CHESTER, Pa. – For Chris Albright, the best moment of his soccer career wasn’t winning one of his three MLS Cups, or making one of his three MLS All-Star teams, or even being called up to the US national team.
No, the best moment of his career came during pregame introductions of a game his team lost last March.
That’s because, as he walked out of the tunnel at PPL Park for that game – the Philadelphia Union’s 2012 home opener – the Philly native was finally playing for his hometown team. And he finally felt complete.
“Walking out with my kids for the home opener here in Philly, that to me stands out the most,” Albright told MLSsoccer.com. “Just because it sort of signifies the full-circle experience of my career. And I’m really appreciative.”
It only made sense, then, that PPL Park also served as the place of Albright’s retirement ceremony, which was held on Saturday before the Union hosted Sporting Kansas City in their final game of the 2013 season.
That, too, was a special moment for Albright, as he was presented with a framed jersey and watched a video tribute featuring comments from his friends Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry and Ben Olsen, among others.
“Honestly, I thought I was going to be a blubbering idiot and I was able to keep it together,” Albright said. “But it was incredible. I’m really thankful for the organization putting on something like that. I really wasn’t expecting that.”
By the time he walked onto the field for Saturday’s retirement tribute, Albright already had ample time to prepare for the reality that his soccer career was over. He said he knew before the year began that the 2013 season would be the last of his 15 seasons in MLS.
The next few days, weeks and months still won’t be easy for him, though.
“I’m excited about the future but I know I’m going to miss the game and miss competing with the guys,” Albright said. “I think I’m going to miss the locker room the most.
"The interaction you get day to day – that’s an atmosphere that is unlike any other working environment in the world. It’s a sacred place of bad language and all kinds of stuff you could never pass as politically correct anywhere else. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”
While Albright won’t be in another locker room as a player, he still might get the chance to remain with the Union organization and settle in Philly with his family for the long-term.
He’s just not yet sure when that will be or in what capacity.
“We’ll see what’s on the horizon,” he said. “I’d like to [stay]. I’m hopeful we’ll get something solved.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.