'I still think that there's more': Brian Carroll ready to return for 2017
|Union midfielder Brian Carroll, right, defending Columbus' Justin Meram |
in a game June 1, is preparing to return next year for his 15th MLS season
and seventh in Philadelphia, at age 35. (AP)
So when it came time to fulfill the journalistic duty of asking a 35-year-old player, one just two years younger than his coach and older than Jim Curtin was in taking over the Union, the answer seemed a mere formality.
“I still think that there’s more,” Carroll said.
With the season that the club captain put together, it’s hard to argue with that appraisal. It’s been clear for months that Carroll’s level of play warranted another season in MLS if he so chose. And Carroll confirmed Wednesday that retirement isn’t in the cards just yet.
“Obviously (I’m) getting up in age and it’s going to be a year-to-year thing at this point,” Carroll said. “I think I proved to myself that there’s a little bit more left in the tank, and I’d like to have a strong offseason and I’d like to contribute similarly next year. I didn’t know how much I’d be able to be called upon this year, but I think when I was called upon, I handled my end of the bargain and maybe exceeded my own expectations. I’m willing to put in the work, continue doing this next year and see how next year goes and make a choice after that.”
Rather quietly, Carroll assembled an extremely strong season. He played 26 games and started 23, both his highest totals since 2013. He logged more than 2,000 minutes for the 10th time in his illustrious career. And he didn’t look outpaced by improvements in an increasingly technical Union side.
Per WhoScored’s metrics, Carroll’s passing percentage dipped slightly to 82.2 percent. But he had his most combative season with the Union at 2.6 tackles per 90 minutes, up from 2.3 last year and 1.8 in 2014. That speaks to a simplified role for the No. 6, and when surrounded by playmakers, Carroll can be an important, steady cog focused on breaking up opponents’ attacking moves.
Carroll entered the season with modest expectations. When questioned Wednesday, he threw out numbers of “maybe … five starts and play in 10” games as a for-instance. But he played well enough to earn considerably more time, partially due to Maurice Edu’s injuries.
“It went better than that for me personally, and I will do the work to prepare to be ready for that type of role and then some,” Carroll said. “But if it’s less than that, if it’s more than that, I’m here to push the club forward and to make the club the best it could be.”
Even if he’s in line for a diminished role in 2017, he’s worth keeping around. Carroll is 10 games shy of passing Sebastien Le Toux for the all-time franchise lead (175) and 10 shy of 400 MLS games (regular and postseason) as he enters his seventh season with the Union and 15th overall.
Down the stretch of the MLS season, a bevy of veterans called it quits, including Carroll’s former Union teammate Conor Casey, Zach Scott, Brad Davis and Ned Grabavoy. Those four players logged a combined 2,856 minutes this year, the most among them Davis at 1,300. Each saw a decrease of at least 40 percent in their appearances from 2015, while Carroll’s increased 15 percent. It’s clear that his game didn’t decline in step with those of his newly-retired peers.
Carroll’s decision factors in two main queries: Is he contributing to the Union’s quest for success? And is he enjoying his craft? Curtin has testified repeatedly this season as to Carroll’s value. (And, to speculate, you’d imagine Carroll could play a coaching or front office role after his playing days.)
The second question is up to Carroll, and his answer is similarly decisive.
“I don’t dive too deeply into those kinds of decision-making processes,” Carroll said. “From ex-teammates to ex-coaches, the conversation comes up, and it’s usually, play as long as you can and enjoy what you’re doing. Right now, I’m still enjoying playing and still enjoying my role here, so I’ll do that as long as I’m enjoying it. And then when I don’t, it’s time to move on to the different part of the game.”