CARSON, Calif. – Calling it a career and leaving a game you’ve been playing for almost 30 years normally would be a difficult decision for most athletes, but not the LA Galaxy’s Chris Klein.
He knew it was time to go.
The 34-year-old, preparing for his final regular-season game on Sunday against FC Dallas at The Home Depot Center, realized before the start of this season there was a good chance it was going to be his last, and he has no regrets about his recent decision to call it a career and enter the next chapter of his life.
“It’s never an easy decision to make,” he said, “but I believe it’s the right time to step away and do something else. I’m very thankful for the past 13 years that I’ve played professionally. This is something I’ve been doing since I was five.
“It’s going to be an adjustment, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Klein, who began his 13-year MLS career when he was drafted fourth overall by the Kansas City Wizards in the 1998 college draft, ranks fifth in MLS history with 332 career regular season games played. He also owns the league mark for consecutive games played at 141 and consecutive starts at 118.
The Indiana University product started every regular season game that his teams played from June 11, 2005 until April 11, 2009, a streak that ended on April 18, 2009 when the Galaxy tied the San Jose Earthquakes 1-1. His consecutive games streak came to a close on Sept. 26, 2009 when he was an unused substitute in a 2-0 loss at Columbus.
Klein also has 22 caps with the U.S. national team, for which he made his debut in a 2-0 victory over Mexico in Los Angeles on Oct. 25, 2000.
“He’s had a great career,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who gave Klein his international debut nearly a decade ago, “and he’s going to do well in his next career, whatever that is.”
Klein, who said he hopes to stay with the Galaxy organization in some capacity, said he would like fans and teammates – present and past – to remember him for how much pride he took in how he played.
“For fans, I’d like for them to remember me for playing the game the right way,” Klein said. “That I gave everything I had every time I was on the field. With my teammates, mostly that I cared for them in a different way.”
No problem in that regard, said current teammate Mike Magee.
“The effect he’s had on this team you can’t really put into words,” he said. “He did kind of the same thing in Kansas City … he was a mainstay for them and one of the best players in this league.
“He was obviously your stereotypical iron man, played in every game, kind of brought leadership and good things to the locker room for many years, more than any other guy has.
“He’s accomplished things in this league that might not happen again.”
Klein said he took special pride in his longevity, but he also admitted he didn’t particularly want to talk about it. Until now.
“Now I guess I’m at a point of reflection to look back and think of starting and playing that many games in a row,” he said. “I’m thankful to God that I was able to be healthy for that long. To have two major knee surgeries, to be able to come back and put together that many games in a row I’m thankful for it.
“It’s something that I’m proud of.”
Klein said he always will remember the camaraderie with his teammates and being in the locker room on a daily basis. There is little in the game he did not enjoy – with two notable exceptions.
“I won’t miss the possibility of being traded,” he said. “I know there’s uncertainty in life. I also won’t miss time away from my family, although with my next career you never know.
“I won’t not miss a whole lot.”