Lingering knee injury shuts down Fire's Gibbs for good

First, the injury bug forced Cory Gibbs to miss the 2006 World Cup. Then, it kept him from playing for two full seasons in the prime of his career. Finally, a knee injury forced him out of the game, after recovery from a torn meniscus early this season simply became too much.

The 32-year-old Chicago Fire defender announced his retirement on Monday, ending a 12-year career that included stops in the Germany, the Netherlands, England and MLS.

But shortly after returning to his home in West Palm Beach, Fla., Gibbs said he doesn’t feel unlucky.

“I’ve been blessed in more than one way,” Gibbs told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday. “I’ve played at the highest level. … I think the timing of my injuries have been very unlucky, that’s the most hurtful part. The extent of my whole career, I’ve held my hand up and I’ve been very proud of what I’ve done and I’m looking forward to my next adventures.”

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Gibbs’ latest injury came in practice on April 4. He had surgery to repair his torn meniscus the next week, when doctors also performed microfracture surgery. The 32-year-old expected to be back in four to six months, and his recovery looked on pace when he returned to Chicago in July after a rehab stint in Florida.

But Gibbs had multiple setbacks. By the end of the season, he said he was only at 60 percent health, and rehab was doing long-term damage to his knee.

“I just said, ‘It’s too much for me. The injury has gotten the best of me, and I need to start thinking about the quality of life,’” Gibbs said. “The basics of walking up and down the stairs without pain, being able to squat without pain, stand on one leg without pain – the little things I need to do to get through daily activities – I haven’t even gotten to that point yet.”

Coming into the 2012 season, Gibbs was prepared to play two or three more seasons after earning the Fire’s 2011 Defender of the Year award during an almost injury-free season.

It just wasn’t to be, as his playing days came to an abrupt end. But his career in soccer certainly isn’t over, and he isn’t even planning on taking much of a break – by next season, Gibbs hopes to be a coach, technical director or scout for an MLS team.

“I’m home right now, but I don’t want to stay here for long,” he said. “I definitely want to stay in MLS and definitely want to work in the league. I definitely have a love for Chicago. I’ve spoken to them, and hopefully something will work out. But I’m leaving options open in terms of either coaching, being a head scout, a technical director, or anything in that element to work with a club.”