CARSON, Calif. – What began for Chris Klein as a gut feeling in the preseason felt more and more right as the season progressed.
Klein has decided to turn the lights out on his career and will retire from playing following the culmination of the LA Galaxy’s 2010 season.
“I kind of knew coming into the year that this was probably going to be my last year,” Klein said. “It’s never an easy decision to make, but I believe it’s the right time to step away and do something else.”
Klein, 34, has played 10 games this season, easily the lowest output of his career. As a rookie in 1998, he played 16 games and logged 769 minutes for Kansas City but went on to become a fixture for the Wizards and Real Salt Lake before joining the Galaxy.
So much of a fixture was Klein that he set a league record for consecutive games played, having played 141 straight games. The streak was snapped when Arena opted not to play him in a league match at Columbus.
“I’m thankful to God that I was able to be healthy for that long, having in my career two major knee injuries and then to put together that many games in a row, I’m thankful for it and it’s something that I’ll be proud of," Klein said.
One of the longest-tenured Galaxy players, Klein is one of just four current players who were with the club during the 2007 season. He has played 79 games for Los Angeles and has scored two league goals, as well as a memorable bicycle kick against Pachuca in the 2007 SuperLiga final.
Klein began his career with Kansas City and before long was starring at right midfield. He earned his first cap with the US national team in 2000 and had 23 in all. He helped Kansas City win MLS Cup 2000 as well as the 2004 US Open Cup.
“Chris has been in MLS his whole professional career, has been part of championship teams, has been an All-Star, has had a great career,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He’s going to do well in his next move, whatever that is.”
After a brief spell with Real Salt Lake, Klein joined the Galaxy and added some stability when the roster was fluid and victories scarce. But he helped LA get back to the playoffs and reach MLS Cup in 2009.
Having the opportunity play with what he called a top organization with stellar support was a great way to culminate his career.
“Most of it starts with [Galaxy owner Phillip Anschutz] and the foundation that he set, not only for our league but for the team here in LA," Klein said. "That really marks everything we do here. Everything is first-class."
"That bleeds into our fan base. You can’t say enough about the fans here in Los Angeles. They’ve shown up when we were struggling and lately when we do well. That’s why we play the game — it's really for the fans, and we definitely feel we have some of the best fans here in LA.”
As far as his legacy, Klein said as long as his workmanlike approach to soccer and his unending energy is remembered, he’ll be fine.
“I’d like for [fans] to remember that I played the game the right way and gave everything I had every time I was on the field,” Klein said. “With my teammates, mostly that I cared for them in a different way. I met a lot of great people through my time with Major League Soccer.”