CHESTER, Pa. – As a rookie with D.C. United in 2003, Brian Carroll worried he wouldn’t get a chance to play in any games.
Ten years later, the Philadelphia Union captain is preparing to play in his 300th MLS game – and back where it all began, no less.
On Saturday, when the Union take on host D.C. United at RFK Stadium (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), Carroll will become the 24th player in MLS history to reach the career milestone.
“We call him the iron man,” Union center back Amobi Okugo said. “The amount of running he does game in and game out is amazing. He’s one of the more underrated players in the league, but he doesn’t really care. He just goes about his business and that’s why he’s lasted longer than some other guys.”
Brian Carroll: A leader by example
Not surprisingly, Philly’s understated captain mostly downplayed the accomplishment, saying “it’s more about points and trying to get to the next stage of the season.” But the Virginia native did call it “extra special” that the game will be at RFK Stadium, where many family members will be there to “enjoy the milestone.”
It’s also special because that’s where his career began – inauspiciously, at first, when he failed to log any minutes throughout the 2003 campaign.
“Getting drafted to DC and being in my hometown was great, but I worked so hard and I didn’t get my number called during my rookie season,” Carroll said. “That part of my career made me appreciate the game more. I got my chance in my second year and I wanted to stay there. It just kind of developed into this and I’m thankful for it.”
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Carroll’s first MLS game came in the 2004 opener, and the steady holding midfielder has managed to play an average of 30 games in every season since then. And through stints with D.C. United (2003-07), Columbus (2008-10) and the Union, Carroll made the playoffs in every season but the last one in 2012, while winning two MLS Cups and four Supporters’ Shields.
Now, he hopes to guide the Union back into the postseason after a one-year absence.
“Brian has, in a lot of ways, been our rock,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “For me personally, there are very few guys in that locker room who have been more important.”
How many more games will the 32-year-old rock play before retiring? Perhaps he can make it to 400?
“That would be fantastic,” Carroll laughed. “That’s something to shoot for.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.