Jimmy Conrad did not just exemplify success in MLS. He helped define it.
Now, the 13-year MLS veteran has called it quits, announcing his retirement last Thursday after health concerns following a concussion led him to hang up his boots for good.
Conrad left Chivas USA after having played only two games for this season, but it was during his time with the San Jose Earthquakes and Kansas City that he forged a reputation as one of the best defenders this league has ever produced.
While the durable center back will surely be missed (perhaps to everyone except opposing forwards), the four-time MLS Best XI has etched his name into the league’s record books by posting some impressive numbers. He finishes his career ranked 19th in total games played (290), 18th in games started (275) and 16th in total minutes (25,090).
In honor of the retirement of one of MLS’ best, we highlight three memorable moments in Jimmy Conrad’s MLS career.
MLS Cup 2001
Some players play their whole career without ever winning a title. It took Jimmy Conrad just three years to get his.
The UCLA product played in 16 games for the league’s stingiest defense, leading the San Jose Earthquakes to a 2-1 overtime victory over the LA Galaxy. A 21st-minute goal from Luis Hernández was all the Galaxy were able to muster as Conrad & Co. shut down MLS’ second-most potent offense.
A Dwayne De Rosario strike in the 96th minute ultimately earned the win for San Jose, handing Conrad his first and only MLS title. With a championship in his pocket, Conrad used that success to propel himself into the national spotlight when he made the move to Kansas City two years later.
Near treble in 2004
Anchored by the league’s best defense, the then-Wizards finished even on points with Columbus for the best record in the league and advanced to MLS Cup 2004.
Conrad had begun to emerge as a force to be reckoned with on the back line, starting 29 of 30 games for KC on his way to earning his first of three consecutive MLS Best XI honors and being named a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year.
An Alecko Eskandarian brace for D.C. United was the only thing that kept KC from a dream season, leading United to a 3-2 win over the Wizards in the MLS Cup final. In addition to winning the Western Conference and missing out on the Supporters' Shield by a mere tie-breaker, the Conrad-led Wizards also took home the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first and only time in club history.
Conrad was the epitome of a team player and his teams’ successes proved that, but it was only a matter of time before individual accolades were sent his way.
2005 MLS Defender of the Year
Conrad didn’t have to wait long. Despite a disappointing season that saw the Wizards finish in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, he was recognized as more than just a key defender: He was the best. After logging 25 games, more than 2,200 minutes and adding two goals and two assists, Conrad was named MLS Defender of the Year.
Even though he would probably tell you that the individual awards pale in comparison to the team accomplishments he earned, there’s no escaping the fact that his imposing defensive presence was an integral reason why his teams garnered so much success.
Though he will be leaving the senior level of professional soccer, Chivas USA fans can still breathe a sigh of relief. Conrad will begin working with Chivas’s youth academy in the hopes of passing on his knowledge and experience to the next generation of players.