Veteran Carroll sees playoff streak end shy of a decade

Brian Carroll (right)

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CHESTER, Pa. – Brian Carroll felt a lot of emotions when he returned to Columbus last weekend and faced his former team at Crew Stadium for the first time since being traded to the Philadelphia Union prior to the 2011 season

But those emotions were nothing to what he felt after the game when a 3-2 Union loss mathematically eliminated Philly from playoff contention.

“It was more emotional actually being eliminated from the playoffs than being back in Columbus,” Carroll said.

That’s because never before in his 10-year Major League Soccer career has Carroll failed to make the postseason. The standout midfielder had previously gone to the playoffs with D.C. United from 2003-07, with Columbus from 2008-10 and with the Union last year, winning two MLS Cups in that span.

But now the impressive streak will come to an end, at nine seasons.

“Well, it’s weird,” Carroll said. “And disappointing. But you have to be a professional and you have to finish out the season strong. I see decent signs in our play pointing toward finishing the season strong to put us on the right track to be more successful and get back on that playoff track next season.”

No one would expect Carroll to finish the regular season in any other way. 

A consummate professional, the 31-year-old Carroll has been instrumental in leading a Union team that’s filled with players in their early 20s with little MLS experience.

Union manager John Hackworth said one reason why the Union have continued to play hard even when making the playoffs seemed impossible is because of Carroll. And that makes it extra upsetting to see his streak end.

“I think it’s disappointing for all of us because we feel like Brian deserves that recognition,” Hackworth said. “He’s been a quality player for his whole career and he has reached that level every season up until now because of his contributions and what type of player he is.”

Perhaps he'll be able to start a new streak in Philly in 2013?

That's certainly the plan.

“While we’re disappointed for him,” Hackworth said, “we’re looking forward to the future and making sure we resurrect that stat next year.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.