Former DC phenom Quaranta prepares for life after soccer

WASHINGTON —­ After 11 seasons in MLS, Santino Quaranta decided that it was time to call it a day on his professional playing career.

At just 27 years old, he's at an age many believe to be the prime of a soccer player’s career. But for Quaranta, who entered the league at just 16, the realization was an easy one: it's time to try something new.

“Everybody expects you to continue playing until you can’t,” Quaranta told MLSsoccer.com. “It was the easy thing for me to do [to keep playing] because of the money that was there, everything that came along with it. Now for me, it’s a step down into the real world, right?”

The decision, ­which Quaranta said “didn’t happen overnight,” was spurred in part by D.C. United declining his option for 2012. That left Quaranta available to keep playing through the Re-Entry draft, and he said five teams all had made concrete offers to keep him in MLS.

GOAL: Quaranta volley ties it
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But instead of taking that road, Quaranta opted to retire and pursue a new avenue in life. It’s a direction that will give him more time to devote to his Baltimore-based youth club, Pipeline SC, and work in the field of helping those overcome drug addictions.

Originally drafted by D.C. back in 2001, Quaranta played in the nation’s capital in all but two of his 11 MLS seasons, with brief stops in LA and New York. He won an MLS Cup in 2004 with United, and looking back on his playing career, he was content with what he’d achieved on and off the field.

“At the end of the day I didn’t have any more I felt like I need to accomplish," he said. "I was very content with the amount of stuff I’ve done, the people I’ve come across, the relationships I’ve created with a lot of people."

His well-documented battle with addiction to painkillers nearly ended his playing days back in 2007, but he overcame his struggles and returned to D.C. a year later. Quaranta resurrected his career and­ even scored for the US national team during a match at RFK Stadium in the 2009 Gold Cup.

Along with working in youth soccer, Quaranta plans on doing work in the recovery business to help those overcome addiction like he did. He said that he has something in the works already, although it wasn’t finalized enough to go into detail about it.

The former youth phenomenon is also looking forward to a continued working relationship with the team that gave him a second chance.

“I think at some capacity I’ll always be involved with D.C. United somewhere down the line,” he said. “We ended things on great terms, they’re real special people to me. Their youth system has come a long way, and ­ I’ll be doing a lot of stuff with youth soccer. I’ve got a lot to give back to these kids.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.