CHESTER, Pa. – Over the past 15 years, Philadelphia Union defender Chris Albright has played in 235 MLS games, suited up for five MLS teams, won three MLS Cups and made three MLS All-Star teams.
It’s a legacy he’s now ready to leave behind.
Union manager John Hackworth publicly revealed for the first time, during his weekly press conference Wednesday, that Albright is planning to retire at the end of the season – which, barring an unlikely turn of events in which Philly sneak into the playoffs, will be Saturday when the Union play host Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (3 pm ET; NBCSN).
Hackworth also said the club is planning to honor the Philly native at the game.
“Looking at Chris’ whole career, it’s pretty impressive,” Hackworth said. “I’ve been glad to have him on our team, and I think it’s fantastic he will end his career in MLS, in Philadelphia, in front of his family and friends. We’re certainly going to do everything we can to honor him the right way, and he deserves it. I have a ton of respect for him and what he’s done, both for the club and for me personally.”
Albright has had a limited role with the Union since signing a two-year deal before the start of the 2012 season, playing 246 minutes last year and just four in 2013.
But the 34-year-old veteran of the US national team has been comfortable as a locker room leader and always wanted to finish his career in Philadelphia, where he grew up and first became a soccer star. There have even been times this season when Albright sat on the bench as a quasi-assistant coach when he wasn’t in the 18, perhaps providing a glimpse into his future.
Could that mean Albright will now become a full-time assistant coach with the Union, like fellow Philly native and recent MLS retiree Jim Curtin, or perhaps take on another role in the organization?
“I don’t know that yet,” Hackworth said. “Chris has got a lot of strengths and talents, so I have no doubt he will be successful no matter what the decision is to do. I certainly think a guy like him, with his roots in this community, is very valuable. But that remains to be seen.”
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Whatever he ends up doing next, Hackworth believes it will be a difficult transition, especially for someone like Albright who’s been a professional soccer player since 1999, through stops at D.C. United, the LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls and, of course, the Union.
“Having known players who have gone through it, it’s a big adjustment,” Hackworth said. “On the one hand, you’ve had this long, illustrious career and have done so many great things – but you have to change gears. You go from being a professional athlete to going into the workforce. That’s a hard adjustment for guys. Just the fact that you won’t be coming in and lacing up the boots and knocking a ball around for a living, that’s a big thing. But I think he’s preparing well for that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.