The Los Angeles Galaxy announced on Tuesday that veteran midfielder Clint Mathis has decided to retire, thus putting an end to an illustrious 13-year professional career that included a brilliant goal in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
“It has been an amazing and exciting ride, full of moments and people that will stay with me forever,” said Mathis in a press release. “I cannot thank everyone who has been a part of this journey with me enough for all that you have done to help me enjoy such a fulfilling life in the sport of soccer.”
Mathis, a first-round pick for the Galaxy in the 1998 MLS College Draft, tallied five goals and 10 assists in his rookie season, establishing himself as one of the league’s rising talents as LA took home the Supporters’ Shield.
The midfielder’s talent caught the eye of then US head coach Bruce Arena, who gave Mathis his first international cap in a 0-0 draw against Australia. Mathis would go on to play 45 more matches for the US National Team, scoring 12 goals, the most memorable of which was a spectacular left-footed volley on the run against South Korea in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
After three seasons with the Galaxy, Mathis was shipped off to New York halfway through the 2000 season. That year, he completed a season double-double (16 goals, 14 assists), which included an MLS record-setting five-goal performance in a match against Dallas. Mathis also earned an All-Star nod and an MLS MVP nomination as the MetroStars finished first in the East and went on to the MLS Cup semifinals.
“Clint was a real talent capable of doing exciting things on the field, and along with his personality he brought some qualities that few American players have possessed,” said current USMNT head coach Bob Bradley, Mathis’ coach at New York in 2003.
In 2001, Mathis scored seven times in his first six games before suffering a season-ending injury. The injury slowed his production, but he was still impressive enough to earn interest abroad. In 2004, he saw his dream of playing abroad come to fruition when he signed with the Bundesliga’s Hannover 96. In two and a half seasons, he appeared 17 times and scored five goals for Hannover. But his stay in Germany was not without controversy. Clashes with the coach eventually led to a falling out with the club.
He returned to MLS in 2005 and landed with Real Salt Lake before moving on to Colorado in 2006. The next season, Mathis returned to New York, this time under the Red Bulls banner. Throughout his NY career, the midfielder scored 45 goals, a record just recently surpassed by Juan Pablo Angel.
At the end of 2007, Mathis briefly returned to LA, but in 2008 he went back to Salt Lake, where he spent two seasons and was an integral part of last year’s MLS Cup-winning side.
“I have always admired his unparalleled abilities on the field,” said Jason Kreis, Mathis’ teammate with Real Salt Lake and with the US, and his coach with Real Salt Lake. "He was a fantastic player, with a fantastic competitive spirit, and someone that has always been capable of making the really special plays.
“He was an integral piece of the rebuilding of our club here at Real Salt Lake since rejoining us in 2008, and was a huge factor in the changing of our competitive spirit. I am so pleased that he can retire knowing that he was part of something incredibly special and truly historic – a championship-winning team.”
Finally, in 2010, Mathis returned back to his MLS team of origin, a side with which he will play for one last time when the Galaxy take on Spanish giants Real Madrid in a friendly match to be held in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching Clint with both the National Team and in MLS with the Galaxy and Red Bulls and we will miss having his presence with the club for the rest of the season,” said Arena, now the Galaxy's coach. “He was as good a goal-scorer as our country has ever produced. We will miss Clint and are indebted to his contributions to MLS and US Soccer.”