Carroll the right man to lead charge in 2013

Stalwart midfielder Brian Carroll ready to lead by example

Nothing will change.

For 10 seasons, two MLS Cups and four Supporters Shields, everything in Brian Carroll’s game has stood pat.

In the locker room after a win or a loss, Carroll’s demeanor is the same: sitting quietly in his stall, as euphoria or despair from others in the room dance all around him. He sits with a daze until interrupted, reflecting on the 90-plus minutes that just transpired. If there is emotion, you don’t see it. If there is frustration, he won’t tell you.

It’s just not the way Carroll’s built; and that’s just the way everyone likes it.

Elected captain of the club ahead of the 2013 season, Carroll’s steady resolve will be counted on to bring stability to a Union corps eager to get back to winning ways and return to the playoffs, a place Carroll missed for the first time since the Springfield, Va. native arrived in MLS as the 11th overall pick for D.C. United in the 2003 SuperDraft.

“It’s an honor to officially wear the armband, but so there are so many good players and good leaders on this team it’s really going to be another team effort and guys having input,” he said. “I’ll just try to do the best job that I can, it’s not going to mean that I am going to change completely who I am just because I officially the captain.”

Appointing Carroll as team captain was unanimous among the guys in locker room, like midfielder Amobi Okugo, who has learned a great deal from him in a short span of time.

“It’s great having BC as captain,” said midfielder Amobi Okugo, who played alongside Carroll in his first two seasons before making a move to center fullback last season. “He’s a great leader by example and the obvious choice of being our captain.”

Carroll has one two MLS Cups, one with D.C. United in 2004 and with Columbus during the 2008 campaign. His ironman status started early his career as he still holds the second-longest consecutive match streak in MLS history (90), which came to an end on Sept. 23, 2006. Carroll, 31 has eight caps with the U.S. men’s national team and in each one USMNT emerged with the result.

Watch: Carroll equalizes in 118th minute against D.C. United in 2011 Open Cup

It’s not too say that it was a direct correlation of Carroll’s presence that bred success in those matches.

And would anyone come out and ever say that directly? Perhaps not.

But indirectly, few could argue such a notion.

“Brian has certainly earned this opportunity through his actions and his character,” said Union manager John Hackworth on the appointment of Carroll to Union captain. “He exemplified fantastic vigor last year in the way he supported [former Union captain] Carlos Valdes.”

And being Hack’s captain in his first full season at the helm?

“A lot of good work has been done to put this club in the right direction,” Carroll said. “He’s made it very clear what he wants and how he wants things done and he’s sticking to that and that sends a very clear message to everybody on how to play and how things are going to be run. I really feel it puts us in the best position to succeed and as a player that’s all you can ask for.”

So who is Brian Carroll?

He’s the guy who shakes everyone (and really, anyone's) hand before he goes into the locker room.

He’s the guy who shagged soccer balls gone awry for the rest of the team during a crossbar challenge last Friday at preseason training.

He’s a guy with aspirations in financial planning once his playing career comes to a close, but for now he is the guy leading the charge for the Union when it opens at home on March 2 against Sporting Kansas City.

Watch: Carroll reads to kids at Aston Public Library

“It’s really about being about myself and trying to help the team improve,” said Carroll. “Our team has a lot of goals. Every team has the ultimate goal [of winning MLS Cup], but the foundation is being laid right now; there are some good new faces coming into the club and we have very good players that have 2-3-4 years of experience now under their belt. And it would be a combination of all those factors that will get us back into the top section of the East.”

There is a true sense of urgency from the Philadelphia Union to come out firing this season. Perhaps not for any person more that its captain. It's maybe the one and only thing readily recognizable at first glance in the way he’s performed so far this preseason.

“We don’t want to be gradual, we want to start off and do as well as we can and jump as fast as we can out of the gates,” said Carroll. “If we are able to do that it would be tremendous as obviously everyone wants to do that after last season. It’s going to very difficult, but it’s all about keeping the peaks and valleys from being too high or too low. We do that and hopefully at the end of the year we’ll be in the right position.”

Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com