When the Union traded for midfielder Brian Carroll on the very day expansion draft protection lists were due, the technical staff knew they’d have to leave yet another player unprotected. Manager Peter Nowak decided to pull the trigger anyway for one reason in particular: his newest acquisition is a proven winner.
In fact, all Carroll has done in his MLS career is win. Nowak inserted Carroll as a fixture in his starting XI upon taking the reins at D.C. United in 2004. Carroll responded by helping his new manager win an MLS Cup title that same season. Carroll then went on to capture Supporters’ Shields with United in 2006 and 2007 before finding his way to Columbus in 2008. Remarkably, Carroll extended his streak to four consecutive Supporters’ Shields after the Crew finished atop the MLS regular season standings in 2008 and 2009 (Carroll also won his second MLS Cup title in 2008). Since joining MLS as the 11th overall pick in the 2003 SuperDraft, Carroll has never missed the playoffs.
Now with the Union, Carroll will attempt to help Philadelphia earn their first-ever playoff appearance in 2011. The Union are stocked with natural holding midfielders like Stefani Miglioranzi, Amobi Okugo, Andrew Jacobson and Eduardo Coudet, but Carroll figures to be inserted as a stalwart in front of the backline. For his part, the Wake Forest product hopes to fit in and do whatever is necessary to make the Union as successful as his previous clubs.
“(I see myself as) another solid person who is willing to do anything that he can to help the team,” Carroll told philadelphiaunion.com over the phone on Tuesday. “(I hope to) bring leadership and provide experience so we can get some more wins and make sure we qualify for the playoffs, where anything can happen.”
Carroll certainly knows how a playoff roster should be constructed. And while the 29-year-old has yet to even train with his new teammates, his initial outlook for the Union is positive.
“We have a solid group starting with [Danny] Califf in the back, and I played with Stefani in Columbus for a few years,” he said. “There is a lot of youth as well up top and in the midfield, and some quality players that I have played against through the years like Justin Mapp. Le Toux came on strong last year coming over from Seattle. So, the pieces are there. We just need to come together as a group during the preseason and see what else Peter and the coaching staff are trying to add to the squad to push us to the next level.
“I’m excited to get (to Philadelphia) and join the guys on the team and see if I can help us take the next step and hopefully make the playoffs.”
[inline_node:288345]While Philadelphia is a new destination for Carroll, he’s no stranger to the East Coast as a native of Springfield, Virginia. Calling the offseason move a homecoming would be inaccurate, but it’s clear that there’s a certain comfort level already in place.
“I’m an East Coast boy,” Carroll explained when asked to describe his impressions of Philadelphia. “I grew up around D.C. and I have heard the stories of Philly fans. The Sons of Ben seem to be an amazing group of supporters and fans, so I am excited to do anything I can to make their experience coming and supporting us even better.
“I haven’t been to Philly much except for last year’s game, so I am excited to get into the city and see what it’s like. I know there is a lot of history and I would like to check that out at some point in downtown Philly. But other than that I don’t know too much about it. Some guys live around the Swarthmore and Media area, so I’m excited to see what the suburbs of Philly are like and get back to the East Coast, where I’m used to living.”
In addition to feeling comfortable in his surroundings off the field, Carroll would appear to have a leg up in terms of understanding the rigorous demands of Nowak. It certainly helps that the U.S. international is regarded as one of the hardest workers in MLS.
“Peter gave me my chance at D.C. and I was happy to be able to win a championship with him, under his leadership and his style of coaching,” Carroll said. “I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s coaching style and I think his coaching style gets the most out of his players. I am just looking forward to being coached by him, [John] Hack[worth] and Rob [Vartughian], and just enjoy becoming better as a player under him and trying to win another championship.”
It should come as no surprise, but apparently Carroll knows exactly why Nowak brought him on board.
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