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Steve Ralston's eight-year career with the New England Revolution is over.
The veteran midfielder and team captain has decided not to return to the Revs for the 2010 season, passing on a chance to re-sign with the club for a ninth season. The Boston Herald's Kyle McCarthy first reported the story on Friday afternoon.
“At the end of the day, they made me a reasonable offer,” Ralston told the Boston Herald. “It was a difficult decision for me and my family to make. It was just one of those things. It was the right time (to go).”
The MLS career leader in assists (135) and games played (378), Ralston did not announce his retirement and is expected to pursue other playing options as he recovers from ACL surgery for an injury suffered last September. One of the few remaining MLS originals (players who have been in the league since the inaugural season in 1996), Ralston will be 36 in June.
So what is next for Ralston?
A move to another MLS club (preferably a team that plays on grass) is a possibility, but one option that should be considered is a potential move to English side Plymouth, where former Revs assistant Paul Mariner is now the head coach. Plymouth is currently in the English Championship relegation zone, but Ralston just might be tempted to give playing in Europe a try for the first time in his professional career after 14 seasons in MLS.
Another possibility could be the new USL/NASL team in St. Louis–Ralston is a native of St. Louis–but there is likely to be a market in MLS for a midfielder who can still create and provide quality service from the right wing as well as central midfield.
Ralston's decision ends an eight-year run that saw New England reach four MLS Cup finals and win the 2007 U.S. Open Cup final. Acquired before the 2002 season via the Dispersal draft following the contraction of Ralston's Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion, Ralston proved to be the most successful player to emerge from that draft (with Pablo Mastroeni a close second).
Ralston joins Jeff Larentowicz and Jay Heaps as key players to depart from New England this off-season. Larentowicz went to Colorado in a trade for Cory Gibbs and Preston Burpo while Heaps retired. The three veterans follow a long line of standouts to depart from New England in recent years, including Michael Parkhurst, Andy Dorman and Clint Dempsey.
What do you think of this news? Sad to see Ralston leave New England? Hoping your team can land him when he's healthy? Think the Revs days as a perennial playoff team are over?
Share your thoughts below.