Adios, Captain America.

Posted on July 17, 2008

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I don’t have a lot of jokes about the end of Claudio Reyna’s playing days.  His retirement from MLS’ New York Red Bulls was a sad denouement for a trail-blazing career that bridged the gap between eras in United States soccer.

When Reyna came along in 1994, the US national team was still mainly comprised of college all-stars, indoor soccer players and the occasional aging foreign player who’d been grandfathered through immigration.  The threat that the US posed to other teams was low, and expectations were lower.  When the era that Claudio Reyna played in ended in 2006, that no longer held true.  In the intervening 12 years Reyna made a stop at the Rangers team in Scotland, wore the captain’s armband for the US so much that he became known as ‘Captain America’, and became the first (and to this day, only) American ever to be named to a World Cup Best XI.  All the sadder then, that such a glittery career ended as a member of MLS’ New York Red Bulls, felled by nagging injuries that he could not quite overcome.  Reyna deserved to go out with a glorious bang on his home soil, not the whispery decrescendo that reality served up.

His style of play wasn’t flashy- the best adjective you could apply to it would be ‘professional’- and he didn’t play a flashy position or score points by the bushel.  He was essentially a holding midfield for the majority of his career, content to distribute and organize.  His fluidity as a player belied his effort, and he came under criticism from some for what they perceived as a lack of aggression because of this.    

For me Claudio now enters an elite group, “Athletes I Irrationally Love For No Reason,” a group including Chris Redman, Mark Grace and DeJuan Wheat.  The search for a USMNT Claudio Reyna jersey begins…now.

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