Longevity is rarely used to describe a MLS player’s tenure in the league. Take into account the league has only been in existence for 20 years, to see a player who has been in MLS for 14 of those years is nothing short of remarkable. Only five outfield players in MLS history have reached the 350 games played mark.
On Saturday, Brian Carroll could become the sixth.
It should come as no surprise that Carroll has been the posterchild for consistency. The No. 11 overall pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft started in all 61 games he appeared in college at Wake Forest. He was captain for the Demon Deacons in two of the three years he was there.
So what is it about him that gives him this ability to be reliable week after week? According to Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin it’s his gift between the ears.
“His soccer IQ I would put up against anyone in MLS right now, I’d say it’s as high. It comes with the experience: 350 games,” Curtin said. “He was a smart player, though, in his early years, too. So the addition of going through 350 of these battles, it’s something you can’t replicate.”
Despite the attention of approaching this milestone, Carroll himself has stayed focused on the task at hand. The two-time MLS Champion made the postseason in his first nine seasons in the league, culminating in 2011 with Philadelphia in what is the club’s lone playoff appearance in franchise history. It is quintessential Brian Carroll, that while the feat itself is incredible, the ultimate goal is leaving Seattle with a win.
“That’s pretty cool company, and it’s a pretty cool accomplishment,” Carroll said. “But right now it’s about enjoying playing and getting the win Saturday and continuing to do well this season. I’ll think about that when I’m done playing.”
Being a true ambassador for an organization is a responsibility that isn’t easy. The ability to say the right words, having the respect of your teammates and coaches is a quality that is earned, not given. Leading by example for 349 games is exactly what Carroll has done. He is the longest-tenured member for the Union. He has worn the captain’s armband in each of the last six seasons. Through five games on the 2016 campaign, Carroll is one of just three players for Philadelphia to have played every minute this season.
Players, coaches and fans should appreciate Brian Carroll for his durability and leadership, but most of all his professionalism. The Brian Carroll’s of the world are far and few between. Curtin summed it up perfectly at his weekly presser this Wednesday.
“First and foremost, if you wanted to say this is how I want my son to be, that’s Brian Carroll.”