’s a celebration of a fantastic career. You talk about your self-made players, he’s just worked and worked and worked and gotten himself to where he’s been one of the best defenders in league history, went to a World Cup.
“You just can’t say enough about his career. The fact that he is choosing to leave on his own terms is fantastic.”
We had the chance to interview Conrad on a couple of occasions, including this one right here, when Conrad was in camp with the U.S. national team in January 2010.
He talked about the young U.S. players on the rise, the difference between club games and international play, and of course the Goonies, Mikhail Gorbachev’s forehead birthmark, and Diff’rent Strokes.
Please go give it a read, in salute to a player who embodied the best of MLS in its first two decades.