CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Eddie Lewis arrived at The Home Depot Center early for Sunday’s Western Conference Championship like he always does, almost three hours ahead of the 6 p.m. kickoff.
But this time, something was different. He noticed it just as he began walking to the locker room.
“I got a flash like, ‘OK, last game at The Home Depot Center no matter what,’” he recalled after Sunday’s stunning 3-0 loss to FC Dallas that denied the Galaxy a spot in next Sunday’s MLS Cup against the Colorado Rapids at BMO Field in Toronto. “At the same time I had been taking on these games one at a time and I always had one eye on the big prize. It hadn’t really set in that this could be my last game. For some reason I was so focused on the game, so focused on what we were trying to do as a team that it hadn’t quite crept in yet."
“Certainly it’ll start now, I’m sure.”
Sunday marked the grand finale to an impressive career that spanned 15 seasons and more than 400 games in the U.S. and abroad, including two World Cups and 82 caps for the U.S. National Team. Along the way the 36-year-old earned more than his share of respect, not only for often brilliant play but his character and leadership.
It was no different Sunday as his Galaxy teammates sang his praise.
“I think when you look at someone like Eddie, now that you look back and reflect at what he’s meant to this team, what he’s meant to soccer and what he’s meant to this league, Eddie’s a guy that from the start of this league has helped it grow,” said Chris Klein, who also recently announced his retirement. “He’s one of the American players we looked at as having a successful career in Europe, and he brought that back here."
“The best thing for me is Eddie’s just a real classy, good guy. A good friend and a great guy to play with. It’s one of those things … obviously he’s ready but it’s never easy.”
Lewis was replaced by Jovan Kirovski in the 82nd minute on Sunday and later admitted he was unaware of its significance until in the postgame locker room because he was so wrapped up in the game.
Then it started to hit him, and hard. Not only for himself but the team as well.
“First and foremost I’m just another player and the fact that the Galaxy are out of this chance to win MLS Cup is extremely painful,” he said. “As everybody knows and we’ve demonstrated all year on merit we deserve to play for the championship. Soccer can be cruel in that way, and certainly like everybody else I’m devastated."
“On a slightly more personal level you never know how the game, the last moment, the last anything’s going to go. It’s going to end at some point, but you don’t necessarily know how. Ideally it would have been great to go out with an MLS trophy, but at the same time you’ve just got to make the most of each game and embrace the challenges. I think over my career I can feel very, very comfortable that I never backed away from any of those things,” he continued. “It’s left me in good standing and with an enjoyable career. I’m sure over the next few weeks I’ll be kind of emotionally up and down and coming to grips with it on all kinds of different levels."
“Certainly now it’s slowly setting in and getting more and more painful for sure.”
The Cerritos native said he’s going to take some time off, do some surfing, become a fan and “let the game bring me back” before he chooses his next career.
“Eddie Lewis is an amazing person, friend and teammate,” central defender Omar Gonzalez said. “Seeing him these past couple of weeks and seeing the passion in his eyes has been just incredible to me. His last game was tonight and he played it like he had never before.
“We’re going to miss him.”