EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JULY 31:  Clint Mathis of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars signs autographs for fans prior to the start of the MLS match against the Columbus Crew on July 31, 2002 at Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Columbus Crew defeated the MetroStars 3-2.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

If you're fairly new to soccer, or are just young enough that anything pre-2006 is a blur, you might not realize how big a deal Clint Mathis really was. Full of talent, full of attitude, and the sport's first true "character" in the US, Mathis' promise was only exceeded by his confidence.

Mathis announced his retirement today, effective following the Galaxy's friendly against Real Madrid, bringing to a close a career that spanned twelve years and included stints with LA on multiple occasions, New York on multiple occasions, as well as stops in Germany, Greece, Colorado, and Salt Lake City. Mathis was always in demand because when he played to his potential, he was truly dynamic.

In the aftermath of the US quarterfinal run in 2002, a tournament in which Mathis scored his only World Cup goal against South Korea, Clint was a pretty big deal. Here he is on the Daily Show talking about the World Cup, MLS, and a potential move to Europe (which didn't come for two more years, an interim during which Mathis was not a happy camper). The soft-spoken public Mathis stands in contrast to his brash on-field image:

The Original Clint's goal against South Korea in the 2002 World Cup:

Mathis was a character, something our league and our sport wants for far too often. Characters create stories, stories create interest, interest creates fans. I have no doubt that there are more than a few Americans who fell in love with the game because they were drawn to Clint Mathis. He was just that fascinating.

His career is over, but Clint's legacy will last.
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