United's Gros Giving Thought to Retirement

josh gros - d.c. united
"I am thinking about not coming back next year, but have yet to make a final decision," midfielder Josh Gros said in a written statement issued by his agent, Dan Segal, on Monday. (Toni L. Sandys - The Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

D.C. United midfielder Josh Gros, a starter most of the past four years, is contemplating retirement after suffering three head injuries this year and missing the final month of the MLS season.

"I am thinking about not coming back next year, but have yet to make a final decision," Gros said in a written statement issued by his agent, Dan Segal.

However, several sources close to the team said Gros's return is very unlikely and that he has begun exploring non-soccer opportunities. Gros, 25, has an engineering degree from Rutgers. Those sources said that during a regularly scheduled team meeting yesterday at RFK Stadium, Gros told his teammates that he might not return.

United General Manager Dave Kasper said through a team spokesman that he did not want to comment. Coach Tom Soehn said Gros "has definitely got some decisions to make, and they are hard decisions."

Gros emerged from the obscurity of the MLS draft's fourth round in 2004 to appear in all but six regular season matches his first three seasons and accumulate seven goals and nine assists over the 2005 and '06 campaigns.

But in April this year, while playing in a Champions' Cup game against Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico, Gros experienced headaches, blurred vision and dizziness after getting hit in the head with the ball. He missed the league opener at Colorado, but returned to play every minute of 17 consecutive matches, shuffling between midfield and the back line as United experimented with lineups.

In mid-August, though, after a routine header at Columbus, Gros had to leave the field with symptoms similar to those in the spring.

Doctors at Washington Hospital Center and in the University of Pittsburgh's sports medicine concussion program diagnosed post-traumatic migraines and, although he was cleared to resume physical activity, there was doubt whether he would play again this season. After missing four games, he made an unexpected return to the lineup on Sept. 9 and started the following three league matches as well.

United returned to Guadalajara on Oct. 2 for the return leg of a Copa Sudamericana series against Chivas, and Gros again experienced symptoms after heading the ball. Instead of accompanying the team to Kansas City, Mo., from Mexico for an MLS game, he returned to Washington for further tests.

Gros visited a neurologist in Massachusetts, who recommended that he not play again this season. He missed the final three regular season games and the two-game playoff series against Chicago. (Knowing he was not going to play again this year, Gros underwent wrist surgery Oct. 18 for an injury that was not impeding his performance.) Gros is not the first MLS player to contemplate retirement because of head injuries. Midfielder Ross Paule played nine years for three teams before stepping away prior to the 2005 season with post-concussion syndrome; former United star Alecko Eskandarian was sidelined from the middle of 2005 until early 2006 because of side effects from a collision; and current Columbus defender Chad Marshall missed the final portion of this season after suffering four concussions in 12 months.

With Gros's return unlikely, United is not expected to include him on its 11-man protected list before this month's expansion draft. San Jose, which will return to the league next year, will have the opportunity to select one player from each of the existing 13 clubs.

United Note: Midfielder Ben Olsen said he will undergo surgery on both ankles Monday in Baltimore. He was bothered by bone spurs throughout the season. He's expected to fully recover in time for the start of training camp around Feb. 1.

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