MLSsoccer.com continues its look back at the stars, personalities and cult heroes who made Major League Soccer what it is today. Our third annual “What Ever Happened To..." series rolls on with former MLS Rookie of the Year and golden-goal playoff hero Rodrigo Faria.
Where He Was Then
He only played seven games for San Jose, but Rodrigo Faria still managed to make his mark on Earthquakes history like few others have. His sudden-death overtime strike off a feed from Landon Donovan completed the team’s epic comeback from a 4-0 aggregate deficit against the archrival Galaxy in the 2003 Western Conference semifinals. But that was his only goal for the Quakes, and it was the last in his professional career.
Originally picked 13th overall by the MetroStars in the 2001 SuperDraft, Faria enjoyed two highly successful seasons on the East Coast. He netted eight goals in his rookie season – tying a then-record for first-year players – a feat that earned him Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2002, Faria went on to score 12 goals for the MetroStars, leading the team in scoring, though the Metros failed to make the playoffs. Despite his success in New York, he was shipped to the Chicago Fire in an unorthodox swap for head coach Bob Bradley and, midway through 2003, arrived in his last MLS stop, San Jose, where he scored the now-famous goal against the Galaxy.
Where He Is Now
WATCH: Faria, Quakes make miracle comeback
Though Faria and Donovan are forever linked by the greatest comeback in MLS history, the latter went on to cement his status as perhaps best player in US soccer history, while the former never played another game as a pro. Ten years on, though, the two are still linked in Faria's native Brazil.
These days, Faria, now 35, is back in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro and has opened a sports marketing business that works closely with clients in a number of sports – most notably, the most popular soccer team in Brazil, Flamengo. It’s a job that puts him very much in the sports business world that he found himself so frustrated with when finances prevented him from sticking in MLS, but one that he has adapted to quite well.
“Most of the people there are elected, like the president and vice president of the club,” he explains casually. “So I set up meetings, participate, give them advice on marketing, the teams, the players.”
His experience in the US has given him a unique perspective and admiration for a number of players that might not be on the radar of a team like Flamengo. Most notably, Donovan, who Faria calls “one of the best players I’ve ever played with” and says club officials have asked him about with regards to his playing situation.
The idea of Donovan donning the red-and-black may be a bit far-fetched, but it’s a definite sign of the respect Faria’s famous former teammate has garnered even as far south as Brazil. And while Faria has his own business that keeps him involved in the sports world, he continues to split his time with the cleaning and conservation service that has kept his family afloat for more than 60 years.
Family has always come first for Faria, and it’s what prematurely ended his once promising MLS career. He spent the majority of that MLS Cup 2003-winning season coping with the death of his father, which caused him to miss two months of the campaign. Faced with the prospect of another season making small rookie-contract wages, he knew he was needed back home.
“I realized I would never make all this money before my 30s,” Faria, explains. “My family always had a very decent business, so I didn’t need to play soccer to make myself comfortable. I knew so many players who were making much more money than me. So I came to the decision, I’m going to go back to Brazil, and I’m going to retire.”
Faria says he’s satisfied with the direction his career has taken since leaving MLS, but he’s still frustrated by the thoughts of what could have been, including a dream to eventually play for the US national team – a prospect which he claims then-head coach Bruce Arena had discussed with him after some particularly impressive performances with the MetroStars.
“I still dream about my career and MLS,” he explains. “All my love of the game, all my love went to playing soccer. It was a dream for me, I was happy, but when my father passed away, I had to make choices.”
What They Said
“The biggest thing that stood out for me was his smile. He had a big smile on his face, he played with a twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed the game, he enjoyed playing and was competitive, pacy and a good finisher. We enjoyed having him for the short amount of time we had him.”
– Frank Yallop, San Jose Earthquakes head coach