Veteran Union defensive midfielder Brian Carroll, a pillar of the team since arriving in 2011, announced Thursday that he will retire from playing after Sunday’s season finale against Orlando City.
Carroll, 36, who wore the captain’s armband for much of his time here, brings down the curtain on a career whose longevity is nearly unparalleled in MLS history.
Since his rookie season in 2003, Carroll has played in 370 regular-season games, 20 playoff games, and 27 U.S. Open Cup games. He won MLS championships with D.C. in 2004 and Columbus in 2008, and helped his teams record the league’s best regular-season record in four straight seasons (2005 and 2006 in D.C., 2007 and 2008 in Columbus).
Those successes allowed him to play in multiple editions of the CONCACAF Champions Cup and one campaign in South America’s prestigious Copa Sudamericana.
Along the way, he made eight appearances for the U.S. national team.
Union sporting director Earnie Stewart played with Carroll on that 2004 D.C. squad.
“Brian Carroll is a consummate professional, meticulous in his preparation, and a true icon in both Philadelphia Union and MLS history,” Stewart said in a statement issued by the Union. “His veteran leadership has meant so much for our young players both on and off the field, and the trophies that he has won in this league speak for themselves in terms of his quality.”
Carroll’s league games played is the fourth-highest in MLS history, behind Kyle Beckerman (430), Brad Davis (392) and Steve Ralston (378). His total of 30,778 minutes played is the sixth highest.
Perhaps Carroll’s most impressive statistic: He has never gotten a red card.
Carroll joked that his secret is “strategic yellow cards.” He has 57 of them.
“Maybe I should have gotten one or two [red cards], just to be able to look back on it and say that I did,” he said. “But just trying to play the game hard and play it the right way, and by doing that, hopefully I was able to fulfill my role and help the the team win trophies. And I was lucky enough to win a few.”
Carroll has been as influential in the locker room as on the pitch. He has a quiet personality, preferring to lead and teach by example. But the on-the-field part matters, too, and there’s little doubt that Father Time caught up to him toward the end of last season. He has not played a single minute this year in the league or Open Cup. His only playing time for the organization this year has been two appearances with Bethlehem Steel.
“I have some athletic ability, thank goodness, but I’m not the fastest or the tallest or the strongest,” he said. “What I brought was consistency and work ethic and fulfilling my role to the best of my ability. My doing that enabled other guys to fulfill their roles and succeed at their roles.”
Carroll said he and his family will move to Indianapolis, where his wife’s family is from, to become a financial planner.
On Sunday, the Union will salute Carroll’s contributions with a ceremony. Manager Jim Curtin said he will try to find a way to get Carroll on to the field during the game (4 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia+).
“He was a pioneer for the game in this country,” Curtin said. “I hope he’s not sitting in a cubicle, but if he is sitting in a cubicle, the door is always open to come back here and be a coach, because he has so much to give.”