FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Steve Ralston acknowledged Tuesday night that he had been receiving signals from his body the last year or so that his career was nearing its end.
But he was hoping to play one last game Tuesday, a match that wound up being a 1-0 Revolution victory in the SuperLiga over Mexican side Monarcas Morelia, giving the Revs a three-game sweep of their group and setting them up for an early August semifinal at Gillette Stadium. Marko Perovic’s goal in the 62nd minute gave the Revolution their fourth straight 1-0 victory.
But legal complications prevented Ralston, 36, from suiting up with the team he joined in 2002 after coming in from Tampa Bay and helping to form the core of a team that played in four MLS Cup finals.
Ralston, who officially retired from Major League Soccer Tuesday night after 14 seasons as the league’s all-time leader in games played (378), assists (135) and minutes played (33,143), appears set to join the Houston Dynamo as an assistant to head coach Dominic Kinnear. Ralston had to retire as a player in order to take over for the outgoing John Spencer, who was named head coach of the expansion Portland Timbers.
“I was hoping to play the game tonight and I wanted to prepare for the game like I usually do and go about the game and enjoy it,’’ Ralston said. “Unfortunately some things came up and I wasn’t able to play in the game.’’
In a postgame conference, Ralston briefly recalled his eight years in Boston, thanking team owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, coach Steve Nicol, his family and his former teammates. Ralston said the time was right to hang up the boots and move into a new direction.
“I wish I could do it forever,’’ he said. “But Father Time has been telling my body the last couple of years, trying to give me hints, and I’ve obviously realized that it’s not as easy as it used to be. There are good days and bad days, and I feel like I just can’t do it anymore.’’
But, after coming back from a dislocated elbow he suffered last month, he did hope there would be one final chance to play with the last of his remaining teammates, Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis.
“I had hoped to,’’ he said. “Especially doing all of the rehab and wanting to get on the field and wanting to play in front of the crowd one more time. I would have loved that. But some things kind of came up that we didn’t know about and it was the kind of game that just couldn’t happen unfortunately.’’
Nicol was similarly discouraged that he didn’t have the opportunity to coach Ralston one last time.
“We wanted him to be a starter again and we wanted him to be captain,’’ Nicol said. “So that was disappointing for us also, but I certainly think it was disappointing for Steve. But it’s no surprise when you hear him talking. He spent most of the time talking about everybody else and not himself. That kind of sums him up.
“He said he enjoyed running and training every day. We enjoyed coming in and watching him every day. He’s a guy that I would call one of the originals. Steve Ralston’s as good a player as we’ve had at this club ever.
“He just doesn’t do anything wrong,’’ added Nicol. “Everything he does is right. He’s a great pro, he scores goals at the right time, he helps the younger guys. We always talk to the older core of guys to look after the younger guys coming through and he was at the top. He was the first guy to say welcome, get them some good advice, give them a smack in the back of the head if they needed it. So we are really disappointed that we are losing him completely. Somebody is going to get the benefit of a great person. Certainly he was a great player and I’ll be shocked if he’s not a great coach.’’
Goalkeeper Matt Reis also expressed dismay that Ralston was retiring, but heaped high praise on his longtime teammate.
“It came so sudden,’’ said Reis. “It’s a sad day for myself. I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of great players like Mauricio Cienfuegos, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Carlos Hermosillo, and I think Steve Ralston’s up there with all of them. It’s been a pleasure. There’s really not enough things I could say positive about him. I know going forward he’ll be a great coach and he’ll be able to mentor a lot of our young players.’’