A week ago, Jimmy Conrad mourned his departure from Sporting Kansas City, telling Major League Soccer's website that “finishing my career here … was always on the top of my list.”
On Thursday, he expressed a new goal: “Making [Chivas USA] as recognizable in MLS as Chivas Guadalajara is in Mexico.”
Conrad, the veteran defender from Temple City (Temple City HS) and UCLA -- and one of American soccer's great characters -- signed a two-year deal with the Goats, who grabbed him last week with the second selection in the league re-entry draft's second phase.
Conrad, 33, one of MLS's premier center backs into his 30s, spent eight years with the Kansas City Wizards, who rebranded as Sporting following the 2010 season. He'd hoped to remain in K.C. but didn't figure into the club's rebuilding project.
“I've given a big chunk of my career and life to this city and to this team,” the former U.S. national teamer (one of the few Americans to come out of the 2006 World Cup on a positive) told MLS's website last week. “To be able to say that I finished it here in front of the fans that have supported me for so long was first and foremost, and it would have been a great honor to be able to do so.”
He's a big capture for Chivas, which needs help all over the field, but especially along the backline. The four-time MLS Best XI selection (most recently: 2008) and 2005 MLS Defender of the Year figures to partner Michael Umaña in the middle of the Goats' defense when the season kicks off in March.
Conrad is one of the most literate, charming and funniest players in American soccer -- he's written for several publications, and I had the honor of using a piece of his in the debut issue of MajorLeagueSoccer Magazine 3½ years ago -- and he's a leader. He'll be a massive boost to a Chivas locker room that quieted down and lost leadership when Jesse Marsch and Claudio Suarez retired after the 2009 season.
Conrad on Thursday told Chivas' website that he was “excited to come to an organization with so much history behind the name. I think we have a lot to work towards, a lot to build on, but I think there are big pieces in place so that we can be successful next year. … My main goal is to make this a successful team around the league, on and off the field, and making a difference in the community. I want to make sure that everybody is happy to be part of the Chivas USA family, like I am.”