The 2005 season will be San Jose Earthquakes defender Troy Dayak's last in Major League Soccer. The MLS original will retire at the end of the season and become head coach of the expansion California Cougars of the Major Indoor Soccer League, which will be based in Stockton, Calif.
"I would like to thank the Earthquakes for allowing me the opportunity to play in front of my local fans for so many years," Dayak said. "I am ready for a change of seasons in my life and right now I think that this is the best option for my family and me. The most fond memories in my soccer career have been as a part of the Earthquakes family. I am focused right now on giving everything I have for the rest of this season to help bring another MLS Cup back to San Jose."
Dayak's new path will keep him close to his home, as the Tracy, Calif., resident has played all but one season in his 17-year professional career near the Bay Area. His career started at the tender age of 17 with the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks of the American Professional Soccer League, and when he joined MLS in 1996, he was traded to the San Jose Clash after being drafted by the MetroStars so he could be closer to the area.
In his eight seasons in MLS (he played in the United Soccer Leagues from 1999-2000), Dayak has become a fan favorite in San Jose and a menace to opposing strikers. Nicknamed "The Beast," Dayak has certainly played the part. On the field, he focused all of his energy protecting his team's goal and throwing himself into the mix on set pieces, but he has been most tenacious in his mostly successful attempts to overcome recurring injuries to his neck, legs and back.
Dayak was dealt an initial blow in 1996, suffering a herniated disc in his neck. He came back from that first injury in 1997, but re-injured his neck that same year and struggled to mount another comeback in 1998. Following the 1998 season, Dayak was released by the Clash and spent two years with the San Francisco Bay Seals of the A-League (now the USL First Division). He suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament in 1999 and overcame it to lead all A-League defenders in scoring in 2000, then returned to San Jose in 2001 to help lead the club to its first MLS Cup title, earning the league's Comeback Player of the Year award for his efforts. Dayak again led the Earthquakes to an MLS Cup Championship in 2003, despite further nagging injuries.
"He has been a great professional from the Bay Area for many years," said Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear, who also played alongside Dayak with the Clash in 1997. "We have been lucky to have him here all these years in San Jose and he has been a great ambassador for the sport. He has represented his country at every level and has had a very distinguished career in MLS."
Earthquakes President and General Manager Alexi Lalas called Dayak "one of the most physically dominating defenders" in MLS and Quakes assistant coach John Doyle, who was a teammate of Dayak with both the Blackhawks and the Clash, noted Dayak's importance in the annals of Northern Californian soccer.
"He has had a long and very successful career," Doyle said. "All of his roots are here in the Bay Area, and he grew up here and always wanted to stay and play here. He has been great for every local club that he has been on - the Blackhawks, Seals, Clash and Earthquakes."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.