SANDY, Utah (Tuesday, December 6, 2011) – After plying his trade in Major League Soccer for the last 14 seasons, Real Salt Lake midfielder Andy Williams has announced his retirement from professional soccer, marking the end of an era for the last remaining on-field “RSL Original” from the Utah side’s 2005 inaugural season. While the 34-year-old Williams will no longer suit up in the team’s familiar Claret-and-Cobalt colors on the field, the RSL fan-favorite will remain with the club after accepting a scouting position on the team’s Technical Staff.
“I wouldn’t change [my time with RSL] for the world, and I’m glad I came to Salt Lake City, as my family and I have been able to call the area home,” said Williams to ESPN 700’s “Bill & Spence” Show on Monday afternoon. “I’m excited about the opportunity the front office has given me by allowing me to continue to be a part of RSL. I think I’ve got a lot to offer off the field and I look forward to helping bring in players that will make our team better and hopefully provide some more championship rings. The transition will be a learning opportunity for me, but I couldn’t be happier to do it on behalf of the team, fans and city that I love. I’m going to take this new endeavor and put all of my heart into it, just like I did on the field.”
Williams ends his playing days as Real Salt Lake’s regular season career leader in games played (189), shots (232) and fouls suffered (269), while placing second in club annals in assists (29), games started (122), minutes played (11,536), shots on goal (83) and corner kicks (225). In addition, Williams appeared in all 12 of RSL’s MLS Cup Playoff appearances since 2008, including the 2009 MLS Cup Final against the LA Galaxy, when he gamely went the full 120 minutes in helping the Utah side register a 1-1 draw through regulation and overtime, an effort that eventually ended with RSL gaining the first professional sports title for a team from Utah in nearly 40 years. Williams was one of the first players to join Real Salt Lake after the Utah side claimed him from the Chicago Fire in the 2004 MLS Expansion Draft on Nov. 19, 2004, just two days after current Head Coach Jason Kreis became the squad’s first player signing.
“Andy Williams has been an integral member of Real Salt Lake since the club's inception, an important player and a critical leader on and off the field, an integral part of the changing of the culture of our club and, most importantly, a terrific personal friend and family member of RSL,” said Kreis. “While it is always disheartening to see the playing career of someone you truly care about come to an end, I can honestly say that I am pleased it has come to an end wearing the RSL colors, and that he has chosen to stay with this club as we look to strengthen our squad and reload during a challenging offseason. There is no doubt that we at RSL have lost one of the all-time greats on the field today, but I truly feel we may have gained someone that can contribute in an even more significant fashion now off it.”
After becoming one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history (52 goals & 45 assists) while at the University of Rhode Island, Williams began his MLS career in 1998 with the Columbus Crew, coming back from his stint with the Jamaican National Team at the FIFA World Cup in France to register 12 assists in only 13 appearances to end the regular season. Despite producing at every stop, Williams would bounce around to five different MLS sides in his first seven seasons in the league – Columbus (1998-99), Miami Fusion FC (2000), New England Revolution (2001-02), MetroStars (2002) and Chicago Fire (2003-2004) – before ending his nomadic days by landing with Real Salt Lake.
“We would like to thank Andy for all of his commitment and service on behalf of Real Salt Lake,” said RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey. “There is good reason why he is recognized as arguably the most memorable player in our franchise’s history, and we are honored that he has chosen to accept our invitation to stay on and join our Technical Staff. Leaving the playing field is never an easy decision, but Andy is a gifted person who will continue to help RSL off the field just as he led us on the field for the past seven years.”
Williams finishes his MLS career amongst the league’s best in a number of regular season categories, with his final numbers including 332 appearances (6th all-time); 86 assists (8th), 680 fouls suffered (2nd); 231 starts (T-32nd); 21,698 minutes played (28th); 30 goals and 441 corner kicks (10th). In addition to his MLS Cup title with Real Salt Lake in 2009, Williams also claimed hardware with Chicago by helping the Fire win the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title, one of his record-tying five LHUSOC Finals appearances in the tournament’s professional era (1998, 2000, 2001, 2003 & 2004). The veteran midfielder also played a vital role in helping RSL set new league benchmarks during the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, scoring a goal and tallying a team-high seven assists in 11 appearances en route to the Utah side becoming the first MLS club to win its group and advance to the Semifinal and Final rounds of the regional club championship.
“It has been night and day since my first seasons in Utah. When we came into the league we were not winning a lot of games, but we always had our fans at Rice-Eccles; they came and supported us from the get-go,” continued Williams. “I’m happy we stuck in there and came away with a championship to reward both our efforts on the field and the fans’ efforts as well. You will always go through good times and bad, and I’m happy that I was able to end my career at Real Salt Lake with a championship ring.”
In addition to his standout league career, Williams was also a long-time contributor to the Jamaican Men’s National Team, scoring 15 goals in 93 appearances on behalf of the “Reggae Boyz” from 1998-2010. After making his senior international debut at the age of 20 during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Williams was a regular for Jamaica in CONCACAF region World Cup Qualifying contests and the Reggae Boyz’ CONCACAF Gold Cup appearances in 2000, 2003 & 2005.
TRANSACTION: Real Salt Lake midfielder Andy Williams announces retirement after 14 MLS seasons.