CARSON, CA - MARCH 26: A turning point? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
We are continuing the series reviewing the 2011 season for Chivas USA fans here at The Goat Parade, and today's entry is Jimmy Conrad. His tenure with Chivas was cut short, sadly, because of injury, and for the most part we are left to wonder what could have been this season with Conrad and Heath Pearce being the experienced additions to the defense. As it was, Pearce ended up having a terrific first season, despite moving into Conrad's position, and Ante Jazic's strong season at left back helped cushion the blow a bit. Still, with Jazic, Conrad and Pearce, could Chivas have gotten additional points this season?
Conrad only played in the first two matches this year. First, on March 19 he started against his former club, Kansas City, which had been rebranded as Sporting Kansas City following his departure in the offseason. Chivas lost that match 3-2 in a wild game, and while the defense was very shaky in that match, Conrad got a goal. It looked like a mixed, but promising, start for Conrad's career with the Goats.Conrad's final match as a player came the following week, March 26, against the Colorado Rapids. Chivas lost 1-0 on a breakaway goal by Quincy Amarikwa, when Chivas failed to hold a steady line and Amarikwa blew through the botched offside trap. More significantly for Conrad, however, was that he sustained a concussion during the match, when Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens punched Conrad in the head while attempting a clearance. Conrad finished the match, but it signaled the end of his career.
Following the concussion, Conrad went through the procedures that are becoming increasingly standard in MLS. Awareness about the impact of multiple concussions on athletes has become more widely known in the past few years in all contact sports, and MLS has tried to establish protocols for clubs to deal appropriately with concussions. With the premature ending of playing careers to Taylor Twellman and Alecko Eskandarian, among others, and the highly publicized impact of concussions on Twellman's everyday life even after retiring, the severity of concussions has begun to reach a critical mass this season. In the first couple of months following Conrad's concussion, it appeared that he would recover and eventually return to the lineup. At one point, Conrad himself believed he was ready to return, but a setback kept him out of the squad. Although he was private about his struggle until his press conference where he announced his retirement in August, he struggled for some time with not only the physical symptoms, but also the indecision of whether he should further risk his health by playing. As I wrote at the time of his retirement, I think he ultimately did the right thing, as he has a young family and should seek to have the best quality of life as he can following retirement.
Conrad was appointed to the coaching staff of the Chivas Academy, and he has been working in television for Fox, mostly in the studio but also as a color commentator. With Conrad's obvious intelligence and wit, he seems destined to have a successful career as a commentator, but he obviously needs to pick the path he is most passionate about. His tenure as a player with Chivas was regrettably short, but he was always a professional, and Chivas, as well as American soccer, will miss his contributions as a player.