Carlos Llamosa wanted to end his Major League Soccer career on his terms.
Early last year it looked like injury had gotten the best of him. Slow to recover from a bad knee, Llamosa and the New England Revolution parted ways in April.
Llamosa then left the United States for his native Colombia. The former U.S. international could have walked away from the game right then and few would have thought any less of him. But he felt strongly about something: It was not his time to leave.
"I felt that, even after my injury, I still had a lot of soccer left and that I could still contribute to a team here," Llamosa said after a recent Chivas USA training scrimmage. "I've been here many years and I felt that it would have been unjust to have left MLS like that, forced to leave with an injury."
Two years after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Llamosa is back in MLS, ready and willing to contribute. Llamosa joined Chivas USA on the first day of training camp with the goal of making the team and winning a starting spot. He accomplished half his goal when he signed with Chivas USA last week, officially becoming a member of the Red-and-White.
It marked the end of a two-year effort to return to MLS. Llamosa spent four months last year training with Colombian side Atletico Huila and playing in matches with the club's second-division side.
"For me it was a very positive experience. It helped me make an easy transition here," Llamosa said.
Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley had remained in contact with Llamosa and invited him to the club's preseason camp. It did not take long for Llamosa to show those around him that he could still be a valuable player.
"I always knew that he would still have defensive qualities. They don't go away," Bradley said. "He's not fast but he was never that fast. He reads things. He puts attackers on his terms. He knows how to slow guys down. For me, it was just a matter of seeing one, if he was healthy and two, if he was just really strong in terms of his motivation. I think he's shown both."
Llamosa has been a valuable member to his former employers. He won two MLS Cups with D.C. United and, after one year with the Miami Fusion, Llamosa joined New England in 2002 and helped guide the Revs to the MLS Cup Final that year.
In several preseason friendlies this year, Llamosa has been part of a three-man backline Bradley has employed. Llamosa, who appeared in two games for the United States in the 2002 World Cup, said his knee is healed. That has taken his focus off the injury and back onto where it should be: on the field.
"It's been practically a year now that I've been playing and the knee has not given me problems. The injury doesn't really concern me. What concerns me is trying to win a starting spot," Llamosa said. "There are very good and experienced players in the back so I have to show the coach every day that I can and want to be a starter."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.