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Jimmy Conrad

The Case for Jimmy Conrad


Jimmy Conrad made his return for the United States in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Haiti. Conrad had been left out of the previous 27 US match squads, a remarkable statistic for such a gifted player with unique leadership skills.

Conrad’s solid organization and play helped to save a result for the United States against a superior Haitian side, Saturday. With three inexperienced international defenders alongside him, Conrad showed a veteran savvy and understanding of the Haitian attack that prevented the opposition from scoring more than two goals.

Conrad is a savvy veteran. I’ve been watching him since his debut with the San Jose Clash (now Quakes) in the late 1990s. I had also read from message boards that he had been fantastic in the A-League (now USL-1) for the San Diego team.

That Clash team wasn’t very good but Conrad always had a positioning sense as a defender that I thought would be valuable on the bigger stage. Yet even after a loan stint in Poland and being part of a championship backline with San Jose, Conrad was never selected for the national team.

His move to Kansas City showed continued steady play but no international call ups until the 2005 Gold Cup. In that tournament, Conrad excelled impressing Bruce Arena so much that despite being capped for the first time at twenty eight, he was going to the World Cup a year later at twenty nine.

Conrad’s play coming cold off the bench against Italy is one of the legendary defensive performances in US history. Following the sending off of both Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope, two USMNT vets, Conrad stepped right in and played remarkably well- so well that he could have easily been credited with earning the US the lone point we won at Germany 2006.

Conrad then started and played the full ninety against Ghana in the final group game. He played well in that game as well but two breakdowns, the first a bad Claudio Reyna giveaway and the second an inexplicable pass by Carlos Bocanegra into his own area gave Ghana two goals and passage to the knock out rounds.

Conrad’s value in the air was noted in February 2007, when he scored a beautiful header in Glendale, AZ against Mexico off a corner from his former San Jose team mate Landon Donovan. Conrad also wore the captain’s armband in Bob Bradley’s first match as coach

Conrad’s engaging personality is a key reason he should have been incorporated at an earlier point in time. The former contributor to and to ESPN, Conrad continues to host his own show with Sean Wheelock in Kansas City and get along with just about anyone he meets. These columns and shows were must reads and must listens, as was Conrad’s recent work as the color analyst for the COMNEBOL qualifiers in Beach Soccer.

As someone who did color for my first match this past weekend (A USL-1 match between Miami FC and Vancouver) I can respect the effort it takes Conrad to do this, and write while maintaining a high level of defending on the pitch.

Conrad was the classic case of American coaches ignoring players who didn’t come through the typical youth development system or hadn’t played for the US at the youth level. Thankfully when Conrad finally got picked at 28, his performances were so memorable and filled with quality that he continues to be in the mix.

Going into a World Cup year, the USA needs veteran leadership not just on the pitch but in the locker room and on the team plane. A jokester with an engaging personality like Conrad who can also play some football (and has World Cup experience to boot) must be considered strongly by Bradley despite his age.


As readers of this site know, I’m not a big believer in analyzing specific games from the MLS Regular Season preferring to observe long term trends (and allowing bloggers who focus on MLS more than I do to break down specific games), and during international breaks  focusing on the US team. But tonight’s return of David Beckham to the Big Apple is so massive we’ll be covering every step as you have already seen on the site the past few days. Daniel Feuerstein, will be on site at Giants Stadium and will provide an update in the morning.

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  1. Russell Adams

    December 7, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I played with Jimmy at SDSU before he up and left for a better program with no more than just a promise of a walk on try out at UCLA… He left SDSU because our program was lacking and at the time he was playing sweeper and was continually and incorrectly blamed for every one of the teams loses… the next season he was on the field when UCLA won the national championship. SDSU continued to lose… sometimes coaches just can’t see the forest through the trees.

    Hardest working guy I ever met… the national team coach has a lot to choose form and has his biases too, like we do… I for one think Conrad is needed in our back four and brings badly needed tactical defending and leadership. People who say he is too old are wrong, age is nothing to do with it, it about fitness and knowledge… I say put him on the field… I will feel better knowing he’s there…

  2. soccer goals

    July 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    You made some great points. IS he the fourth best central defender on the team? I am not sure but in case of injury, he would be the best option.

  3. Merk

    July 17, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Rafael – “but I was at the game versus Haiti and he was far and away one of the worst players on the pitch.”

    -proof its hard to really to evaulate the game and all the players in it live. every media outlet disagrees with with you Rafae which very likely points to you being wrong.

  4. Tony Felich

    July 16, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Excellent post.

    Anyone who has watched Jimmy Conrad for the past several years in KC knows his value. Unlike Marshall and Conde (and others), Conrad consistently plays with practical rookies on his backline. This year he has a pure rookie (Besler), a converted halfback (Watson), and a very young first year starter (Holbein) in the middle, yet the Wizards D holds well. The same was essentially true last year.

    Selfishly I’m glad Jimmy hasn’t been called up more. We love watching him play virtually every minute in KC. On the other hand, he deserves more caps and the USMNT would be better served with him playing as much as possible.

  5. Rafael

    July 16, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    While Conrad is better than Parkhurst, he might not be able to beat out Califf in that position. I would like to see Califf actually play more games to have a better comparison.

    The problem is that Conrad has seen better days. He is just a bit too old for another WC cycle. After Onyewu, Bocanegra, and Demerit, the best option is Chad Marshall.
    Marshall has been great so far and is younger. Between a Marshall and a Conrad, Marshall wins out.

  6. Brandon

    July 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I haven’t follew Conrad’s career so I can’t comment on most of this article, but I was at the game versus Haiti and he was far and away one of the worst players on the pitch. He kept making boneheaded mistakes that luckily did not lead to the U.S. being blown out. The entire backline looked a mess, says a lot for his great leadership. If I were Bradley, none of those four guys on the backline impressed me enough to make another U.S. squand any time in the near future.

  7. Earl

    July 16, 2009 at 11:14 am

    K- good article on Conrad. Well put though I wish you’d explain why Bradley keeps omitting him for the likes of Califf and Parkhurst.

    On your commentary, well done. You sounded like a pro with one very serious exception. You wanted to gloss over Jeff Parke’s drug issues by saying he had “issues” with Red Bull that led to his release and then never elaborating. Alot of USL fans even Whitecaps ones don’t know that he’s a druggie. You kept praising the guy as a professional and top class defender in MLS and USL without telling the audience what exactly this guy did. Maybe you know Parke personally and didn’t want to offend him, but to me it was a black mark on an otherwise solid broadcasting debut.

  8. Larry O

    July 16, 2009 at 10:56 am

    BTW, you were excellent in the commentary for that game, but if you didn’t have a sound system connected to your computer you couldn’t hear it. The audio production was downright dreadful. I personally think you should send that demo tape to the networks. You had more knowledge of the opposing team than just about anyone I have seen all year do a USL Live broadcast, which made the whole thing worthwhile bad audio and such.

  9. Larry O

    July 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Good one! Not only was Conrad ignored for years when he was the linchpin of those Quake back lines but has been ignored now by Bradley for too long also. But I do think anytime he’s called in he brings a tactical sense or positioning that quite frankly most American defenders lack. Also Bradley likes to pick guys in Europe and that part of the reason he doesn’t pick Conrad for “A” matches which is flat out wrong.

  10. Laughing

    July 16, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Your revisionist history is laughable. Jimmy was not a classic case of someone discriminated against because of how he came through the system. He just didn’t mature until later. Believe it or not, it’s possible to analyze a player without putting some negative light on the USSF or MLS.

    You’re a joke. I weep for the people who had to listen to your insipid commentary for that match.

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