Josh Wolff began his career transition the day before the 2012 MLS season started, accepting a player/assistant coach role for D.C. United. At age 35 and entering his 15th pro campaign, one segment of his life was closing while another was opening.
He and United boss Ben Olsen were born less than three months apart and enjoyed parallel rises through MLS and the national team system. They traveled together to Australia for the 2000 Olympics and Germany for the 2006 World Cup.
As this season unfolded, Wolff’s player-coach balance tilted toward the latter. Back surgery late in the summer steered him into teaching mode for good, and on Wednesday, Wolff formally announced his retirement and joined Olsen’s staff on a full-time basis.
““It’s been a fun ride,” he said, “and I have had a lot of great experiences over the years.”
Said Olsen: “I was lucky enough to play alongside Josh since we were teenagers. … I consider him one of my oldest friends.”
Aside from 1 1/2 seasons with 1860 Munich, Wolff spent his entire pro career in MLS: five years with the Chicago Fire, seven with Kansas City and two in Washington. He finished with 80 goals and 49 assists in 267 regular season appearances. The goal total tied Brian McBride for 14th place on the MLS career list.
On the international front, Wolff was a nemesis against archrival Mexico: The first of his nine U.S. goals came against El Tri in a 2000 friendly. A year later, he scored the opening goal in the first of three famed 2-0 qualifying victories over Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium. And at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, he set up McBride for the first goal in a round-of-16 victory.
Every member of United’s staff played in MLS: Olsen (two MLS Cup titles, Olympics, World Cup), Wolff (MLS Cup title, Olympics, two World Cups, 52 U.S. caps), Pat Onstad (three MLS Cup titles, two-time MLS goalkeeper of the year, 57 Canadian caps) and Chad Ashton, an original member of the 1996 Dallas Burn who won two APSL titles in Denver before MLS was launched.