Last week, it should have come as no surprise that DC United declined to exercise the option on midfielder Santino Quaranta's contract. The move put Quaranta into the list of players available for the Re-Entry draft. With guarnateed compensation of $117,500 in 2011, clubs would have to pay United man at least that much for the next year if selected in today's first round. Given that Quaranta spent a fair amount of time injured in 2011, having only started 10 times and making 21 total appearances in 2011. Reports are that the club declined to offer him a new deal at a lower salary figure.
Speaking to Steve Goff of the Washington Post Soccer Insider, Quaranta expressed some dismay over how he was treated in the past couple of weeks:
“The situation in D.C. was handled in all the wrong way,” he said. “I never talked to the front office guys, never knew what they wanted to do, just got a phone call from Benny [Coach Ben Olsen]. It did reiterate to me the business and selfish nature and the bubble we’re in.”
I believe that such a statement was a bit harsh and perhaps made with some emotional content. At 27 and an 11 year veteran of MLS, Quaranta has to know that this is still a business.
But Quaranta's story as a professional player may end here, but I believe that we may not have heard the last of Santino Quaranta. Quaranta plans to focus his attention on two matters, the Pipeline Soccer Club which he helped found and working with Dan Cronin, the substance abuse expert and advisor that Quaranta credits with saving his career and his life.
Quaranta has always been public about his connection to Baltimore and his family. In 2006 DC United traded the young midfielder to the L. A. Galaxy where he made 12 appearances in that year and then three more in 2007 before being traded to the New York Red Bulls. It was during this time that Quaranta's now public battles with drug addiciton escalated. The separation from his family and other support system no doubt added to those problems. After being released by New York, Quaranta begged the MLS for help. After rehab, Quantan returned DC United on essentially a league minimum salary and Quaranta successfully revived his career, including scoring for the USMNT in the 2009 Gold Cup against Honduras in front of his home crowd in DC.
Quaranta is public about his addiction problems and frankly so, admitting that he still battles with his addiction daily. While it is possible that he would have been selected in the second round of the re-entry draft, it would have come at a reduced salary and definitely somewhere else, maybe very far from his family. So, rather than, "chase $100,000" around the country, Tino decided to retire in order to stay closer to his home, his family and his support system.
This is an admirable move on many levels. First, it is courageous to hang up one's boots, to change the course of your life at age 27 having been a professional in one field for 11 years. Second, Quaranta has perhaps realized that some people can live apart from their family and friends for a while and some people can't. Maybe Quaranta is in the latter group of people and there is nothing wrong with that. Family and friends are important and so is being there for them as well.
Third and I think this is most important, Quaranta has grown up and realized that there is a duty to give back to the community from which he got so much. The Pipeline Soccer Club will benefit from his experience as a professional and as a man and ultimately the latter is more important. But Quaranta has a valuable story to tell on a personal level to those who struggle with addiction. Ultimately, that Quaranta is alive and able to retire from professional playing at age 27 is a tribute to Dan Cronin and the other people who helped Quaranta (including, I might add Ben Olsen).
I am sure that Quaranta is bitter about how his departure for DC United was handled and perhaps he has every right to be given his side of the story. But I hope that with a little time and healing that Quaranta will find a role with the Black & Red, a team of which he was a part for so long.
DC United opened their arms and their heart to Quaranta, and I am sure, with time, that the grown up Quaranta will do the same for DC United.
Thanks Tino, it has been a pleasure watching you play.